January traditionally brings the team competition aspect of D1 college wrestling into full focus. Schools put their preparation for conference title runs on full display as rivals old and new battle each other at home and away. Great match-ups have been contested and or will be battled this season on aircraft carriers, baseball diamonds, in theatres, and similarly dissimilar venues. From this humble point of view, ALL good, but it’s very hard to beat a match in a small to medium sized building. One that’s jammed to the rafters with rowdy home colors-clad fans, at far louder and hotter levels of temperature and noise than could usually be tolerated. A room where those guys on that team on the other side of the mat have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. And your heroes come rocking out of the darkness to the lights, noise and fanfare they have earned. To show those other guys that they were invited to this party for a lesson, not a celebration. One they won’t like learning. Put your books away. Time for a TEST!
HOME TEAMS GETTIN HAPPY….
South Dakota State is one, as BHH HC Damion Hahns JackRabbits have run off 5 straight wins after finding their footing at the South Beach Duals. A 2 point loss to Cornell was followed by wins over Duke, Michigan State, Old Dominion, a conference road win at Northern Iowa and a 1 point victory at home. Over conference foe and geographic rival Wyoming. The Jackrabbits have DOUBLED last years win total and have multiple wrestlers ranked in the Top 20. Quite the 2nd year turnaround for the affably intense Hahn, being ably assisted by the “Triple C” coaching staff of Cam Simaz, Cody Caldwell, and Chris Dardanes. Caldwell is mining the Midwest talent fields, especially Iowa, and former JackRabbit 197LB star “Nasty” Nate Rotert is doing nice work as well as SDSUs Recruiting Coordinator. Home States SHOUT OUT to: Gregory Coapstick, Soph, 125LB, Frisco, TX., Centennial.
American University had their best Midlands Tournament finish in 8 years, but couldn’t take that momentum with them into 2020. After an 0-3 result on the road at the Black Knight Duals, they were happy to head home. And it showed. The Eagles landed right on top of Brown and Drexel for a double win weekend, beating the Bears 18-16 and smacking the Dragons 27-14. Kizhan Clarke, 149LBs, padded his nation-leading wins total, now at 27. 6 Eagles total went perfect on the weekend. Too bad they can’t stay in the eyrie, as a nasty tough road trip to take on Lehigh and Columbia looms next week. Home States SHOUT OUT: Conner Allshouse, Jr., 174, Largo, FL, Indian Rocks Christian; Clarke, Gibsonton, FL, Riverview; Tim Fitzpatrick, RS Fr., 133, Somers Point, NJ., Holy Spirit; Daniel Kidd, Jr., 133, Dallas, TX, Lake Highland; Sal Profaci, RS Sr., 141, Monroe Township, NJ. And, on the other side of Sundays dual….Drexel, really? A 2nd straight loss to your fellow conference fliers? NOT what the #WizardAzevedo had conjured up for your season. NO damsels FOR YOU.
RIDER RISES IN VIRGINIA
Rarely in the headlines but having themselves a season is that little old NJ school #straightouttaLawrenceville. What have the Rider Broncs done for you lately? Howzabout 8 placewinners and a champ, 157LB Jesse Dellavecchia, at the tough Princeton Open 1st weekend of the season? Then there was the win over perennial Top 10 power Minnesota in the Gophers home burrow. And a same weekend 20 point beat down administered to till then resurgent NIU? Giving the Huskies their only home loss so far? BTW, did we mention the Silver Medal team showing at the Keystone Classic, or the multiple semi-finalists and 3 placewinners at the Southern Scuffle? Finishing Top 8 in the 2 dozen plus team war down Chattanooga way? Got your attention yet? No? Well, Pilgrim, you don’t impress easy, do you? Good. Because Rider don’t care. They just wrestle, and they do it well. While they may yet end up as this seasons #3 D1 team in NJ, that result will be more about the overall uptick in results at both Rutgers and Princeton. And neither of those squads will claim a team tournament title this season. Rider has. The crown of Team Champion from the Virginia Duals sits firmly atop Rider Coach John Hangeys crewcut-adorned dome. The Broncs stampeded down to the Great Commonwealth and promptly went 3-0 over 2 days, taking apart Duke, Maryland, and heavy home state favorite Virginia. Ahead lie 7 more dual matches, 4 at home, for the Broncs to keep things on track. NIU, located in DeKalb, Illinois, will host the Mid America Conference Championships. Rider has already proven they can perform in the Huskies home gym. Yes, it’s way early. But barring injury, as many as 8 Broncs could qualify for Nationals, though 5 is a more realistic expectation. Be unrealistic, Rider. You’ve already been unreal.
Cs AND Ds : TEAM GRADES THAT COULD GET BETTER
CAL ST BAKERSFIELD-Coach Manny Riveras #FabulousBakersfieldBoyz have written the primer on keeping home grown talent. A senior laden roster 31 men strong. Every single one of them calling the Golden State home. A coaching mantra is “putting a fence” around your home and making sure locals want to wear your colors. Coach Manny and his staff have mastered this art. The Kern County School District alone has 5 alums on the current RoadRunners roster. There’s talent enough in Cali as a whole to easily supply a dozen or more D1 teams (yet another subtle PAC 12 dig). For now, though, Golden State mat stars will concentrate their efforts on that 125 mile to a side triangle stretching from Bakersfield to San Louis Obispo to Fresno. With an enclave of talent up Palo Alto way. We digress, back to the Runners. Where they’ve been so far this season is close. Close in matches and close to earning multiple place winning performances at tournaments. However, except for a 16-15 come back home win in December over a tough Buffalo squad, and 4 top 3 showings at their own RoadRunner Open, not close enough. No placewinners at the CKLV. Just one, 141LB rs freshman Angelo Mantinori, at the Southern Scuffle. There’s a strong cadre of RS Seniors and Juniors on the ‘Runners roster but not a one of them is going to remember this seasons first half fondly. Sr. 149LB Russell Rolhfing is a 3X National qualifier whose modest 11-7 record is tied for the team lead with Junior 285LB Jarrod Snyder. Junior 157LB Kalani Tonge is 6-1 but hasn’t seen action since early Decembers RoadRunner Open. And half his wins are against his own teammates. To be fair, this team won the D1 California College wrestling Championship last season and their 3 early season losses were to 3 Top 20 teams. Bakersfield has 9 duals left in their schedule but as of now they would be favored in only 3. A lot can happen between the January 19th date with Duke and the conference tournament in early March. The RoadRunners need to make the most of this 7 week span. Making great things happen past the PAC 12 Championships seems like a very heavy, fast moving anvil rather than a reasonable goal for Bakersfield this year.
COLUMBIA….when the blue clad Lions last roamed this column their sparkling 2019 dual meet record was being properly celebrated. Columbia was 10-5 last year, the best result in 20 seasons for the self-proclaimed “Nations Oldest Team”. They were the only Ivy League school to finish in the Top 10% in the APR rankings, a measurement of a programs athletes in terms of eligibility, graduation, and retention. It was Columbias 3rd such award in a decade. And as mentioned, they were pretty tough on the mat also. They are on point this year as well, with good showings at the early season RoadRunner Open and a nice 2nd place team point total at the George Mason Open the 1st week of December. You could say their non Top 20 finish at the Midlands is fairly equal to last seasons back of the pack Southern Scuffle results. Columbia had a 7 week stretch between duals from November 23rds 2 point loss to Stanford in Palo Alto, CA, to the big 24-15 E.I.W.A. win over Binghamton on January 10th. Emerging as the Lions leaders this season are sophomores 125LB Joe Manchio and 141LB Matt Kazimir. With 16 wins apiece and 3 tournament titles collectively between them the #M&MBoyz have been in some national rankings since their first efforts this year. Not only unranked but unseen is expected 165LB rock star Laurence Kosoy. This was to be the senior season for the 2019 NCAA Championships alternate from Olympic Heights, FL. As late as June 21st in the past off season Columbia was heralding Kosoys upcoming season as something surely special. Then………crickets. Oh, Kosoys still active on Twitter cheering his (still?former?) teammates on, but you won’t find him on the roster or the results list. Currently occupying the weight, and at a fine 15-9 clip to boot, is true freshman Kyle Mosher. Moshers one of a group of Cubs for Columbia average only in number, 9, and absolutely staggering in athletic and academic accomplishments. The latter, not the focal point of this column, but the former….YO. The win totals for the bulk of the freshmen average around 155 career victories each…IF you take current 133LB starter Trent Svingalas absurd 250 career w’s out of the equation. The Lions started 5 first-years, as they’re referred to in the Ivy League, in both the Binghamton win and their latest dual, a 27-12 setback to Cornell. The Cornell match was perhaps most notable for Mosher and Kazimir going 1-1 after dropping down to 157 and 141 respectively. Of course, sophomore Sam Wustefelds win over 2018 AA Ben Darmstadt rates a roar as well, even though it was by injury. In the sights of this young pride, a January 19th match up with American University. It went the Eagles way 26-12 last season. If Columbia can hit the double digit win mark in duals when starting 5 cubs, well, look out Ivy League, and be aware, E.I.W.A. Sounds like these Lions might be growing up fast and hungry. Home States SHOUT-OUT to: Riley Jacops, Jr, 165, Austin, TX, Vandegrift. AND to the 25% of this Pride who are Jerzey-proud…Garrett Bilgray, F, 165, Robinsville; Alec Kelly, Sr., 133, Woodridge, St. Peter’s Prep; Manchio, from Tabernacle, Seneca; Val Miele, Sr., 141, Basking Ridge, Delbarton; Chris Scorese, Jr., 133, Cranford; and Wustefeld, Soph, Scotch Plains, Fanwood.
DUKE……Hmmm. Next subject. Seriously. The Blue Devils have issues. No scholarships. No team success this season so far. Currently, no 125, 165, or 285LB wrestlers. That’s a lot of no for a team with nowhere to go but, well, somewhere other than where they are now. Folks, after 2 years finishing in the Top 25 nationally, multiple National qualifiers, All Americans, and amazing academic accolades, the Blue Devils have…….amazing academic accolades. A roster pared down to 17 wrestlers couldn’t hope to compete in a big high school environment, let alone at the D1 College level. Certainly not in a conference with 2 Top 10 teams and two more just outside that ranking. With 2 more in state teams in the Top 20. Head Coach Glen Lanham has done miraculous work in Durham, but it would take Wong, Dr. Strange and the Ancient One himself to conjure up a numerically successful season this year. After spending over an hour trying to find the positives for Duke wrestling this year, behold Mason Eaglin. And you knew him already. You know, that RS Fr “filling in” for the biggest, baddest of Dukes 4 wrestling Finesilver brothers, Matt. Matt is taking an Olympic redshirt, trying to make the US Greco Roman team. Masons stepped in more than admirably and leads the Blue Devils this year in wins, podium placements and potential post season success. None of those races are competitive at this point. As a team in 2019-2020, Duke is 0-7 and has been either shut out or won only 1 match out of 10 in all of their 7 losses. Injuries have taken multiple starters out of the Blue Devils lineup, and when you have barely more than 1 rostered wrestler per weight class, well…..Lanham is no stranger to athletic adversity. As a college athlete at Tennessee, he saw an uncaring group of Athletic Directors destroy an entire conference’s dreams as they were being realized. Lanham and others had hoped to make the SEC in general, and in his case, Tennessee in particular, a wrestling stronghold. Not so fast, my friends. They said as they swung the axes. OK, apologies for the hate filled historic diatribe. Actually, no. No apology. Back to the now. Duke ain’t good this year. Back to the Future? Hope Dukes isn’t like the SECs past.
SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON
The Scribes favorite bunch of baaad matmen have been doing the conference proud all year and the hits just keep a comin. In reverse alphabetical order, two teams at a time, here are the stories and the stars of the SoCon Wrestling Season, Part Deux…..
VMI DUO MAKE RANK, BREAK FOES
Just like a sweet single, a snasty ankle pick, blast double or a Richard and Amanda Immel 60 day married celebration picture, that’s “TWOOOOO” ranked wrestlers for the VMI Keydets this month. Not so burly Chris Beck, the ‘Roos rugged nowhere near 285LBer cracked the rankings in January. Beck is a 3 yr rostered 197LB athlete masquerading as a Heavyweight. He was his HS Wrestling, Lacrosse, and Soccer Captain and was the only player to make All Conference in all 3. Beck joined chief Keydets headhunter and column favorite 174LB “Nasty” Neal Richards inside the National Top 25. Richards finally nailed down a Southern Scuffle podium spot and stands at 25-6 on the year. 149LB Fr Job Chisko, younger brother of former VA Tech 2X AA Solomon Chisko, is 17-13. Its the young Keydets guns like Chisko, Robbie Adelstein, Noah Ruolo and the like who need to take Head Coach Jim Gibson and Assistants Ty Schoffstahl and Cameron Timoks plans and run with them. Theres no scheduled wins this season and VMI will be underdogs in most duals going forward, starting with this weekends Sat.-Sun. showdowns with Virginia and conference power UTC. Stay healthy and the Keydets can finish the month with a potential Top 4 showing at the All Academy Championships last Saturday in January, first time in Colorado Springs.
MOCS MAKE SCUFFLE STRIDES
UTCs 4-6 duals record is deceiving. Theres a good chance theyll finish under .500 and an equal or greater chance theyll be 1 spot back of where they finished last year in both the regular season and the SoCon tournament. So why is this season already a success, and getting sweeter by the moment? Folks, its called buy-in. 2nd year Head Coach Kyle Ruschell and staff have the whole team coming around to their way of wrestling. When you have buy-in, you have the one thing that can’t be bought: BELIEF. Belief keeps you moving forward from brutal losses. Belief keeps your attitude and effort positive and all out when critical parts of the plan/team break down or go down. The Mocs have been shut out, beaten up, lost a team captain and 4 year starter, and they just keep coming back for more. This IS “The Kyle Ruschell Initiative.” UTC remained undefeated in SoCon action with a 34-5 win against Gardner-Webb January 12th. The Mocs will be underdogs on the road against Virginia next time out. Doesn’t matter. They will be favored over conference foe VMI two days later. DOESN’T MATTER. UTC is maximizing its talent more and more each time out. Marry that belief to effort, show the results and the talent needed to succeed at the highest levels will want to wear the block C. Whether they are out of area recruits, like Colorado raised 125LB assassin Fabian Gutierrez, in state stars like 133LB Colton Landers and “Light” Hvwt. Grayson Walthall, or proven transfers like Scuffle placewinners 149LB Tanner Smith (Eastern Michigan) and 184LB Matthew Waddell (Oklahoma) if you build it, they will come. And Coaches Ruschell, Hatcher, and Ruschell look like 33rd degree Masons from here.
See you next week!