Season 5, Column 24: Low Country, High Energy at the Citadel

In 1842, in a country riven by partisan politics and social unrest, with an unelected President in office due to the death by pneumonia of his predecessor, the State of South Carolina established the Citadel. The college would welcome wrestling about a century later and it would prove a near perfect union of brains and brawn with a strong military component. An incomplete online record book and a slight lack of available reference material makes unearthing a pre-1950s Bulldogs narrative a challenge, but suffice to say the Citadel has made its presence known during its time in the SoCon. They’ve copped the conference crown, have had multiple SoCon Champs, and boast 4 All Americans. Truthfully, the word “boast” and “Citadel Athlete” are about as diametrically opposed as two words can be while existing in the same language. Current Head Coach Ryan LeBlanc is in his second season as the big wrestling dog in Charleston, ably assisted by Luke Welch. LeBlanc was a 100 plus match winner and 2 time captain at Indiana, making three trips to the NCAAs. He flexed in the classroom as well taking down 4 All Conference Academic awards and earning the Big 10 Medal of Honor. Unsurprisingly, LeBlanc continued to excel after his undergrad years, gaining his Masters at Suny-Cortland while transitioning from wrestling to coaching. His most recent success came at Appalachian State as he and Josh Roosa helped BHHHC (1) John Mark Bentley plant the Mountaineers flag at the pinnacle of the SoCon. Welch toiled admirably for the Boilermakers earning multiple Academic awards and finishing with a stellar 30 plus win senior season and an NCAAs appearance. Welchs kudos also include a National title at 57kg and a season as assistant at the University of Mount Olive. LeBlanc entered a challenging situation, taking over for multi decade Citadel Head Coach Rob Hjerling. LeBlanc, not named Coach until July 30th of 2020, had to do a quick evaluation on his talent and hit the ground running. The Bulldogs went 4-6 in his initial season, with 3 SoCon Tournament finalists as hvwt. Mike McAleavey took home a title. Both big Mike and fellow Senior, 149lb finalist Selwyn Porter, return. Porter is up at 165 and already has a tournament title under his belt this season. Last years 165lb standout, senior Dazjon “Cheese” Casto, has settled in at 157. Also back, last seasons #1 SoCon Tournament seed at 133lb, Jake Rotunda. Those 4 seniors along with up and coming sophomore star 197lb Ben Stemmet are leading the charge this season. The roster is youth heavy, though, with 19 of 31 rostered “Knobs”, as first year Citadel student-athletes are known. 10 states spanning the Eastern seaboard are represented along with a Centennial State star, “Knob” 157lb Aiden Lenz from Castle Rock, Colorados Ponderosa High. This season has started strong for the Citadel, but they will have their paws full the 20th of the month at the Navy Classic. Besides Cary Kolats retooled and red hot Midshipmen a dozen other teams (including the Citadel) from 4 conferences will scrap at the 42nd annual event. In the past few years Army has avoided the Navy Classic and Navy has steered away from the Black Knight Classic, leaving schools like The Citadel and VMI few chances to match up with their military counterparts. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the Keydets and the Mids have the Navy Classic, and Air Force will join the Citadel and VMI at the Southern Scuffle. Before that, though, the Bulldogs will head to the very tough Cliff Keen Las Vegas Tournament. It’s a meat grinder run of tournaments, to be sure. The regular season showdown with VMI may well decide a plus or minus .500 record for Coach LeBlanc and crew, but the feeling here is the Bulldogs are locking and loading for some high quality post season marksmanship.

•2021-2022 The Citadel

•10/27 Intrasquad

•11/3 Queens College W, 30-3

•11/6 Citadel Open. W-L 28-32 (total matches), 5 semi-finalists, 1 champion

•11/13 Presbyterian W, 42-3

•11/20 Navy Classic

•12/3-4 Cliff Keen Las Vegas

•12/19 @ Duke/Bloomsburg & Duke

•1/1-2/2022 @ Southern Scuffle

•1/7 @ Appalachian State

•1/14 @ Davidson/Franklin a& Marshall

•1/23 @ Campbell

•1/30 Long Island University & Davidson

•2/4 @ UTC

•2/11 Gardner-Webb

•2/13 Bellarmine

•2/20 VMI

See you sometime soon!

Ted Carreras

(1) Bald Headed Hero Head Coach, a special group around the wrestling world.