The Catoosa County News
Jordan, Palmer win Socon wrestling titles for Mocs
The Lafayette Lady Ramblers No. 1 singles player, Erin Lemons, returns a serve during last week’s season-opener against Southeast Whitfield.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team came away with a pair of titles at the 2023 Southern Conference Wrestling Championships in Boone, N.C., this past weekend.
Sophomore Brayden Palmer and junior Rocky Jordan won their first league trophies at 133 and 174 pounds, respectively. Palmer also took home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler Award.
The Mocs finished third as a team with 52 points in the tournament. Appalachian State won the team title with 103 points, followed by secondplace Campbell 78.5.
With two NCAA tournament bids up for grabs at 133 and 174 pounds, the championship round started with those weights and a pair of
Mocs in action.
“Both guys had to suck it up tonight,” stated UTC head coach Kyle Ruschell. “Rocky wasn’t feeling his best, but he had to man up. Palmer was going to have to beat two guys who beat him to get it done.”
Palmer came into the weekend ranked 17th nationally at 133, but just the No. 3 seed in the conference due to some slip-ups in the dual season. After scoring a 4-0 win over Davidson’s Jackson Sichelstiel in the opening round, he got some payback for one of those miscues with a 3-1 win in overtime against Campbell’s Domenic Zaccone. Zaccone, the No. 2 seed and ranked 23rd, beat Palmer in overtime in the regular season dual.
That put Palmer up against top-seeded and 24th-ranked Ethan Oakley of Appalachian State in the finals. Oakley also beat Palmer in a tight match in the regular season.
Oakley opened with a takedown and took a 2-1 lead into the second frame. Palmer chose down in the second and quickly escaped. He scored a takedown of his own for a 4-2 lead after two. Oakley escaped after choosing down in the third, but Palmer held on for a 4-3 win.
Palmer upped his record to 20-6 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second time as a Moc.
“It was nice to see Brayden score with defense and get the win,” said Ruschell. “He knew what he was going to have to do to get the win and was able to execute. He deserved the MOW and we are excited for him.”
This is the 23rd time a Moc has won the Socon Tournament Most Outstading honor. The last to do it was Drew Nicholson in 2021.
“Getting the championship is nice, but I was just as happy getting revenge on the two guys who beat me earlier in the year,” said Palmer with a grin after winning his first league title. “I liked being the three seed. I felt like there was less pressure being the underdog. It was nice to come away with a title after coming up short and getting second last year.”
Jordan entered the tournament ranked No. 12 and the No. 1 seed. The All-soCon selection opened with a pin against Gardner-webb’s Andrew Wilson and followed that with a 13-0 major decision against Davidson’s Jaden Hardrick.
He took on App State’s Will Miller in the finals. Miller was the No. 2 seed and ranked No. 25 in the RPI. It was a tough bout throughout with Jordan scoring a takedown in the opening period. After escaping to start the second, Jordan gave up a takedown to Miller before the end of the middle period.
Trailing 3-2, Miller chose bottom to start the third. Jordan worked the final two minutes on top to post a 4-2 win. The win upped his season record to 19-2.
“It wasn’t my best performance overall in the finals, but I was happy getting a tough, gritty win,” said Jordan. “I had to ride him for close to five minutes and that is tough to do against a guy like that. Two weeks from now in Tulsa it is going to take a win like that to get on the podium.”
“Rocky is exactly who we thought he was,” added Ruschell. He is grateful for the opportunity to compete here, he works hard and he does all the right things. He showed all of that tonight.”
Sophomore Noah Castillo joined Palmer and Jordan in the finals as the No. 2 seed at 149 pounds. He opened with a 21-3 tech fall over Presbyterian’s Khalid Brinkley. He followed that with an 8-3 decision against Campbell’s No. 3 seed Chris Rivera.
In the finals, he took on topseeded and ninth-ranked Jon Millner from Appalachian State. Castillo put up a strong effort against the three-time defending Socon Champion, but eventually fell 4-0.
Senior Matthew Waddell was one of seven Mocs who advanced to the semifinals. Waddell eventually finished third at 184 pounds. He opened with a 7-5 decision against The Citadel’s Tim Fitzpatrick. That led to a nail-biting 3-2 loss to Gardner-webb’s Jha’quan Anderson in the semifinals.