The College Wrestling Season put a beautiful bow on the seasons 1st half with 3 big time events spread from Illinois to Tennessee to Florida. As predicted by most and celebrated by many the Iowa Hawkeyes ran roughshod over the 57th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands with 5 champs and a team point total greater than 2nd place Northern Iowa and 3rd place Illinois combined. The Hawkeyes had 7 finalists, continuing the success shown from the combined 130-18 score of their first 4 dual meet wins. Iowas Midlands title was their 7th in a row and 29th overall. It could realistically be said Iowa could have had 2 more placewinners/finalists had 125LB 2X defending National Champ Spencer Lee not chosen to exit the tournament after cruising into the semifinals, and had 174LB Michael Kemerer been entered. The Hawks didn’t lack for a hero, though, as 165LB Alex Marinelli was named Champion of Champions and took home the Gorarrian award, most pins in least amount of time. For Marinelli any and all wrestling accolades earned and awarded are tinged with sorrow. The loss, prior to last season, of his dear friend (and wifes brother) Eli Stickley in a car accident has been documented nationally by the Flowrestling site. Suffice to say it is Marinellis mission to bring home a title for himself, his team and for family present in both body and spirit. Down Ft. Lauderdale, FL, way, the South Beach Duals is the newbie of the Big 3 events in college wrestlings first half conclusion. Just 3 years young, the Duals saw a format shuffle of sorts this year. Also, some teams committed to the event changed plans and chose the Midlands or the Southern Scuffle instead. 8 of the 9 teams at the event competed in 4 duals with only Lehigh having just 3 matches. Interestingly the Mountain Hawks were the only team to win all of their duals. Minnesota and South Dakota State were 3-1, and Cornell lost just once in 5 matches. Missouri and Michigan State went 2-2, while Wyomings retooled team picked up 1 win. Old Dominion and Duke suffered from bad matchups and some less than stellar effort at times and ended up 0-4. It should be noted that Oklahoma, NC State, and North Dakota State all withdrew from the event. O-U instead rested all but one of their starters and sent freshmen and sophomores to the Midlands, while NC St. and NDSU opted for Chattanooga and the Southern Scuffle. That proved to be fortuitous indeed for both the WolfPack and the Bison, who finished a solid 2nd and a most suprising 5th, respectively, behind champion Oklahoma State, in a field of 2 dozen teams. The Bison in particular blew up this sites top 5 Scuffle team prediction. NDSU easily outpaced Big 10 power Rutgers and fellow tough guy teams Rider, Lock Haven, App St. and up and coming host team UTC. The NC State WolfPack, Pitt Panthers and the Stanford Cardinal all did their part in fulfilling this sites Top 5 contenders status. S’OK, Rutgers, you’re the Scribes homeboyz. You want a Mulligan, you GET a Mulligan. The suprise teams of the Scuffle were no doubt the Bison and Big 12 Conference rival Northern Colorado. The Bears were 6th and both squads had real team efforts. NO titlists for either but 3 finalists and 10 placewinners between the 2 squads, and NDSU was without Top 10 ranked 165LB Andrew Fogarty. All in all the 3 events gave us 2 fairly easily predicted champs and a slew of surprises to set the 2nd half stage. Heres some news and notes from squads perhaps less publicized to get you set for act 2 of the 2019-2020 season…..
AIR FORCE..The Falcons remain a youth driven squad, with only 8 seniors on a 44 man roster and only 1, 165LB Randy Menewether, starting and starring this season. Air Force has put folks on the podium at all 4 tournaments they’ve entered this year and are chasing their first dual win. Right now it looks like Menewether, 174LB Cody Surratt and 125LB Sidney Flores can pencil in a trip to Nationals. A top half finish in the Big 12 Conference Tournament appears off the event horizon for this years squad, though.
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY…23 men, all but 1 of them underclassmen, are rocking the A-U Eagles uniforms to modest success team wise with a most notable individual this year. 149LB Kizhan Clarke is on everybody’s radar now. He’s an astonishing 25-3 on the season and took #2 ranked Austin O’Connor of UNC to OT in a 5-3 dual meet loss. There were, and are, big hopes for big strides from two of A-Us big men. Former JUCO NC 184LB Tanner Harvey and 285LB Niko Camacho have shown flashes, with Harvey 14-4 on the year. 2 of his 4 defeats came at the Midlands to keep him off the podium, but American finished 15th out of 35 tough squads with just 2 placewinners. Clarke and Michigan transfer (and lone senior) Sal Profaci took 5th and 8th respectively. The dual season, however, began with a dull thud as A-U dropped all 3 of their matches at the Army Duals this past weekend. Hard to see past Clarke, Harvey, and perhaps Profaci making their way through the brutal E.I.W.A. tournament to qualify for nationals. Again, youth will probably become better with another season of seasoning. Head Coach Teague Moore, former A-U stars Jeric Kasunic and 2X Eagle AA Ganbayar Sanjaa and excellent new (Aug. 2019) staff addition Erik Wince will certainly see to that.
BINGHAMTON….The 2017-2018 in season departure of Coach Matt Dernlan raised eyebrows and lowered expectations for the Bearcats. The team, however, and the renovated coaching staff of Brothers Kyle and Jasen Borshoff and Assistant Fred Garcia would have none of that. After a modestly successful finish the Bearcats opened last year….well, poorly, then proceeded to make the 2nd half of the 2019 season their personal plaything. Binghamton closed with 10 straight wins and a magnificent 8-2 regular season mark in the incredibly tough E.I.W.A. For this year recognize a 24 man roster with just 1 senior and a significantly greater degree of difficulty in both dual meet and tournament scheduling. A subtraction of Cleveland State and Kent State for the addition of Lehigh, NC State and Virginia Tech is an immense positive for many things. Wins not necessarily being one of those things, but growth does not come without challenge. Also challenging, promising RS Soph. 165LB Aidan Monteverdi has gone down and out twice already after coming into this year “finally at full health” according to the pre season Press release. OUCH. Cue the heroes, among them 125LB Audy Ashkar, 141LB Senior Anthony Sparacio, hulking 184LB Southern Scuffle Champ Lou DePrez, and promising young Hvwt. Joe Doyle. They’ll need their capes all season long. The view from here says the dual meet season swings on results to be earned during January’s 3rd weekend. A Saturday afternoon showdown with Top 5 ranked and probably still undefeated VA Tech could be a nightmare for the Bearcats, or a day to remember. For about 8 hours, because a Sunday, next day doubleheader on deadly ground looms. The Bearcats go to Philadelphia, first facing resurgent Penn at 1 followed by a nighttime battle with the Drexel Dragons. Take ANY 2 out of 3 of those matches and the Bearcats will hit the brutal E.I.W.A. tournament with a 2nd straight double digit win season. Lose 2 or all 3, both very possible, and the road to the Nationals becomes a Highway to…well, not a place you’ll put into Google Maps. #EmbracetheGreen, Binghamton, and don’t start the fire!
BLOOMSBURG…..Marcus Gordons 4th Huskies squad is working with 2 new, sort of, staff members, a small 21 man roster and a tougher conference schedule to navigate. And last years lone National qualifier, 125LB Willy Girard, is taking a redshirt in what would have been his senior season. The staffers are former Bloomsburg star Mike Dessino, who wrestled for the Huskies from 2009-2014, and Drexel all time wins Leader Steve Mytych. Or are they? Both are listed as the volunteer assistant Coach. Dessinos return was heralded last May 8th while Mytychs arrival was headlined in an August 27th release. For the same position. Awaiting clarification on that point. What’s clear as a starry Texas sky at night is the senior season success of 184LB Trevor Allard. The sturdy, #straightouttaMexico (Mexico, NY) star is rocking 3 straight tournament finals appearances with 2 titles and a sparkling 14-1 mark so far this year. This team and VMI in the SoCon share several characteristics. Hard nosed coaches, limited rosters and, this year, a legit single senior superstar far outshining the team success or other individuals efforts. Allards the ONLY active Bloomsburg wrestler with a career winning record, and his total wins are more than the next two combined. Even Girard, who again, is redshirting, is only 3 victories past .500. Those w’s, both team and individual, will be harder to come by in the expanded MAC, the “new” superconference by virtue of its absorbing of Bloomsburgs previous home, the Eastern Wrestling League. Perhaps the best thing Bloomsburgs done so far this season was deciding not to attend the Midlands. They had a chance for a healing holiday break, took it, and then took their first two wins of the season. Beating E.I.W.A. teams L.I.U. and Hofstra back to back is a bone the Huskies can savor for a bit. An 8 day February span of duals with VMI, Sacred Heart and Cleveland State look like the next best win opportunities for Bloomsburg before the harsh reality of the MAC tournament sets in in March. Competing past that point, maybe Allard, but not likely anyone else this season. Still, 4 or 5 wins and another National qualifier is a run towards more respectability for these Huskies.
BROWN…..A quarter of the Bears 24 man roster finish their mat work for Brown this season. Their impact on the state, regional, national and World stage will likely be immense and positive. It is Brown, after all. For wrestling purposes, it’s been a near perfect balance with a 1 match below .500 cumulative record for the 6. So far this season the Bears have been beaten up a bit in every tournament they’ve attended. More accurate, this seasons 1st half at least, to say attended rather than competed in. A somewhat encouraging showing at the Northeast Collegiate Classic was followed by, in order: Navy Classic, 17th out of 18. Cougar Clash, 5th out of 6. Midlands, 31st out of 37. So as 2019 turned to 2020 the Bears badly needed to come out of an extended hibernation. Looks like they took some cub like steps last time out with 6 placewinners and a tournament champion, 149LB Ricky Cabanillas, at the David H. Lehman Franklin and Marshall Open. Last years 8-6 dual meet mark isn’t doable but a strong showing against the Ivy League teams is. That is, after all, what Brown is all about.
BUCKNELL…The Bison like their dual meets. 15 year Coach Dan Wirnsberger scheduled 16 this season, surely with high hopes of continuing a climb back to the heady heights of 2013-2017. Since those 4 straight double digit win campaigns Bucknell has had a 3 and a 7 win season. 2-2 so far, and while dual meet improvement is never a given, it certainly appears possible this year. Theres a sturdy 33 man roster. Theres a bonafide superstar in the making in now 165LB sophomore Zach Hartman, already a 2x placewinner at the Midlands and an E.I.W.A. finalist. Theres quality and quantity on the coaching staff as well. Theres homegrown Bison Orange and Blue bleeding assistant Coach, 2X Bucknell AA Kevin Levalley. Then theres Eric Morrill, 9 seasons and 3 programs into his coaching career after a 3X NCAA qualifying wrestling career at Edinboro. And there’s John Van Brill, who starred for Rutgers, as the Volunteer Assistant. YO. Good staff=good stuff. Bucknell got caught out the box by a hot NIU squad, then took 3 matches from Top 12 ranked Iowa State in a road defeat. November finished with a 13th place showing at the Navy Classic, not the best team wide effort. Still, Hartman and up and coming Jr. Matt Kolonia pinned opponents to each finish 3rd at 165 and 149 respectively. Dual meet wins over Bloomsburg and LIU gave Bucknell a boost heading into the Midlands. Hartman earned his 2nd straight podium spot at the Nations oldest in season tournament. Hartman’s tough 8-3 loss to #1 ranked Alex Marinelli of Iowa (see earlier in this column) was the only non finals match that Hartmans Iowa foe did not win by pin. 2 year Captain 197LB Drew Phipps was a match away from placing. His 2 losses were by 3 points combined. Speaking of losses, Phipps hasn’t tasted a dual meet defeat in over a year, 16-0 in that span. He leads the Bison this season at 16-4. It’s a barring injury lock that Hartman and Phipps will return to the Nationals, and should the E.I.W.A. get 5 qualifying spots at 149, don’t count Kolonia out.
BUFFALO….1 tournament, the Michigan State Open, to start their season, and now it’s duals all day, week, and months long for Coach John Stutzman and his Bulls. 18 duals. Son, thats a lot of duals. Nowadays it’s a rare bird of a schedule at the D1 level, but not at Buffalo, where a dozen and a half duals a season is a multi year average. Coach Stutzman was a 4 year mat star for the Bulls and graduated with the team record for wins. Then he put up nearly a 100 w’s as Bloomsburgs coach before taking the top job at his alma mater. Between his 2 gigs hes been named Coach of the Year 4 times, including last seasons MAC award. Do a deep dive into the Bulls roster and you’ll find a plethora of talent from NY to Oregon. Multi time champs and school record holders are in abundance on Buffalos squad. The hammer this season looks to be 2018 Mid American Conference finalist and NCAA Qualifier Derek Spann, a national leader in tech falls. That is, if it’s not 165LB 2018 MAC Champ Troy Keller. Between them they’re a sparkling 16-2 in duals, 20-6 overall. Looks like another stellar season is brewing in that little big city by the big ole lake famous for wings, Jimmy Buffet song mentions, and damn tough wrestlers. The Bulls won’t send 6 to Nationals again as they did last season, but look for another double digit dual wins campaign. Look, too, for Spann, Keller, and possibly 174LB Taylor Cahill to make the trip to Minneapolis. AND for a big, big bunch of Buffalos stampeding to St. Louis for the 2021 Championships.
‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE….
At that menu-diverse, BBQ based chowhouse smackdab on North Central San Antonio’s Blanco Road wrestling school alums and fans alike are enjoying a mild winter and some mighty fine smoked meat. Just ask Kevin and Monica Miller, who motored on by a week or so back to enjoy the food and atmosphere. An ’08 Pitt grad, Kevin honed his post military skill set in the Steel City as an Information Sciences student. Both Kevin and his charming wife were mighty glad to hear of the Panthers proper resurgence to the wrestling elite under Coach Gavins tutelage. Count them in as #Pinzburgh fans going forward. Then there was that recent stop by by a long ago Wisconsin wrestling hero. Wally Schoessow wiped the mats with foes in the early 60s before becoming a Badger from 64-68. Wally gave nearly 30 years back to sport and coached at Madison, WI, Memorial. Schoessow rocked a Wisconsin T-shirt during his visit, great cover if you happen to spill a little sauce, BTW. So when you visit that South Central TX. town with 1 river, 6 flags, a plethora of vibrant cultures and a million smiling faces, put aside an hour or two for some quality food and fellowship. Just sayin.
WINE-DING DOWN WITH THE SCRIBE, POST HOLIDAY DOUBLEHEADER EDITION
2018 SUN & RAIN MENDOCINO ORGANIC CHARDONNAY
Cannot take credit for finding this light and refreshing gem. The bride scooped this winner off the shelves for some pre Christmas cooking usage and a planned for carryover to a holiday get together. Que lastima, but sometimes the best laid plans go astray. It’s a wine that will have you smiling at your selection skills as you settle it in next to a chicken dish or a good root vegetable soup. And you’ll be humming that 1968 Sir Douglas Quintet hit all the while you enjoy it. RATING: 2.5 GLASSES
2016 HORSE HEAVEN HILLS CABERBET SAUVIGNON COLUMBIA CREST
Because it was the last, lonely bottle in its shelf space. And it needed a warm, friendly place. And nothing this good should be alone during the Holiday season. The original review from Season 3, Column 13 still stands.
See you next week! Ted Carreras