SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Appalachian State heavyweight Denzel Dejournette has been named the Southern Conference Wrestler of the Year and Chattanooga 157-pounder Kamaal Shakur 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 also selected 10-member all-conference and all-freshman teams.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own wrestlers.
Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Gardner-Webb, who shared the SoCon regular-season title with identical 6-1 league dual records, claimed eight of the 10 all-conference spots, led by the Mountaineers’ four selections. Gardner-Webb had three – its most since joining the league in 2011-12 – and Chattanooga, Campbell and The Citadel had one each.
Dejournette, ranked No. 6 nationally in his weight class, finished the regular season with a 27-2 overall record, including a 15-1 dual mark and a 7-0 league record. The redshirt junior from Winston-Salem, N.C., was a three-time Arby’s SoCon Wrestler of the Week in 2015-16 and was the league’s wrestler of the month for November. Dejournette’s lone losses this year came to No. 1 Nick Gwiazdowski of NC State in dual action and to No. 4 Austin Marsden of Oklahoma State in the title bout of the prestigious Southern Scuffle. Dejournette becomes App’s seventh SoCon Wrestler of the Year and first since Kyle Blevins, who is now an assistant coach at Gardner-Webb, in 2012. Dejournette, who also earned all-conference honors for the second straight season, is the defending SoCon champion at heavyweight and will attempt to defend his title this weekend at the Arby’s Southern Conference Wrestling Championship.
Dejournette was joined on the all-conference squad by Mountaineer teammates Vito Pasone at 125 pounds, Michael Longo at 141 and Nick Kee at 174. The all-conference nod was the second for Kee, who earned the distinction at 165 last year en route to being named the SoCon Freshman of the Year. Longo, the defending SoCon champion at 141, and Pasone are among six first-time all-conference honorees on this year’s squad.
The App quartet helped the Mountaineers to a 12-4 dual mark on the year and a top-25 national ranking for several weeks during the season. App State faced five ranked squads this year, beating No. 24 Duke and defeating No. 25 Chattanooga to snap the Mocs’ four-year, 27-match winning streak against league competition.
Shakur, a redshirt freshman, fashioned a 21-6 overall record for the Mocs. The Lilburn, Ga., native turned in a 12-2 dual mark that included a 6-1 SoCon record and becomes Chattanooga’s first SoCon Freshman of the Year since Nick Soto in 2012. Shakur was one of a league-best four Mocs on the all-freshman team, as he was joined by Alonzo Allen, Dominic Lampe and Chase Zemenak.
Junior Scottie Boykin represented Chattanooga on the all-conference team at 197 pounds, marking the third time he has earned that distinction. Boykin and the all-freshman quartet helped propel Chattanooga to a 12-4 dual mark and into the national rankings this year. The Mocs closed the regular season with a 19-18 win over No. 19 Virginia in Charlottesville.
Gardner-Webb, which claimed a share of its first SoCon title, saw Chris Vassar (149), Austin Trott (165) and Hunter Gamble (184) earn all-conference honors for the first time. Gamble has a SoCon title under his belt, as he claimed the 174-pound crown in 2013. The trio helped the Runnin’ Bulldogs post a school record for dual wins at 9-6 and earn a pair of ranked wins, knocking off No. 25 Appalachian State and No. 24 Duke.
The Citadel’s Aaron Walker earned his third straight all-conference selection at 157 pounds after turning in his second undefeated league slate in the last three seasons. Walker is 26-5 this year and went 15-0 in dual action. The junior is the two-time defending SoCon champion at 157.
Campbell’s Nathan Kraisser rounds out the all-conference team at 133 pounds. The redshirt junior, in his first year with the Camels, owns the most wins in the SoCon this year, as he is 30-7 overall and went 15-1 in dual matches. He was 7-0 in SoCon bouts and becomes Campbell’s first-ever all-conference pick since the Camels joined the league in 2011-12.
Appalachian State and VMI had two all-freshman selections each. Irvin Enriquez and Matt Zovistoski represented the Mouintaneers, while Dominick Gallo and Neal Richards gave the Keydets two rookie selections for the first-time ever.
Campbell’s Jere Heino and SIUE’s Nate Higgins round out the all-freshman team.
Eight of the 10 all-conference picks – Pasone, Kraisser, Longo, Walker, Trott, Kee, Boykin and Dejournette – earned the maximum number of points in the voting process.
The Arby’s SoCon Wrestling Championship takes place Saturday, March 5, in Asheville, N.C. Doors to Kimmel Arena 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. Appalachian State enters the SoCon tournament ranked as high as No. 18 nationally, while five-time defending champion Chattanooga also appears in the national polls, peaking at No. 23 in the Intermat edition.
2015-16 Wrestler of the Year
Denzel Dejournette, R-Jr., 285, Appalachian State
2015-16 Freshman of the Year
Kamaal Shakur, R-Fr., 157, Chattanooga
2015-16 All-Southern Conference Team
125 Vito Pasone, R-Jr., Appalachian State
133 Nathan Kraisser, R-Jr., Campbell
141 Michael Longo, So., Appalachian State
149 Chris Vassar, R-So., Gardner-Webb
157 Aaron Walker, Jr., The Citadel
165 Austin Trott, R-Jr., Gardner-Webb
174 Nick Kee, R-So., Appalachian State
184 Hunter Gamble, R-Jr., Gardner-Webb
197 Scottie Boykin, Jr., Chattanooga
285 Denzel Dejournette, Appalachian State
2015-16 All-Freshman Team
Irvin Enriquez, Appalachian State
Matt Zovistoski, Appalachian State
Jere Heino, Campbell
Nate Higgins, SIUE
Alonzo Allen, Chattanooga
Dominic Lampe, Chattanooga
Kamaal Shakur, Chattanooga
Chase Zemenak, Chattanooga
Dominick Gallo, VMI
Neal Richards, VMI