The ACC has been rocking out this year, with all but one of its teams in the Top 25 and 4 hitting the Top 15. What’s even more impressive is that half of the teams have changed Head Coaches within the past 5 years. The star power being generated by NC State, VA Tech, North Carolina and Pittsburgh these past 2 seasons, plus Top 25 mainstay Virginia, is at LEAST equal to anything else the ACC has done athletically over the same time span. Theres undefeated Virginia Tech beating Ohio State and shutting out E.I.W.A. mainstay Binghamton, both on the road. 7 wrestlers with a dozen or more wins led by RS 184LB Hunter Bolens sparkling 18-1 record and #2 national ranking. 3X AA David McFadden clicked over the 100 win mark last week. And folks, don’t forget that their first ever National Champ, 165LB Mehki Lewis, is rocking the Red,White, and Blue instead of Hokie Maroon this year. Hes shooting and leg lacing and gut wrenching for an Olympic team spot. Then theres fellow unbeaten NC State, the #AmericanWerewolves of this column. They stand 10-0 with every win by double digits. Their Alpha Male, after Coach Pat Popolizio, is #2 ranked, 2X AA 157LB Hayden Hidlay. 19-1 and rocking after tearing up his weight class in Chattanooga. The team: a top 10 finish at the Cliff Keen and a sterling 2nd place showing at the Southern Scuffle. 9 of the Packs 10 starters are at 12 wins or above. Coach Coleman Scotts North Carolina Tar Heels went to Anne Arbor and skinned the Wolverines earlier in the season. UNC is 8-1, with a Top 10 finish at the Midlands and a 3-0 sweep of the tough Army duals. All American #2 ranked 149LB Austin O’Connor is out front for the Tar Heels. Hes 15-1 and leading the 7 UNC wrestlers at 13 wins or better. Then theres that rough n ready Steel City crew, the Pitt Panthers. Coach Keith Gavins group is a sure fire Top 20 team. They are road warriors this season, wrestling the last 2 months away from home. Pitts fashioned a 7-2 mark so far and has risen as high as 10th. Half the squad found the podium, finishing 4th as a team, at the Southern Scuffle. Despite a clunky loss, again on the road, to Oklahoma State last time out, Coach Keith Gavins squad is a lock for a Top 20 finish at Nationals. If they’re firing on all cylinders, Top 15…..or higher. 133LB Micky Phillippi, 184LB Nino Bonaccorsi, and 285LB Demetrius “Meech” Thomas are all ranked in the Top 10. The sleeper squad in the ACC is Virginia. The Cavaliers could have both a losing conference and overall dual record, finish next to last at the ACC tournament….and then take home a Top 25 National finish. THATS how strong the ACC is this season, people. If there’s anything holding the conference back from receiving the full accolades it deserves it might be the sheer lack of team participation. Only 6 schools in a 15 team conference field wrestling squads. As to exactly what is keeping any, most, or all of the other 9 from putting their best sugar foot forward, who knows. It’s much more than likely a number of variables. One would certainly hope fear of competition is not one of them. And, quite frankly, there’s serious wrestling history to be connected to at several of these institutions. And money. And excellent recruiting bases from which to draw potential student athletes from. And money. And big time, well connected championship level alumni to help promote the programs and produce results. And money. Did we mention money? So, COME ON ALREADY, Syracuse, Clemson, Boston College, Georgia Tech….and YOU TOO Notre Dame. Don’t think we haven’t noticed you out there. Your conference is throwing one hell of a block party and you are ALL invited. Based on all the growth, goings on, and general chest thumping (ALL well deserved) it’s easy to see how great the ACC is. We’ve been shown the glitz and the grandeur…..and the money. Now show us some mats!
SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON
PRESBYTERIAN: SMALL NUMBERS, BIG PLANS
There has never been a season of firsts like the one being experienced by the Blue Hose, a small, private 4 year school in Clinton, South Carolina. Director of wrestling Mark Cody was brought aboard for the monumental task of creating a Mens AND Womens wrestling team for Presbyterian. Cody, who helped save the American University program, has been more than up to the task. A major portion of the plan was getting the right staff, and Cody did just that, bringing aboard the husband-wife coaching team of Tony and Dany Deanda. Dany won 3 state titles in Hawaii and a pair of World Junior Medals along with her Pan Am Silver. This year is her 12th season of coaching. Husband Tony is rolling along at 2 dozen years guiding mat stars after an All American career at Augustana College and after capturing 5 National Championships for Mexico. 31 athletes answered the call with a third coming from South Carolina. Theres a strong Southern flavor to the roster but you’ll find athletes from Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, and Nevada. Cody and his coaches even cast their nets as far as California and Hawaii for talent. It would be an impressive recruiting haul for an established wrestling college, let alone a small private school in a State not known as a wrestling magnet. The season so far for the Mens team has been less about wins than progress, but the Blue Hose Ladies are having a great inaugural going. Led by 116LB Jaslynn Gallegos and 155LB Morgan Norris at 11 wins each, the Blue Hose are 5-5. They posted good showings at the U.S. Open (with Gallegos taking 7th) and at the NWCA Duals. The squad then stepped their game up big-time at the Tornado Open, hosted by womens power squad King University in Bristol, Tennessee. Gallegos took the 1st of what will surely be many tournament titles with her run through the 116LB class. 109LB Cassandra Lopez and Norris, down at 143, earned bronze, and 136LB Adehlyda Perez finished 4th as half the team medaled. It was a winning week overall for the Blue Hose as the mens team picked up their first ever victory in a 44-0 defeat of Truett McConnell. While only 8 matches were contested (along with 4 exhibition bouts), you take your shutout wins anywhere, any way, any time, right? There might not be any more team w’s expected but don’t tell the Blue Hose that. Taking a page from the “Bedlam” series where wrestling bluebloods Oklahoma State and Oklahoma have 2 matches each season in a home and home format, Presbyterian state AND conference rival the Citadel comes to Clinton on the 25th. For a rematch after the Bulldogs bounced the Blue Hose 37-8 in Charleston, late December. Grudge match? For the Citadel, not yet. For Presbyterian? DARN TOOTIN. Individually, 125LB Jacob Brasseur, 133LB Parker Corwin, 184/197LB Austin Stith, and 285LB Imani Heslop may all break into the double digit win column by the time the Blue Hose hit their first ever postseason. About that February home meet with the Citadel? It should feature Round 3 of the matchup between Heslop, a RS senior transfer for Presbyterian, and rugged Citadel Heavyweight Mike McAleavey. McAleavey won by pin the first time out at the WolfPack Open in December. Heslop closed the gap to a 4-2 score, again a McAleavey win, in the Citadels home victory over the Blue Hose. What if the teams 2nd meeting comes down to a winner take all big man showdown? Looks and sounds like a cash money match to the Scribe. No, NCAA, not literally. Talk to Odell Beckham about that.
GARDNER-WEBB: THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE
The Runnin Bulldogs out of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, were a pre season Top 5 pick in the SoCon Team rankings. Great if you’re in the Big 10, Big 12, the newly expanded Mid America Conference, or the huge, hoary E.I.W.A. In an 8 team group, maybe not as notable. The ‘Dogs have a good-sized roster, 26 from 10 different states. They have a veteran coach in Daniel Elliott, an alum who’s 8 yrs in the top spot, on staff since 2006. They returned 8 starters with just 3 seniors set to finish this season. And so far they have, rather unfortunately, lived up to the expectations of the pre-season. They are 1-5 in duals with 5 of their 6 tournament podium finishes coming courtesy of two wrestlers, 165LB RJ Mosley and 197LB Roderick Davis. Their one dual win was notable perhaps more for the statistical oddity of a winless team (0-3 Gardner Webb) giving then-unbeaten Franklin and Marshall their first loss. To be fair, injuries and illness have brutalized the Bulldogs. NO excuses from Coach Elliott and staff, but still. And, when your first two conference meets are against perennial SoCon big dogs App State and UTC, well….So, whos shining at the Springs? Besides Davis, a senior transfer from NC State, and the redshirt freshman Mosley, 157LB Taylor Parks has had some good wins, and recent transfer 133LB Trevon Majette will provide spark going forward. He already has a first period pin of defending conference champ Codi Russell of App State on his Bulldogs resume. The lack of available stats on G-Ws website was bemoaned in an earlier column. Que lastima, but this issue remains. Also remaining is the consistent inconsistency from many of those aforementioned returning starters as well as the Runnin’ Bulldogs up and comers. Kyle Homet, Brandon Bright, Christian Salter, Gabe Pickett, the Schiess brothers, Anthony and Conrad, and Jeffrey Linker, among others. For they and others on G-Ws roster theres a large question. How much will this seasons travails affect them in the dual meets and the post season? SO many young faces, with success limited by multiple factors. Theres 3-5 winnable duals left on the schedule before the SoCon Tournament. Snag multiple dual meet wins and get several grapplers to place top 3 come tournament time and you can close the book on a modestly successful 2019-2020 season, Coaches Elliott, Scott Mattingly, and Nick Corba. You had fairly good results on your West Coast swing earlier this campaign. Wouldn’t plan on a trip to Minneapolis, though.
‘CUE THE LOCAL ANGLE…..
WolfPacks gather where theres meat, so it’s actually somewhat suprising there hasn’t been much of an NC State presence at that smoked meat stop-by in N. Central San Antonio. Till now, that is. The Keefe clan, a half dozen strong and led by Alpha Male Mike, rolled up and chowed down on some tasty ‘cue just a week or so back. Daughter Emily, NC St class of ’22, was all smiles and WolfPack Red as the Keefes enjoyed a sit down dinner and a wrestling update. We’re pretty sure they got a kick out of this columns nicknaming of Coach Popolizios squad the #AmericanWerewolves. Bet you, too, that Dad Mike was a lot happier about his dinner tab than his latest out of state tuition bill. In both cases, though, money well spent. So when the carnivore in you comes out, come out to that big friendly BBQ stop on Blanco Road in San Antonio. And if its a full moon, do please remember that for dinner look at your plate and not your seatmate. Just sayin!
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DECADE MAKES
There was a young wrestler, named “Mary”, Who found her Male foes, quite contrary, She tried hard, 10 years back, to go out on the mat, but gave up, turned to track, sad and scary.
“Mary” was ready for wrestling, but the sport wasn’t quite ready for her. Not a decade ago, not in central New Jersey, at least, despite her amazing attitude, skills set, and “run through a brick wall” willingness and coachability. So, after several years of forfeits and frustration, “Mary” took her talents to Winter Track, where, unsurprisingly, she excelled. Fast forward to the present and “Mary”, now a college student looking for community service hours for her resume, stopped back by to help score a tournament. She visited with her former coach, the Scribes relative, and they caught up. She marveled at something he was now used to: the large number of young women participating in, and excelling at, the sport that gave “Mary” such a cold shoulder such a short, long time ago. Maybe, just maybe, a bit sad at an opportunity missed, but happy for all those who have found it since.
See you next week!