SPARTANBURG, S.C. — VMI’s 174-pounder Neal Richards has been named the Southern Conference Wrestler of the Year and Chattanooga’s 149-pounder Tanner Smith has been named the league’s Freshman of the Year as determined by a vote of the conference’s eight head coaches, the league office announced Wednesday.
The coaches, who were not allowed to vote for their own wrestlers, also selected 10-member all-conference and all-freshman teams.
Appalachian State paced all-conference field with three selection and named two to the all-freshman team. Campbell and Chattanooga came in second, having two each named to the all-conference team while Chattanooga had three named to the all-freshman team. The Citadel boasts one to the all-conference team and three to the all-freshman team. Gardner-Webb and VMI, with one member named to the all-conference team each, rounded out the team.
Randall Diabe (197) is currently ranked No. 18 nationally, finishing the year with a 24-5 overall record, 14-1 dual record and a perfect 5-0 conference record. He is joined on this year’s all-conference team by Alan Clothier (184) and Cary Miller (HWT). Miller posted an overall 21-11 record and a perfect 6-0 Southern Conference record. Clothier only dropped one match in SoCon action to bring his final regular season record to 18-13 overall and 5-1 in the conference while recording a pin.
The Mountaineer’s are represented on this year’s all-freshman team by Jonathan Millner (149) and Anthony Brito (141).
This year’s wrestler of the year, Neal Richards (174), is ranked No. 18 nationally, finishing the year with a 27-3 overall record and a perfect 7-0 SoCon and 17-0 dual record with thirteen pins. The redshirt junior hasn’t lost a match since November and is coming into the tournament with a 19-match win streak. He was named wrestler of the week four times as well as wrestler of the months twice-the first time ever for a Keydet. Richards was also named to this year’s all-conference team in the 174 pounds weight-class category. VMI finished the regular season fourth overall with a conference record of 3-3.
The Mocs of Chattanooga are represented on this year’s all-conference team by last season’s 125-pound individual champion, Alonzo Allen. He posted a 22-7 record with a conference record of 4-0 and a dual’s record of 7-3. Teammate Chris Debien (141) joins him on the all-conference team with a record of 22-11 overall and 6-0 perfect conference record with four pins.
A true freshman from New Carlisle, Ohio, Chattanooga’s Tanner Smith claims this year’s freshman of the year award. He went 9-6 overall, 4-2 in the conference and 6-4 in duals with two pins on the season. He is joined on the all-freshman team by teammates Ryan Resnick (157), and Drew Nicholson (165).
Tyler Marinelli (165) is the lone Runnin’ Bulldog on the all-conference squad with an overall record of 16-2 and a perfect 6-0 in the conference. Gardner-Webb finished the regular season with a conference record of 1-5.
The Camels have representation on this year’s all-conference by Josh Heil (149). Heil finished the 2018-19 season with a 21-7 overall record and a perfect duals and conference record while recording three pins. Campbell finished the regular season tied for regular season champions with a 5-1 conference record.
At 157, Rian Burris represents The Citadel on the all-conference team, boasting a regular season 23-15 overall record. The Bulldogs have representation of three on the all-freshman team with Dazjon Castro (165), Kyle Kretzer (174) and Chon Porter (149).
Six of the 10 all-conference picks — Allen, Gonser, Debien, Heil, Marinelli, Richards and Miller – earned the maximum number of points in the voting process.
The SoCon Wrestling Championship takes place Saturday, March 10, in Boone, North Carolina. Doors to Holmes Convention Center open at 9 a.m. First-round matches are set to begin at 10 a.m., with finals slated to start at 7 p.m.
2018-19 Wrestler of the Year
Neal Richards, 197, VMI
2018-19 Freshman of the Year
Tanner Smith, 149, Chattanooga
2018-19 All-Southern Conference Team
125: Alonzo Allen, Chattanooga
133: Noah Gonser,, Campbell
141: Chris Debien,, Chattanooga
149: Josh Heil, Campbell
157: Rian Burris, The Citadel
165: Tyler Marinelli,, Gardner-Webb
174: Neal Richards, VMI
184: Alan Clothier, Appalachian State
197: Randall Diabe, Appalachian State
285: Cary Miller, Appalachian State
2018-19 Freshman Team
Anthony Brito, 141, Appalachian State
Jonathan Millner, 149, Appalachian State
Dazjon Castro, 165, The Citadel
Kyle Kretzer, 174, The Citadel
Chon Porter, 149, The Citadel
Drew Nicholson, 165, Chattanooga
Ryan Resnick, 157, Chattanooga
Tanner Smith, 149, Chattanooga
Kyle Gorant, 133, Davidson
Mitchell Trigg, HWT, Davidson