BUT WAIT, THERES MORE, AKA D1 DOINS
Hey, sometimes the headlines are the hardest part. Up Ithaca, NY, way, Cornell promoted Mike Grey to Assistant Head Coach after 8 years on staff. Thanks, the 2X All American for the Big Red probably said. Then he looked at his lineup and maybe thought about putting off that promotion till next season. N/A for Cornell this year, 125lb AA and Jr. World Team member Vitali Arujau. 141lb 2X National Champ Yianni Diakomihalis, Nuh-uh. 165lb stalwart and Greco Roman medalist Andrew Berreseya, gone baby gone. 184lb National finalist and 2X All American Max Dean, Ehh, not too sure. Toss in two starters who finished their eligibility last year, 197lb AA Ben Honis and HVT. Jeramy Sweaney, and you can see Grey sweat from here. The forehead, not the warmups. It’s all good, though, as Mike and the Cornell faithful will cheer on Vitali, Yianni, and Andrew as they take Olympic Redshirt years in an attempt to make the 2020 USA team. As to Dean, well, maybe hes at 184, maybe he moves up to 197, maybe he loses his starting spot to returning All American Ben Darmstadt. Doggone it, replace an All American with an All American. Toss in another one back for his final go round, 174lb Brandon “Bama” Womack. Oh, BTW, hinted Head Coach Rob Koll, maybe AA John Jay Chavez reappears. Top 12 133lb Chaz Tucker is good to go. Mix in uber-recruits Andrew Merola, Julian Ramirez and Colton Yapujian (Cornells a perennial All Name team contender) and maybe Grey gets some color back. Maybe not EIWA Gold,(1) but color. And confidence.
More news out of Colorado Springs as Air Force released its schedule. It’s a tournament heavy list with 3 big events in the seasons first month. The #flyhigh crew will be in Laramie, Wyoming, then zip on over to Boone, North Carolina the next weekend, finally ending November in Annapolis. There’s two more tournaments pre post-season for AFA. They’ll head down to Chatt-town for the Southern Scuffle Jan. 1st and 2nd, then host the All Academy Championships late the same month. Think they’ll be ready for the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAAS? Affirmative.
That field set to scrap come Jan. 1st and 2nd in beautiful downtown Chattanooga, TN, just went from ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) watch to Panther warning as Keith Gavins Pittsburgh crew has confirmed they’re coming to the Southern Scuffle…and folks, they’re coming hungry. The numbers for the Steel City matmen are indeed impressive. 3 National qualifiers, all who were within 1 match of All American status in 2019, return. 15 Pitt grapplers participated in Americas U-23 World Team trials. 15! On top of that, star redshirt sophomore Nino Bonaccorsi battled well at the USA Senior World Team Trials. The only thing sharper than the edge on a Panther wrestlers attitude when they hit the mat is, maybe, Coach Gavins haircut. Or his suit. Or shoes. #BossStyle
SOUTHERN CONFERENCE PREVIEW 2: THE VMI KEYDETS
The Keydets, a Military school in Lexington, Virginia, has for some time turned out fine individual wrestlers if at times lacking somewhat the depth to compete fully at the D1 tournament level. 2nd year Coach Jim Gibson and assistant Ty Schoffstahl were mat stars at Edinboro, and they have able assistance from Jim Greiner and newly hired Cameron Timok. VMI celebrates 98 years of college wrestling this season, and Gibson and crew fully expect improvement on last years 3-3 conference dual meet record. Whether the Keydets move up at the SoCon tournament will depend on two things, the continuing excellence of RS Sr. 174lb Neal Richards and at least 1 more man placing top 3. A candidate for the latter might be Dominic Gallo, who after a break even season, came up 2 points short in each of his 2 SoCon tourney matches last year. Richards is, well, Richards. 28-6 in last years RS Jr. season, 3 tournament titles, SoCon wrestler of the week (5 times) the month (twice) and the outstanding wrestler at both the All Academy Championships and, suprise, surprise, suprise (2) The SoCon Tournament. Richards is a Round of 12 wrestler/ dark horse All American. If fully healthy, write both of those things down in ink. Head Coach Gibson has the monumental task of invigorating a D1 program with strenuous academic standards and demanding student parameters that severely restrict the talent pool in a conference rapidly improving its competitive level. Punctuation-challenged, perhaps, not punctually though. It IS a military school, after all. Although a week and a half worth of waiting has not yet been rewarded with the Keydets current roster, SHOUT OUT nonetheless to the men repping the Scribes home states, NJ and FL, and his adopted Land Love, TX….Dominick Gallo, Wantage, NJ, High Point Regional; Ben Markulec, Titusville, NJ, Hopewell Valley Central.
‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE: LIONS, TIGERS, COWBOYS AND BULLDOGS, OH MY
Apparently some of the fiercest (and hungriest) D1 Alumni groups are finding their food, fun and fellowship of late at that (kind of a big deal) BBQ stop in beautiful, Oak shaded central San Antonio right there on Blanco Road. You know, the one the critics don’t think much of but the folks just keep showing up at, que Sorpresa? Just in the past week or so the Scribe has had the distinct pleasure of visiting with grads from Penn State, Missouri, Oklahoma State and the Citadel. (The military college in Charleston, SC, soon to be the subject of a Southern Conference season preview in this column, BTW) The Nittany Lions crew were pretty up on the matmen from State College, PA. 8 championships in 9 years will deliver some awareness and enthusiasm! Shout out to Ed K., a big PSU fan and his crew, for chowing down with friends at the Alamo cities most wrestling centric smoked meat emporium. Later the same week, the men from Mizzou commandeered a whole table for a late morning-early afternoon munch up and graciously agreed to a photo op already in Tiger Head Coach Brian Smiths inbox. Meanwhile, conducting some high level biz while enjoying the ambiance of a lunchtime visit, Interface Account Exec. Ford Savage (OK ST ’09) fondly recalled the most recent glory run of his beloved Cowboys. (the ‘Pokes are headed to Chattanooga come Jan 1st. for the Scuffle, don’t miss em, Travis!) Finally, a big welcome and a come back soon out to 1986 Citadel grad John McLaurin who came in to pick up a buncha lunch with his best bud….a South Carolina Gamecock! Talk about BBQ bridging the gaps and breaking the barriers….
TEXAS IS KNOWN FOR MANY THINGS…ESPECIALLY RANGERS
In this case the Smithson Valley variety. Just up from beautiful, burgeoning San Antonio is the growing urbanopolis of Smithson Valley, a country style area of big growth, bigger ambitions, new World abilities and old school values. There’ll you’ll find Smithson Valley High School, perennially a top achiever in every possible metric inolving the academic improvement and athletic excellence of TX students. In his first year at the helm of the Comal County schools Wrestling program but his 25th as an educator is Tim Clarkson. Coach Clarkson waxes, dare we say, near poetic as he shares more than a quarter century of knowledge and love of education and athletics. Here he is in his own words…..
FIRST HAND FORUM: SMITHSON VALLEY HEAD COACH TIM CLARKSON
ALTHOUGH ITS THE OLDEST SPORT, WRESTLING SEEMS TO BE ENJOYING A REVIVAL. DO YOU BELIEVE SO AND, IF SO, WHY?
Wrestling is sport in its oldest and purest form-athlete against athlete, hand to hand combat, in the arena-it brings out a primal force that appeals to many. In an era dominated by team sports, many young people crave approval and appreciation by their parents and peers for something they have accomplished on their own. The second factor is the growth and evolution of the female side of our sport. It brings beauty and balance to what was only seen as brutish fighting sport.
SMITHSON VALLEY HAS HAD SOME SUCCESS PRIOR TO YOUR ARRIVAL. WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE PROGRAM AND HOW DO YOU PLAN TO STRUCTURE YOUR SCHEDULE?
The program has been in existence for three previous seasons. the girls have been the main area of success. Our schedule has to accomodate both an emerging boys team that is young and developing along with a strong womens team that features two Freestyle/Greco state champions. We will seek out the toughest competition in the Central and South Texas region, with a mid-season stop at the CFISD Invitational-the largest single school tournament in the nation.
WRESTLING CAN SOMETIMES BE A DIFFICULT “SELL” TO SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, STAFF, PARENTS AND ATHLETES. DID YOU FIND A COMPLETE BUY-IN WITH THE RANGERS PROGRAM WHEN YOU ARRIVED? WHAT ARE SOME WAYS YOU’VE FOUND TO FOSTER ENTHUSIASM WHILE TEMPERING EXPECTATIONS AS YOU IMPLEMENT YOUR STYLE OF COACHING?
Initially contacted as a resource for assistance with the head coaching search, I was immediately impressed with the attitudes and ethos of the entire community. Smithson Valley Athletics are built on substance, not flash. The expectations are high-coaches and athletes are expected to train and work hard year round to build a quality product. I have always been a builder when it comes to programs. If I’m going to work long hours, I’d rather have 50+ competitive, dedicated people in the room than a handful of elite competitors. Enthusiasm comes with success. Parents and athletes notice quickly when you are available outside of school for opportunities to improve-at no cost financially. Parents embrace a progam that embraces their child’s individual talents while incorporating them into the fabric of the team. I am aware that there will be growing pains with the ambitious schedule. I can only be available six days a week to provide opportunities for hard work and growth. So far the Rangers have not disappointed.
HOW DOES WRESTLING HELP YOUR STUDENT/ATHLETES?
Wrestling builds confidence and camraderie like no other sport. Boys and girls…all four grades together for long bus rides and 16 hour days. We teach and preach about being “family.” Our programs fill a void for many families-fathers for single parent kids-siblings for only children-and a place for some kids just to fit in and be a part.
TEXAS HAS 3 OF THE NATIONS 10 BIGGEST CITIES AND A LONG HISTORY OF STATE-WIDE ATHLETICS SUCCESS. HOW CAN WE LEVERAGE OUR SIZE/STATUS TO GROW WRESTLING IN OUR DISTRICTS/AREA/REGION/STATE?
There is a great need state-wide for dedicated practice facilities and additional quality coaches. It is beneficial to have coaches who have wrestled themselves or have a dedication to growing and learning about the sport. Texas is football country-if football coaches ever learn to trust the wrestling coaches and wrestling coaches earn than trust by working hand in hand with the football coaches-LOOK OUT.(3)
See you later this month!
1. That color medal currently belongs to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, who broke the Big Reds 11 year conference title run in 2018 and repeated their victory flight last year. These two fan bases are fierce rivals, well traveled, well heeled, and well versed in the Greatest sport. They’ve seen more, done more, and know more than you probably ever will about wrestling, but are far too polite to make points of those things. They will simply smile and occasionally, offer to buy a round. To sit amongst them at a major tournament is a bucket list experience for serious wrestling fans. Checked off, but hoping to enjoy it again.
2. Surely you knew this was the catchphrase of the one and only GOMER PYLE, USMC? Titular character of the classic TV comedy series, with Jim Nabors as the country fried recruit to Americas finest fighting forces? You didn’t? WELL, GOOOLLEEE…
3. Italics the authors….and anybody who knows anything about Texas athletes. JUST SAYIN…