Chattanooga’s wrestling team took on another top-10 opponent on Sunday, hosting No. 9 Illinois. After jumping out to a 10-0 lead with wins in the first three matches, the Fighting Illini eventually captured a 29-10 win at Maclellan Gym.
Sophomore Kevin Malone started the action for UTC at heavyweight, scoring a 2-1 overtime win against Chris Lopez for a 3-0 lead, and sophomore Nick Soto followed that up with a 14-1 major decision over Dominic Olivieri at 125, which gave the Mocs at 7-0 advantage. Freshman Marvin Lopez was also impressive in his 5-3 win over Logan Arlis. Lopez used a first-period takedown, a reversal in the second and over four minutes of riding time to improve to 8-7 on the year.
Neither team was at full strength Sunday. Illinois used four backups at 125, 133, 197 and heavyweight, while the Mocs were without junior Alex Hudson (145) and senior Niko Brown (197).
"Kevin's our heavyweight and he has to find a way to win those matches," Chattanooga head coach Greg Eslinger said. "Soto looked good. Obviously, they did not send their best guys out, but all you can do is wrestler the guy they put out there.”
The Mocs dropped to 4-5 in duals action this season, while Illinois improved to 4-0. Four of the Mocs’ five losses this season have come against teams ranked in the top-20, including three from the top-10.
After its impressive start, though, Chattanooga wouldn’t score a win in the remaining seven matches. Senior Josh Condon came the closest, falling to No. 8 Conrad Polz 5-4.
“We are both dinged up a little bit, and really this match did not mean a whole lot for us or them,” Eslinger said. “We are getting ready to get into our conference schedules, but considering the circumstances, I am not extremely frustrated. We have a good two weeks of training set up where we have to find a way to get better. I think we can go on an 8-0 run and be ready for the conference tournament and the national tournament.”
The Mocs return to action Jan. 27 when they host The Citadel at 2 p.m. in the team’s Southern Conference opener.