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SoCon Championships preview: App State looks to end Campbell’s three-year run

by Joe Wedra

Photo of Jonathan Millner at 149 pounds. Photo by Appalachian State.

The 2022 Southern Conference Wrestling Championships will take place on March 5 at the Holmes Convocation Center in Boone, N.C., hosted by Appalachian State.

Below, find a breakdown of the tournament, including wrestlers in the final NCAA Coaches Rankings of the season and a highlight on each team taking the mat this weekend. In total, 16 wrestlers ranked in the top-33 will compete for individual crowns and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, which will be held March 17-19.

Southern Conference in the Final NCAA Coaches Rankings

125 pounds: No. 25 Fabian Gutierrez (Chattanooga), No. 31 Caleb Smith (App State), No. 32 Korbin Meink (Campbell)

133 pounds: No. 18 Brayden Palmer (Chattanooga), No. 29 Codi Russell (App State)

141 pounds: No. 29 Shannon Hanna (Campbell)

149 pounds: No. 4 Jonathan Millner (App State), No. 9 Joshua Heil (Campbell)

157 pounds: No. 26 Dazjon Casto (The Citadel), No. 31 Cody Bond (App State)

165 pounds: No. 19 William Formato (App State)

174 pounds: No. 24 Austin Murphy (Chattanooga), No. 28 Thomas Flitz (App State)

184 pounds: No. 29 Caleb Hopkins (Campbell)

197 pounds: N/A

285 pounds: No. 21 Taye Ghadiali (Campbell), No. 28 Michael McAleavey (The Citadel)

APPALACHIAN STATE (9-2 overall, 7-0 conference)

It was quite a regular season for App State, winning all seven conference bouts en route to a regular season championship. The team also saw four individuals medal at the 2022 Southern Scuffle to begin the new year.

Appalachian State returns five conference champions from last year’s tournament, including returning All-American at 149 pounds Jonathan Millner. He and 18th-ranked William Formato at 165 pounds will lead the way for the Mountaineers this weekend.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: No. 8 Jonathan Millner (149), No. 18 William Formato (165)

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: Codi Russell (125), Sean Carter (133), Anthony Brito (141), Jonathan Millner (149), Cody Bond (157)

CAMPBELL (11-5 overall, 6-1 conference)

Campbell posted a strong second-place regular season conference finish this year, going 6-1 in Southern Conference action (with its lone loss coming in a narrow 19-13 defeat from Appalachian State). Furthermore, the Camels worked in a pair of impressive non-conference victories, November wins over No. 16 Lehigh and ACC opponent Virginia. They also posted non-conference wins over American and CSU Bakersfield at the Chippewa Challenge, hosted by Central Michigan.

For another year, Campbell is led by three-time NCAA qualifier Joshua Heil at 149 pounds, who is looking to finish out his 100+ win career with an All-American finish this year.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: No. 9 Joshua Heil (149), No. 24 Taye Ghadiali (285)

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: Austin Murphy (174), Caleb Hopkins (184), Chris Kober (197)

CHATTANOOGA (9-10 overall, 6-2 conference)

Chattanooga was just two matches away from being perfect within the Southern Conference this season, dropping very tight matches to Campbell (18-13) and Appalachian State (18-16). The Mocs ended the year in dominant fashion, pitching shutouts in their last three conference matches against VMI, Presbyterian and Bellarmine. A Feb. 20 win against Indiana sends the team into the conference tournament with plenty of momentum.

Returning Southern Conference champion Drew Nicholson (165) will be the anchor for Chattanooga heading into postseason action. He is 15-6 this year and seeks to make his second-straight appearance at the NCAAs.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: N/A

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: Drew Nicholson (165)

GARDNER-WEBB (7-7 overall, 5-2 conference)

Gardner-Webb won five conference matches this season, an impressive mark for head coach Daniel Elliott’s Southern Conference squad. The team ended the year with back-to-back SoCon victories over The Citadel and Presbyterian. In non-conference action, the Runnin’ Bulldogs knocked off Belmont Abbey and George Mason.

Returning and looking to make his second-straight appearance at NCAAs for Gardner-Webb is Roderick Mosley at 165 pounds. The redshirt junior has posted a 15-6 record this year; he defeated Virginia’s No. 29 Jake Keating last season at NCAAs in St. Louis.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: N/A

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: N/A

THE CITADEL (6-5 overall, 4-3 conference)

The Citadel notched four conference wins this dual meet season and a pair of non-conference victories, wins against LIU (28-17) and Queens (30-10). The team also saw action at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, where heavyweight Michael McAleavey finished seventh. The team wrapped up the year with a pair of dominant SoCon wins over Bellarmine (38-3) and VMI (32-5).

McAleavey, in his final year with eligibility, will look to qualify for the NCAA tournament yet again with a Southern Conference win. Over the last two seasons in Charleston, he’s posted a 37-12 record at 285 pounds.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: N/A

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: Michael McAleavey (285)

DAVIDSON (4-10 overall, 3-5 conference)

Davidson was the final NCAA Div. I team to post a dual meet win in the college wrestling regular season, wrapping up a 26-11 victory over Presbyterian on Sunday at home. In the Southern Conference, the Wildcats also defeated Bellarmine and VMI. Non-conference wins came against Franklin and Marshall (20-18) and LIU (21-20).

Heavyweight Mitchell Trigg will be the name to watch for Davidson this postseason. He has a 17-10 record this year and lost a tight match to McAleavy of The Citadel, 4-3 in January. Look for a potential rematch this weekend.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: N/A

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: N/A

VMI (4-10 overall, 3-6 conference)

VMI scored a pair of conference wins this season, defeating Bellarmine (29-10) at home before going on the road in the same weekend and knocking off Presbyterian (28-18). The team also notched an out-of-conference win against LIU in December, 24-22.

Sophomore Tyler Mousaw at 197 pounds will be the impact wrestler to watch this weekend. He is 11-7 on the year, including three late-season conference victories and a fall over Duke’s Kaden Russell.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: N/A

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: N/A

BELLARMINE (2-15 overall, 1-7 conference)

Bellarmine started the year with a 19-18 win over SIUE and scored its lone conference win over Presbyterian in February, a 19-18 road victory. Individuals competed in multiple open tournaments, including SIUE’s Cougar Clash and the Southern Scuffle. Devan Hendricks (165) posted a pair of wins at the Scuffle.

The Knights are led by Hendricks and Eric Beck at 174 pounds, who have 16 and 18 wins on the season respectively. Beck won six Southern Conference bouts this year.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: N/A

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: N/A

PRESBYTERIAN (1-9 overall, 0-7 conference)

Presbyterian defeated Truett McConnell, 37-7, early in the year but then saw multiple events cancelled throughout the middle of the year, including the Midlands Championships and five-straight dual meets to begin 2022. Despite no conference wins, the team did put up a strong fight throughout the SoCon slate, including a 19-18 loss to Bellarmine.

True freshman at 184 pounds David Bertrand will lead Presbyterian headed into conference weekend. He has had a 15-win season as the team’s starter and won both the Georgia Open and the Life University Open earlier this year.

NWCA Coaches Poll ranking: N/A

FloWrestling ranked individuals: N/A

Returning 2021 Southern Conference champions: N/A

2021 Southern Conference champions

125 – Codi Russell, App State
133 – Sean Carter, App State
141 – Anthony Brito, App State
149 – Jonathan Millner, App State
157 – Cody Bond, App State
165 – Andrew Nicholson, Chattanooga
174 – Austin Murphy, Campbell
184 – Caleb Hopkins, Campbell
197 – Chris Kober, Campbell
HWT – Michael McAleavey, The Citadel

FINAL TEAM STANDINGS

1. Campbell – 92.0
2. Appalachian State - 87.0
3. Chattanooga - 64.0
4. Gardner-Webb – 50.0
5. The Citadel - 43.5
6. VMI – 18.0
7. Presbyterian – 6.5

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