SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON…
The year was 1839. William Otis received his long awaited patent…for the steam shovel. (cousin Elisha was the elevator guy). Former prez. John Quincy Adams beat up (legally, not physically) then-current prez. Martin Van Buren, convincing the Supreme Court to free 53 African Americans in the Amistad case. Some guy named Doubleday invented a way to make drinking beer, eating bad food, and yelling for 3 hours an American pastime. And, in the Great Commonwealth of VA, The Virginia Military Institute was established. Cadets of all branches but Cadets ONLY, please, Army, Navy, or Air Force ROTC is a requirement. The current VMI team has a 99 years running, 27 page wrestling record book to add to this season. For perspective, THE Ohio St. University and Michigan are tracking at 100 and 98 years this campaign. The team numbers for VMI…33 strong and only 4 seniors, and theres NO doubt who’s the Big ‘Roo in this troop/mob/court(1). That’s RS Senior Neal Richards, 174LBs of homegrown Virginia nasty. He’s been profiled before in this column, along with his team (SECOND SEASON, COLUMN 18, 1/23/19) and he enters his senior season 74-25, with 22 bonus point wins out of 28 W’s last year. Combined career won-loss records for the rest of VMIs seniors: 60-122. The class make-up for the Keydets is definitely skewed to youth. 2 Juniors, 3 Sophomores, and 24 Freshmen. The Great Commonwealth leads the way with 19 Virginians on the roster. 8 states in total are represented, but other than VA, only Pennsylvania has more than 2 competitors on the team. That empty pouch in the middle of the wrestling roster is probably due in no small part to the March 2018 arrival of Head Coach Jim Gibson. An ’07 Edinboro grad with years of PA coaching toughness at Clarion and Bucknell, Gibson brought big expectations to the small military college. VMI picked up 3 conference wins last year. With such a young squad numerical improvement will be hard to come by. So far this seasons been highlighted by the aforementioned Richards 5th place win at the Southeast Open. Also noted in last weeks SEASON 3 COLUMN 10 edition, a trio of Keydet Joeys(1) had top 5 finishes as well. Latest results showed VMI tangling with Maryland and American University Nov 9th, a modest showing highlighted by multiple wins and a shocking Richards 1 point loss. Give Gibson, assistant coach and fellow Edinboro Alum Ty Schoffstahl, and new coaching hire Cameron Timok time. About 3 recruiting classes worth, it looks like from here. By then VMI can realistically start looking at evening their record in both the SoCon and with their military school brothers/rivals.
ADDENDUM: HEAD COACH JIM GIBSON, COACH TY SCHOFFSTAHL, NEXT WEEK!
In its initial College edition, First Hand Forum will feature the duo as they break down philosophies, expectations, and the VMI life. Unedited, in their own words, because that’s what you deserve.
CAMELS SPLIT A WEEKEND CATFIGHT
Cary Kolats Campbell Camels had a feline face-off double dip this past weekend, taking on the Panthers in their home lair of Pittsburgh, then matching up with the Ohio Bobcats Sunday. Score it 28-6 for the home felines Saturday, as stylin’ Panthers Head Coach Keith Gavins crew eviscerated the Humpsters from Buies Creek, NC. Best result for Campbell: Andrew Morgans 11-8 victory over Pitt sophomore star Nino Bonaccorsi at 184. Both qualified for Nationals last season and could meet there this year. Sundays showdown with Mid American Conference mainstay Ohio University went way better. Campbell won 2 matches against Pitt; they took 7 from the Bobcats in a 24-16 victory. The Camels went deep into their 6 man 157LB rotation and Matthew Dallara responded with a 7-5 upset of Ohios Top 20 ranked Zac Carson. Campbell now has a month and a half or so of tournament action, each event about 2 weeks apart.
MOUNTAINEERS INVITE PROVES HOSPITABLE FOR THE HOME TEAM
App State had quite the shindig Saturday, as 7 teams from 5 different conferences went at it in the Mountaineer Invite. JohnMark Bentleys team saw all 4 team captains for this season make the finals at their very own event, and Jonathan Millner took the 149LB title. Nice. The boys from Boone are 2 rounds into a 4 tournament in four weeks run. Ouch. Next month, though, quite the difference: a 3 dual meet December should have Coach JMBs mountain men set up nicely for a fine showing at the….wait for it..Southern Scuffle. Jan 1st and 2nd in beautiful downtown Chattanooga. AS IF.
THE MONSTER SCHEDULE AND MIGHTY PLANS OF THE MOCS
Speaking of the Scenic City, (and that wrestling team based there) UTC hosted the Chattanooga Duals Sunday with two top teams, Army West Point and Illinois, and without team Co Captain and 2X SoCon Champ 141LB Chris Debien. Nary a peep on the star 5th year Seniors status has been heard since the dreaded “MFF” appeared by his name in the backside competition of the Southeast Open. That’s Medical Forfeit, ICYDK. The Mocs showed up and showed out, but it was the Black Knights of the Hudsons day to shine. Army beat both Illinois and host UTC, the latter in a hard fought 18-12 match. Would Debiens presence been the difference? Possibly. It was tied 12 all going into the last 2 matches, and an earlier Debien win (NO guarantee, Army has a tough team Captain of their own at that weight, Corey Shie) would have made the final score 15 all. Not as close against Illinois, a 22-10 defeat, as only 3 Mocs got their Hand Raised. 184LB Matthew Waddell was the Mocs lone double winner. What next for Chattanooga? Oh, nothing, just a trip to Iowa City next weekend to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Reminds the Scribe a bit of his freshman year at FSU, where the then unnoticed (to be polite) Seminoles went West themselves to face the 2x defending National Champion Oklahoma Sooners. Headline on the FSU school papers sports page? “Its no joke: Seminoles head to Norman.” The ever positive Flambeau predicted a 10 touchdown destruction. An uber talented, high energy, young and vibrant coach (who, BTW, just turned 90 last Friday, Happy Belated Birthday, Bobby Bowden!) took a bunch of young talents and the few 4th and 5th year athletes who had bought into his system into the Valley of Death. They lost the game 28-10. They gained respectability and found their heart. That game and that brutal season begat a 3 decade run of greatness. NOT laying that on the Mocs, but… Look, UTC could very well lose every match in this matchup, some badly, some quickly, some both. The team score will probably be ugly. WONT MATTER. This team is changing. The “Kyle Ruschell Initiative” is for real. BELIEVE in these Mocs, folks. #fightforeverypoint
GARDNER WEBBS TOUGH TRIP
The Runnin Bulldogs put up some mixed results at the App State Open. Coaches Elliott, Mattingly, and Corba turned both their seasoned pack members and their pups loose in the Mountaineers house and the young’uns had much the better of it. Dogs finishing first(2) included Will Edmiston,133LB, Jacob Conrad 157, and 285LB Anthony Perrine. All won as unattached. The 16 “official” competitors for Gardner-Webb, a combined 6-32. Youth is being served in Boiling Springs, and it’s looking hungrier by the event. The seasoned part of the Bulldogs recipe might just have too much bitter to be made palatable. Time will tell.
DAVIDSONS DIFFICULT DAY
Was this past Sunday at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic in Albany,(3) New York. The young and talented brain trust for the Wildcats, Andy Lausier, Joey Dance, and Chad Walsh, had to know going in their ‘Cats were headed for deep water. And so it proved, with nary a winning record for any Wildcat on the day and not many wins to boot. It’s the battle to climb up the SoCon ladder this coming weekend as Davidson travels to VA to meet the previewed team of this week’s column, VMI. Winners in 1st place in the SoCon! Sell it, guys!
EARL SMITH IS GOOD….TOO GOOD…#$%^&*+×÷=/_<
Theres 1 reason you will NOT find a preview of the Citadel in this column. Why bother? Somebody WAY better at this stuff has covered the Bulldogs from Charleston like a warm snuggie with an attached 6 pack holder. Youll find the unvarnished truth in very few places, but ALWAYS flowing from the mind of the #wordsmith himself. The Open Mats Earl Smith’s work is, simply, excellent. Said it before and saying it again: Earl says more with less than anybody. And when he deep-dives a subject, WHOA. Just sit back, knock one back, and enjoy.
‘QUE THE LOCAL ANGLE-JERZEY TOUGH SUITS UP, STOMPS CRIME, STOPS BY…
In that 18-20LB Turkey-laden (get your Thanksgiving orders in now!) one-shop BBQ stop on Blanco Road in beautiful Central San Antonio, the loooong arm of the Law reached out for some food, fun and fellowship this month. A group of very serious suits from the Garden State area slipped quietly in and out and were suprised and pleased to be greeted by a home state face. The Who and the What of the visit were matters of discretion, but the Why and the Where were known and obvious. The enjoyment? And HOW. Based at least on the smiles and the bell ringing. Just goes to show you NEVER know who you might meet at the restaurant. And its dog friendly! Just sayin.
THE WRITTEN LANGUAGE AS A BLUNT OBJECT, OR…
SMALL NOTES ON THE BIG BOYS
Nebraska looks like they have the best team they’ve had in, well, a year. More or less. Is Tyler Berger, 3X AA, National finalist, becoming Tyler Berger, coach, more, or less? Not sure. Surely less, though just a bit, 125LB Zeke Moisey, gone. Is it less that Coaches Kendric Maple (now at Missouri) and Eric Montoya have been replaced by the aforementioned Berger and 3X AA Robert Kokesh? Again, not sure. For sure Nebraska has 5 legit All American threats at 141, 165, 174, 184 and 197. That’s half the team. Those 5 will put Nebraska in the Top 10, anything more will have the Huskers higher. Are they hanging out with Oklahoma these days?
Arizona State is aiming at the podium. In wrestling terms that means a Top 4 finish at the National Championships. They need to take all their shots between breaths. The Sun Devils have no room for error. They do have 3X AA, 2X National Champion Zahid Valencia, moving up a class and ready to lay waste to the 184LBers of the country. They have 285LB Tanner Hall, the only heavyweight older than Godzilla. And almost as gnarly. Halls been out with injuries, Redshirted, on a multi year Mormom mission, (not in that order) and now hes back. Hes been an All American. He will be again this year. So will 165LB Josh Shields. Zahids brother, 174LB Anthony Valencia, has a solid shot at AA, as does 149LB Jacori Teemer. Those 5 may be enough. Maybe. Looks like, from here, the Sun Devils will have a nice spot to stay in Minneapolis at the Championships. Not the Penthouse Suite, though. Probably not either of the King Rooms w/ the private hot tub and separate sleeper on the next floor either.(4) But something just comfortable enough for them to want a bit more. Some season very soon, elevator AND #forksup.
Oklahoma is 29-23 with 1 All American and 0 National Champions heading into Coach “Sweet” Lou Rossellis 4th year. Oklahoma was 55-34 after 5 years with Mark Cody. With 10 All Americans and 2 National Champions. Then Cody wasn’t at Oklahoma anymore. Now Roselli is. Last year Oklahoma had 9 top 5 finishes at the Michigan State Open. This year they had 5. Michigan State Coach Roger Chandler said this seasons Open was the toughest it’s ever been. Maybe, maybe not. No maybe that this season needs to be sweet for Lou and the Sooners. Like Top 4 at Big 12s, Top 20 at NCAAS. A 4/20? Should save that for the post Post season.
North Carolina opened their season with 8 place winners and a Champ, 285LB Andrew Gunning, at the Southeast Open. Then they traveled to Anne Arbor and beat Michigan. Anybody outside the Big 10 beating anybody inside the Big 10 is big. Beating a Big 10 team at their place, in their home opener, is bigger. UNC will finish Top 20 for sure, Top 15 with a push. That will make 4 ACC teams in the Top 20. That’s 2/3rds of the Conference. Should be just 40% of the Conference, though. Duke and Virginia, NOT on you. Clemson, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, DEFINITELY on you.
Lehigh started the Scribes wrestling heart beating back in the early 70s and you NEVER forget your first love. So, whats with Coach Pat Santoros Mountain Hawks this season. Well, 2X AA Jordan Kutler becomes 3X AA Jordan Kutler. Jordan Kutler, National Champion? Hall(5) of a long shot. AA 285LB Jordan Wood earns the 2nd of his 3 AA honors this season. 157LB Josh Humphreys takes the first of 3 serious shots at AA honors this season. Chris Weiler and Jake Jakobsen have finally figured out who’s a 184 and who’s a 197. 149LB Luke Karams knee has a safe word. Its “maybe.” Lehigh is a perennial Top 15 team not often enough in the Top 10 according to the media, casual fans, or its highly intelligent, gracious, fun, very large and understandably demanding alumni base. Why? Don’t know. Know this:👁❤⛰Hawks!
Pittsburgh sent half their team to the NCAAs last year. That half of the team is back for this season. Plus 2 other starters. Three of their starters won titles in the 2 divisions at the Michigan State Open November 2nd, with 9 placewinners overall. 9 of their 10 weight classes are settled. 8 could qualify for Nationals. Some of that is due to being in a tough, 6 team conference. Most of it is due to Coach Keith Gavin. And his excellent staff. #Pinzburgh.
Northern Iowa had a National Champ last year. They won’t have one this year. They had Michelle Van Dorn advancing their media cause last year. They don’t this year. They beat Iowa State last year. They won’t this year. They didnt wrestle Iowa last year. They won’t this year. They’ll be better than last year. Maybe in their won loss dual meet record. Probably in their regular season tournament finishes. DEFINITELY in their NCAA tournament finish. Like, 4 All Americans and 2 round of 16 finishes. Follow Allyson Schwab, wife of UNI Head Coach Doug Schwab, mother of 4, professional photographer, purveyor of positive, on Twitter. But from a respectful distance, please. You do NOT want the SchwabMob on your doorstep. Unless they’re delivering your UNI Wrestling season tickets. #Panthertrain.
See you next week!
- Group names for kangaroos, Joeys are their babies. Its the VMI Keydets, but their mascot is Moe the Kangaroo. It’s the cheerleaders fault.
2. Dogs ALWAYS finish first. In EVERYTHING.
(3) Top shelf little big town for coffee, food, and a funky old/new hotel, the Desmond. Check the reviews on TripAdvisor, @784tedc.
(4)SHOUT OUT, La Quinta, Charleston, WV. Great staff, beautiful views, fun stay.
(5) Jordans personal boogie man, 2017 National Champ, 3X Finalist Mark Hall of Penn State.