Early look at the SoCon Conference
Last season Campbell held off the host team Appalachian State on the strength of eight medalists. The championship was the second SoCon title for Campbell in three years. As we take an early look at potential lineups for the SoCon it looks like Cary Kolat’s Camels will be the team to beat again this season when the conference championships rolls around March 8th again hosted by Appalachian State.
2018-19 Conference Championship Team Scores
Campbell (Camp) 95.0 6 NCAA qualifiers in 2019
Appalachian State (App St) 92.5 4 NCAA qualifiers in 2019
Chattanooga (Chatt) 62.0 4 NCAA qualifiers in 2019
The Citadel (Cit) 42.5 1 NCAA qualifiers in 2019
Gardner-Webb (GW) 24.5 1 NCAA qualifiers in 2019
Davidson (Dav) 22.5 0 NCAA qualifiers in 2019
VMI 17.0 1 NCAA qualifiers in 2019
Campbell shared the SoCon’s regular season championship with Appalachian St. and Chattanooga last season. As mentioned this year’s Campbell’s team is loaded and I think they have the team to win all SoCon duals and win the regular season outright. As a conference the SoCon has not had an All-American (AA) in the last two seasons after having two in 2017. Campbell’s Nathan Kraisser 125 pounds and Appalachian State’s Denzel Dejournette were the two to reach AA. The conference welcomes Presbyterian in their inaugural season making it an eight team conference. At this point I feel it may be too early to speculate Presbyterian’s lineup so I didn’t include any of their wrestlers. Let’s take a look at what we may see in the SoCon this coming season. Obviously it’s early and rosters can and probably will change as we get into the season.
The conference returns two SoCon placers from last season in champion Korbin Meink (Camp) and 3rd place finisher De’Andre Swinson (App St). But the guy to watch this season could be Fabian Gutierrez (Chatt) who had been stuck behind Alonzo Allen the last few years but will get the opportunity to start this season. Gutierrez was 4-0 in dual meets last season and had wins over both Meink and Swinson last season.
Three of the top four SoCon placers return this season with champion Codi Russell (App St), runner up Noah Gonser (Camp) and fourth place finisher Kyle Gorant (Dav). Russell and Gonser wrestled three times last season with Russell winning two of those matches and getting the 9-4 decision in the conference finals. I would be surprised if we don’t see a repeat SoCon final this season.
With the news of 149 pound SoCon champion Josh Heil (Camp) dropping down to 141 pounds the conference will return two SoCon champions at this weight. Heil will join Chris Debien (Chatt) SoCon champion in 2019 and at 133 pounds in 2017. Blake Mullkey (GW) also returns after taking fourth last season. Heil and Debien have not meet on a college mat but looking at their common opponents over the years I give a slight edge to Heil.
With Heil dropping it opens the door for transfer Mason Smith (Camp) to step in to the lineup. M. Smith is a past 2x NCAA qualifier for Central Michigan having done so in 2017 and 2018 at 141 pounds. He originally was going to transfer to Arizona State but ultimately ended up at Campbell. His biggest competition should come from Tanner Smith (Chatt), second in the SoCon last season at the weight. T. Smith transferred himself when Eastern Michigan decided to drop it’s wrestling program following the 2018 season.
At 157 pounds we might see three SoCon bronze medalist battling for the gold this season. Matt Zovistoski (App St) is up from 149 pounds where he placed 3rd last season in the SoCon. That earned him his second trip to the NCAA Championships, having previously qualified in 2017 when he was a round of 16 finisher. Austin Kraisser (Camp) should be back at the weight after redshirting last season, Kraisser placed 3rd in the SoCon in 2018. It will be interesting to see who represents Campbell at the weight since they also have last years SoCon 157 pound champion Benjamin Barton still on the roster. Returning to the weight will be last years 3rd place finisher Ryan Resnick (Chatt) who will also look to improve on last years finish.
Last season Dazjon Castor (Cit) had a very nice true freshman season finishing 3rd in the SoCon, making him the only placer to return from last season at the weight. But coming off redshirt is Quentin Perez (Camp) who has placed twice in the SoCon in previous seasons. Perez was the SoCon champ in 2017 and placed 3rd in 2018, qualifying for the NCAA tournament in both of those seasons. I would expect this year champion to be one of these two wrestlers.
The four placers from last season are back but 2nd place finisher Andrew Morgan (Camp) looks to be moving up to 184. Neal Richards (VMI) was the SoCon champ last year and will be the favorite to repeat this season. Richards is a 2x NCAA qualifier and should be a top 10 ranked guy this coming season when rankings start coming in. The two consolation finalist will be back this season, last season Kyle Homet (GW) won in overtime over Thomas Flitz (App St) to take 3rd place. I would also look for Navy transfer AJ Alford (Cit) and Caleb Hopkins (Camp) to be in the mix in what might be the deepest weight in the SoCon.
Last years champion Chris Kober (Camp) is moving up to 197 pounds and 2nd place finisher Alan Clothier has transferred to Northern Colorado leaving Dominic Lampe (Chatt) the only returning placer at the weight. But joining Lampe is 174 pound 2nd place finisher Andrew Morgan (Camp). Morgan finished the season with 25 wins and was an NCAA qualifier. Lampe and Morgan have met twice in college with Lampe winning both of those matches. Unlike 174 pounds this weight is not very deep and it looks to be a two man race for the title.
As mentioned Chris Kober (Camp) is bumping up to 197 pounds after winning the conference last season at 184 pounds. Like 174 pounds this weight has some depth, Kober’s competition at the weight should come from Rodney Jones (Chatt) who placed 3rd in the conference and Conor Fenn (Dav) who is also bumping up after placing 4th at 184 pounds last year. Two guys that haven’t placed but will be in the hunt to do so this year are Anthony Perrine (GW) and Paul Carson (App St).
Like 141 pounds we have two SoCon champions at the weight this season. Last years champ Cary Miller (App St) and 2018 champion Jere Heino (Camp) who is coming off redshirt should be on a collision course to meet in the finals this season. Heino and Miller have wrestled twice in the past with Heino winning both of those matches. Heino has come close to becoming an AA, when he was a round of 12 guy in 2018 and in 2017 when he finished in the round of 16. Michael McAleavey (Cit) placed 3rd in the SoCon last season and should be back to battle Heino and Miller. McAleavey has wrestled a combined eight matches against the other two but has only won one of those eight.