“Ah distinctly I remember, It was in the bleak December..” wrote one Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven, one of the worlds great poems. And while the weather across the wrestling world takes its typical chilly turn, a couple of teams are muy caliente come this particular mid month mark. Let’s take a look see, shall we?
IN THE NEW MAC, CHIPS ALL IN
Numerous words were written and spoken about the unsteady nature of the team from Mt. Pleasant of late. Several seasons worth of high profile defections and sub par dual meet and tournament results had outsiders thinking and saying Tom Borellis Chippewas had fallen back to the pack. That they were becoming something quite a bit different than the 16X conference champs they had been. That the regression was only partly due to Missouris admission to the MAC and the Tigers immediate ascension to the conference throne. Well, well, welcome, 2019 season, and welcome back, Chippewas! Borellis Boyz have steadied the canoe with a sterling showing at 3 straight tournaments. 11 Top 5 finishes out the gate at the Michigan State Open, 4 first place showings in Boone, NC, at the App State Open, and a team Bronze at the Black Knight Invitational. Then CMU hit the dual meet road to a 2-1 tune through last week. The only setback, a 10 point loss in Anne Arbor to Michigan where CMU won 4 bouts to 6 for the Wolverines. Back to back road wins by double digits over Top 25 foes Lock Haven and Rider show the Chips have some steam to their strokes as they paddle full speed towards the Midlands Tournament at months end. Theres 3 Conference wrestler of the Week awards already in the Chips hands this year. More to come. And as always, SHOUT OUT to the young men repping the Scribes home states NJ and FL, and his adopted land love, TX…Alex Jacobs, 165, Houston, TX, St. Thomas; Johnny Lovett, 157, Miami, FL, Southridge.
NOT JUST STRONG, E.I.W.A. STRONG
When the score came in from the left coast it left folks scratching their heads. #4 Wisconsin 16, unranked Army 15. Typo? Bad cheese Curds? Badger Overconfidence? That’s 3 nos, you’re out. And just like that, a 1 point loss to a Big 10 powerhouse started what could be a season long highlights show for the Black Knights of the Hudson. Since then Coach Kevin Wards 6th West Point squad has gone undefeated in duals, won their own Black Knight Invitational, and just plain gobsmacked the field at the George Mason Patriot Open. Gobsmack being defined here as winning 5 weight classes and being the only team to top 100 points. BY 197.5 POINTS. Or thereabouts. Army finished last season 8-3, 7-1 in conference, and Ward was named Conference coach of the year as 7 Black Knights made the Nationals. Looks like they’re aiming at an encore performance. The Midlands are up next. Come out of that mid season meatgrinder healthy and with a few quality w’s and look out wrestling world. It’s Army, comin at ya. All Knights, all day long. As always, SHOUT OUT to the young men repping the Scribes home states NJ and FL, and his adopted land love, TX…Logan Brown, 157, and Nico Manzonelli, 285, Allen, TX; Luke Hodsden, 174, Dripping Springs, TX; Ryan Chauvin, 125, Orlando, FL, Lake Highland Prep; Eric Keosseian, 285, Howell, NJ.
SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON
You saw this season coming, SoCon fans and foes alike. As, at least of late, the “little conference that maybe could” has been something of a national afterthought. Well, folks, lets drop some southern fried wrasslin knowledge on y’all. The Southern Conference has been wrestling since 1921. That’s 25 years before the MAC existed and 33 years prior to the birth of the ACC. When athletes from current SoCon schools hit the mats for the first time you were still taking a slow boat to China, or Europe, and most airplanes had 2 sets of wings. Well, the times, the tech, and the teams, they are ‘a changin. More than half the schools have seriously upgraded their coaching staffs, facilities or both the past 5 years, and it’s starting to show. Also of note: the conference boasts one of the countries 2 brand new D1 programs and the SoCon has the only womens D1 team in the whole US of A. The conference also boasts its first legit Top 15 team threat since, well, since some time. Cary Kolats Campbell Camels have both the individuals (133LB Noah Gonser, 141LB Josh Heil, 165LB Quentin Perez, 184LB Andrew Morgan, and 285LB Jere Heino) with NCAA tournament chops AND the team results. The Camels balled out at the Southeast Open. Their 4 Open division champs were more than any other team, and they followed that up with a huge Silver medal team showing at the very tough Navy Classic. They picked up a second Team Silver showing at the Reno Tournament of Champions with 4 titlists and 8 placewinners. Despite all that, you know they are locking and loading for the last weekend of December. The 56th Midlands is the oldest, hoariest, coldest (Avg. late Dec. temp. in Chicago, 28, Avg. Jan 1st temp. in Chattanooga, 49, just sayin) and one of the toughest tournaments this year, every year. To paraphrase the late, great entepreneur/philanthropist Bernie Epstein of State Vacuum, “Heeeere come the Camels!!!” Campbell tied for last years regular season Southern Conference crown and they won the post season tournament, sending 6 to the NCAAS. And, by any measurable quotient they’re at least as good as last year. Well, they’re better, believe it. Ditto for most every SoCon team in 2019-2020. Yes, App State is 0-2 in the TarHeel State Survivor series, falling 24-12 to Top 10 NC State and, earlier in the season, dropping a down to the last match barnburner to North Carolina. Meh. BHH Head Coach JohnMark Bentleys crew have earned 6 titles and a startling 38, count ’em, 38 top 6 finishes in Novembers tournaments. Catch the Mountaineers next on the funky hexagonal mat as they travel to take on the UALR Trojans. The Scribes beloved UTC Mocs continue raising their scheduling sights. The team scores have been a little lopsided, to be sure, against the likes of Iowa, Iowa State (26-7 on a Saturday night in Ames) and likely to be against VT. The individual matches, however, are seeing the scores creep closer and closer. Incremental steps against the best, more and more success against other good teams are signs “The Kyle Ruschell Initiative” is taking root. The new kid on the mat is in Clinton, South Carolina, where Presbyterian is the ONLY school in the country fielding a D1 Mens and Women’s team. The Blue Hose are making history with every moment of competition this season. This week the mens team will duel Franklin and Marshall and the Citadel in a span of 3 days before heading to beautiful downtown Chattanooga for the Southern Scuffle. The Blue Hose Women have a stern two tournament test ahead as they compete at the US Open and the NWCA Nationals in a 3 week span. Both squads have enjoyed better than expected results in their first ever campaigns. Credit the athletes, the husband and wife coaching team of Andi and Tony DeAnda, AND the vision and building skills of Presbyterian Director of Wrestling Mark Cody. VMI has a quad meet in Morgantown looming Sunday the 22nd with the host Mountaineers, Hofstra, and Edinboro. Look for a 3 way war between stellar 174LB competitors Neal Richards of the Keydets, Edinboros Jacob Oliver and Sage Heller of Hofstra. Meanwhile, Davidson pumps the seasons brakes for a few weeks for finals and with the SoCon wrestler of the week, 197LB Connor Fenn. The Southern Scuffle is the next test for the Wildcats. In Boiling Springs Gardner-Webb looks to find the win column as they host the Diplomats of Franklin and Marshall before G-W runs on down to Chatt-town come Jan 1st and 2nd.
‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE: MORE FANS THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A RIB AT
At that Central San Antonio smoked meats must-stop on the TX BBQ Trail wrestling school alums and fans alike have been stopping by. To wit: Brandon Hoskins, App State, 2018, Building Design, had designs on some fine ‘cue and found his satisfaction inside. David Detwilleger, who honed the dedication needed for a journeyman electricians life matside for Cheyenne, WY, East High School back in the day, proudly rocked his Wyoming Cowboys hat as he and fam enjoyed a full table of food and festivity. The Barry Family, with Michigan roots 2 generations and 3 schools strong. And that doesn’t even touch on the half dozen retired academicians who forged life long friendships in wrestling hotspots from Brookings SD., to Columbus, OH. Their story upcoming in a later column.
MUSIC TO MOVE YOU
Not much to do with wrestling here, just this: if EVER the opportunity presents itself to experience Andrea Bocelli in concert, DO IT. Regardless of cost. You will leave with your senses uplifted and your perspective on human capabilities forever raised. See you next week! Ted Carreras