Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Southern Conference Preview (March 5th, 2022)


One of our smaller conferences in NCAA DI wrestling, but still a fun conference, the Southern Conference will have some good battles this season. 

Once again color coded. 

Black = Earned an allocation & is expected to be who will qualify for the NCAA's. 

Blue = Has not earned an allocation & will either need to steal a spot or earn NCAA qualification through the at large/wild card selection. 

125 lbs 

Chattanooga's Fabian Gutierrez is sitting in pretty good shape to win his first Southern Conference title as he enters his final Southern Conference championships. He's defeated Caleb Smith of Appalachian State twice & he's 4-1 Vs Korbin Meink of Campbell overall.  However, it's far from a shoe-in. 

Even though Smith has a head to head victory over Meink, it'll be hard to keep a guy who's already won two SOCON titles from at least making the finals & getting an automatic bid to the NCAA's.  

Will the third place wrestler here get a at large/wild card selection to the NCAA's? Any other season I'd say it has a strong possibility but this whacko season? I don't know.  The NCAA has never been kind to the Southern Conference to begin with. When wild cards are handed out, few & far between have been handed out in DI's most southern region.  

133 lbs 

What a difference a change of scenery can make. In his first year at Clarion, Brayden Palmer was 2-6. He transfers to Chattanooga, takes a year off & comes back to currently hold a 22-6 record on the 21'-22' season. Not only that but he's defeated two time SOCON champion Codi Russell of Appalachian State twice.  Can he defeat him a third time to win his first conference crown? 

141 lbs 

None of these guys have ever made the NCAA tournament before & only the champion will advance. Our forerunner here is Campbell's Shannon Hanna but it is far from a given.  He'll have competition in the finals from either Heath Gonyer of Appalachian State or Franco Valdes of Chattanooga, which should be a good semifinal. 

149 lbs 

The SOCON's two best bets for NCAA All Americans this season & ironically enough both are at the same weight.  Thus far Millner has defeated Heil in two very close matches, so he has the upper hand going into this match, but as they say it's difficult to beat a guy three times in a row. Especially a guy as good as Heil.  Pretty cool fact that if Heil makes the finals (which by all means he should) he will be the first five time SOCON finalist in conference history. 

157 lbs 

I've been saying ever since Dazjon Casto of the Citadel was a freshman that he's been good enough to make the NCAA tournament. Now here we are all these years later & this is his final shot at going to the dance. In order to get there he'll have to knock off 2021 NCAA qualifer/Southern Conference champion Cody Bond of Appalachian State.  Easier said than done. 

165 lbs 

The fight for qualification is quite real here. We have both Will Formato of Appalachian State & R.J. Mosley of Gardner Webb who have both earned allocations looking to both become two time NCAA qualifiers. Possibly standing in their way is 2021 SOCON champion Drew Nicholson of Chattanooga, who despite being unranked at the moment has defeated both Formato & Mosley this season. Among the other contenders I'd also give Selwyn Porter an outside shot of being an NCAA qualifier.  He qualified in 2020 & he recently took Mosley into sudden victory. A much smaller probability, Troy Nation of Campbell has been known to pull off an upset or two in his career. 

174 lbs 

I wasn't real happy when I read that the Southern Conference didn't even receive one allocation for 174 lbs. I can understand that 2021-2022 has been a peculiar season with more quality wrestlers than normal seasons, but you're telling me that neither Austin Murphy of Campbell or Thomas Flitz of Appalachian State earned a spot? I already know the rebuttal, but still both guys are ranked in the top 33 & the runner-up finish that qualified the past two seasons will not qualify this year. It's a shame as both of these guys are two top notch guys, but one of them will be going to the NCAA's this season & the other will be on my long list of "Best Not to Qualify in 2022." 

184 lbs 
Caleb Hopkins
Overall 22'Record: 14-4
SC: 21'1st 

Caleb Hopkins of Campbell made writing about 184 lbs in the SOCON nice and neat. I don't see anyone even remotely challenging him as he makes a run for title #2. 

197 lbs 

This weight class breaks my heart a little bit. You have two seniors, both two time NCAA qualifiers & chances are only one of them will get to go to the NCAA tournament this year. There's even a small chance that neither one will go.  One a two time Southern Conference champion & the other a two time Southern Conference runner-up.  Kober has the two titles going for him, but it has been Waddell who has one each time that they have stepped on the mat. 

I think within due time VMI's Tyler Mousaw will prove himself to be one of the best Keydets in modern times. Only a freshmen he's already shown promise & I'll even give him an outsider's shot at winning a SOCON title this year. He was pinned in the first period by Waddell, but he gave Kober a very respectable 8-6 match.  

With a 3-2 victory on his resume over Kober, I'll also give Anthony Perrine of Gardner-Webb an outsider's shot as well.  I will say though that for either Mousaw or Perrine to knock off both Kober & Waddell in route to a title seems rather unrealistic though. 


The NCAA allotted two spots at HWT in the Southern Conference & these are the two guys that earned them & that will be taking them.  Looking forward to the final between Campbell's Taye Ghadiali & The Citadel's Michael McAleavey.  

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