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BU wrestling brimming with confidence heading into 2010-11 season

Reigning CAA champion Bearcats return five NCAA qualifiers, add elite recruits

November 9, 2010

BU wrestling brimming with confidence heading into 2010-11 season

VESTAL, N.Y.—After eclipsing all expectations in a record-breaking 2009-10 season, Binghamton University wrestling has set its sights even higher as the 2010-11 edition prepares to take the mat. With an elite recruiting class joining a strong contingent of returning wrestlers, fifth-year head coach Pat Popolizio believes this year’s team can climb even higher on the national ladder.

“This year’s team has five returning national qualifiers, which means we have guys with experience, which will be our main strength,” Popolizio said. “We also have a great young talent pool so the practice room has been dynamic. We may have to rely on some of this young talent to perform at a high level this year, however, and that may be a concern. How the newcomers progress after being battle-tested like our veterans will determine how successful a season we have.”

Last year’s squad won a conference championship for the first time in the program’s 40-year history and then placed 21st at the NCAA Championship, thanks to a program-best six national qualifiers. Along the way, BU won 14 duals, produced its highest win percentage in 26 years and continued its parallel success in the classroom with NWCA All-Academic Team honors.

“We made some great progress toward our long term goals last season,” Popolizio said. “Our goal is to constantly keep improving toward perfection. We want to be a national powerhouse year after year.”

Popolizio will have to replace the one wrestler whose success and work ethic came to define the team’s Division I growth - four-time NCAA qualifier Josh Patterson. The school’s all-time wins leader and its first Division I All-American, Patterson spearheaded the program’s rapid ascent, and after winning another CAA title at 174 pounds last season, his graduation leaves a big void in the lineup.

“We lose valuable experience and obvious success with Josh graduating,” Popolizio said. “His accomplishments paved the way for the next generation and our future wrestlers can use that as motivation to win at the highest level. We do have some very good young athletes who have the talent to replace Josh and keep the program moving along.”

In all, BU returns seven of 10 starters and 18 letterwinners from the 2009-10 team. Ten freshmen will look to make their mark on a program that is gaining momentum by the minute.

125 Pounds
This weight has traditionally been tough for BU to fill consistently, and with an injury to returning starter James Inghram, the slot now falls to talented newcomer Ryan Gerondel, an outstanding scholastic athlete from Sachem North High School. Gerondel placed fourth at the state championship last winter and built a 112-14 career record. The coaching staff has been impressed with Gerondel’s strength and high work rate and with added experience, he is expected to turn into a solid entry at the weight.

133 Pounds
Much like 125, this weight hasn’t generated steady production in recent years and several wrestlers are battling to secure the starting spot. Heading the list is freshman Nick Meinsen, a state champion from John Glenn High School. Meinsen was a two-time all-state and three-time Suffolk County champion who went 143-11 in his scholastic career. He flew under the radar during the recruiting process but has natural talent that has the coaching staff thinking big things for his collegiate career.

Also pushing to control the weight are sophomore Dan Riggi, junior Anthony Jerome and senior Tyler Malmberg.

“Nick is an unproven great talent,” Popolizio said. “I am very impressed with his natural wrestling ability and think he can be a major contributor this year.”

141 Pounds
Reigning CAA champion and NCAA qualifier Anwar Goeres returns to hold down the weight. Goeres is a dangerous opponent who is always a threat to end a match regardless of the score. He won a team-high 36 matches last season, including a 17-4 dual record. He captured his first CAA title and won a match at nationals before being eliminated. Goeres has made great strides with improving his match composure when behind so look for another NCAA-caliber season from him in his collegiate finale.

“If Anwar keeps working on his mental attitude during matches, he has the ability to do great things this year,” Popolizio said.

Freshman Brian Guilfoyle and junior Erik Kleeman will serve as back-ups.

149 Pounds
Sophomore Donnie Vinson advanced to the NCAA Championship last March and will lock down this weight again in 2010-11. In his redshirt freshman season, Vinson went 33-13 overall, was CAA runnerup and eliminated the No. 12 seed at NCAAs. A seasoned wrestler with a long list of national and international accomplishments, Vinson has the potential to reach the NCAA podium this year.

“Donnie is the most well-rounded wrestler on our team,” Popolizio said. “If he can continue to bring his ability to each match like he does in the wrestling room, he will be very hard to beat by anyone in the country.”

Junior Jon Kaloust and freshman Nick Fitzmaurice will also compete at the weight.

157 Pounds
Junior Justin Lister made a name for himself with an explosive end to his 2009-10 campaign and the reigning NCAA All-American looks to build on that momentum this winter. A confident Lister rolled through the CAA tournament before winning four matches to place fourth at the NCAA Championship. Lister pinned the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds to produce the highest national finish for an unseeded wrestler in seven years. He went 32-10 in 2009-10 and also won titles at the Cornell Body Bar Invitational and the New York State Championship. A physically gifted athlete with strength, speed and a long wing span, Lister has the tools to become a national champion.

“Justin is a superb athlete who is very hard to beat,” Popolizio said. “If he can combine his talent with his new experiences and recent success, he will put together an outstanding junior season.”

165 Pounds
Junior NCAA qualifier Matt Kaylor returns to head the weight class. Through grit and a high work ethic, Kaylor emerged as a national-caliber wrestler last year and his ceiling will continue to rise in 2010-11. He won 35 matches to earn a wild card NCAA berth, where he won his opening bout. Kaylor placed fourth in a tough weight class at the CAA Championship.

“Matt is so consistent and hard-nosed,” Popolizio said. “Because of his work ethic and continual improvement, both he and I expect big things this season.”

A trio of freshmen - Joe Chamish, Robert Panebianco and Caleb Wallace will ease into their collegiate careers at the weight.

174 Pounds
With Patterson’s graduation, the weight class is vacant and senior Ryan McGarity, who has won 51 career matches, and much-heralded freshman Tyler Beckwith, will vie for starting honors.

McGarity won 21 matches in a back-up role last season and has been a steady contributor to the program.

Beckwith has the talent to duplicate if not surpass Patterson’s legacy at Binghamton. The only four-time NHSCA national champion in history, Beckwith is the top 174-pound recruit in the country (Intermat) and steamrolled to a 210-10 scholastic record and two state championships at nearby Greene High School. A vastly talented wrestler who is adept in virtually all positions on the mat, Beckwith knows how to win. If he can quickly adjust to the collegiate level, he will be an All-America threat from the get-go.

“Tyler is a very talented young wrestler,” Popolizio said. “He has proven he can win national tournaments in high school and if he can keep improving, it won’t be long before he wins national tournaments in college.”

184 Pounds
Sophomore Nate Schiedel tutored under Patterson and promptly won a CAA title to reach the NCAA Championship in his first season. He remains a long, strong and talented wrestler with unlimited potential. Schiedel rolled to a team-best 19-3 dual record last year and also added a New York State title to his resume. He stays in positions where he is good and dominates opponents when he can. After extra summer work on fitness and controlling nerves, Schiedel’s improvement has the coaching staff very excited about his 2010-11 season.

“Nate is a great example of what we want a Binghamton wrestler to be,” Popolizio said. “He has made such big strides this off-season. We expect a huge year from him - he will be one of the driving forces to help get our program into the national top-10.”

197 Pounds
This weight is up for grabs with senior Matt Berretta and sophomores John Paris and Cody Reed vying for starting honors. Berretta has the most experience, having wrestled in nine duals as a junior.

Talented freshman Lance Moore gives this weight class a big boost. He won a state title as a senior at local Johnson City High, where he posted a perfect 32-0 season last winter. Moore also placed third at the Pennsylvania state meet as a junior and was 143-11 in high school. A big and strong heavyweight, Moore has all the tools to be successful and his progress and work rate in the practice room will determine his timeline.

Senior Dan Bittner, who went 14-9 last season, is also in the mix as a solid veteran at the weight.

The Bearcats have challenged themselves with a strong schedule that features four ranked teams, traditional CAA rivals and top-flight invitationals. In addition, BU will showcase its two home venues (West Gym and Events Center) by hosting three big events: the season-opening BU Open on November 14 at the Events Center, the Journeymen Sprawl & Brawl one week later from the West Gym and the 42nd Annual New York State Intercollegiate Wrestling Championship on January 22-23 at the West Gym.

“We design our schedule to get our guys ready for the end of the year,” Popolizio said. “We have some very competitive dates scheduled and will try to grow from week to week as individuals and as a program. Our ultimate goal is to wrestle our best come March.”

After the BU Open and Cornell Body Bar Invitational (Nov. 20), the Bearcats will face No. 19 Michigan State and Eastern Michigan in the Sprawl & Brawl on November 21. Then at the Journeymen Northeast Duals in Albany, the Bearcats will face first-time opponent Stanford and a strong Northern Iowa team that finished 40th at the NCAA Championship.

A light December includes stiff competition at the Penn State Nittany Lion Open on December 5.

The slate heats up in January with duals against longtime SUNY rival Buffalo (Jan. 2) and the CAA Duals, hosted by George Mason on January 15. Binghamton will then welcome 17 teams to the West Gym for the New York State Championship on January 22-23.

The Bearcats will face ranked foes in three straight matches beginning with showcase matches against preseason No. 2 Cornell (Jan. 28 at Cornell) and No. 3 Iowa State (Jan. 30 at home) two nights later.

“It’s a great honor to wrestle high-ranking programs like Cornell and Iowa State,” Popolizio said. “To have a perennial powerhouse like Iowa State come to our home gym is a great sign of how our program is viewed by our sport.”

Six duals in February, including a matchup with No. 14 American, wind up the slate before the March postseason. The Bearcats will head to Rider University and the CAA Championship (March 4-5) as the defending champions. From there, BU will look to take advantage of the East Coast site for the NCAA Championship and send multiple wrestlers to Philadelphia for nationals on March 17-19.

The Bearcats have another solid starting lineup with five returning NCAA qualifiers. The team doesn’t have the luxury of great depth at every position and inexperience may be a factor at several weights, most notably at 125 and 133. But if BU can avoid injuries and if the veterans can produce at a level equal to or greater than last season, a repeat CAA title and top-20 NCAA finish are within reach. With the program’s emergence as a national contender no longer just a whisper, the Bearcats won’t catch anyone by surprise this season. But that hasn’t stopped Popolizio from raising the bar even higher.

“We plan to continue to improve and reach the top-10 at the NCAA Championship in March,” he said. “We are working toward repeating as CAA champions again as well. We want to keep producing All-Americans and start producing national champions.”

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