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Season Preview: Wrestling boosted by strong freshman class
Bearcats host season-opening Kaloust Open Sunday in Events Center
November 7, 2013Tweet
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VESTAL, N.Y. - The Binghamton wrestling team has a decidedly different face in 2013-14 as it begins a reshaping phase under second-year head coach Matt Dernlan. Gone are four-time NCAA qualifiers Donnie Vinson and Nate Schiedel, two of the program’s all-time greats who went a combined 34-0 in duals last season and amassed 253 career victories between them. Dernlan also lost another NCAA qualifier, Derek Steeley, to graduation.
The roster is young and inexperienced with just two seniors, nearly 40 percent freshmen or redshirt freshmen, and another seven wrestlers who have just one year of collegiate experience. But call the overhaul a “soft reboot” as the Bearcats do return two-time NCAA qualifier Cody Reed (197 lbs.), talented 149-pounder Joe Bonaldi and six starters from the 2012-13 squad.
“You can’t replace guys like Donnie and Nate,” Dernlan said. “They were very talented wrestlers and incredible character guys. But they’ve passed the torch and hopefully our current guys have learned from their example of what it takes to be a leader and to set high goals and achieve them.”
Dernlan counting on recruiting class to contribute
Dernlan and his staff began to replenish the program last winter when they locked in a strong recruiting class that was ranked 14th by Amateur Wrestling News. While a handful of the freshmen will redshirt the 2013-14 season, their quick development will help the Bearcats get over some initial bumps in the transition.
“These are six of the 10 best kids in New York State and with this freshman class, we accomplished our recruiting objectives on a number of fronts,” Dernlan said. “First we brought in guys who will help us contend for an NCAA title and center our program around kids from New York State. Each of these wrestlers has unbelievable talent but more than anything, they have a huge upside at the next level. They all possess the fight to be successful and all six can make an impact for us right out of the gate.”
The roster isn’t lacking veteran leadership, however, as Reed and fellow fifth-year competitor John Paris (174 lbs.) holding down starting spots at the upper weights. Redshirt junior Caleb Wallace (184) and junior heavyweight Tyler Deuel also bring considerable experience to the mat.
Here is a weight-by-weight look at the 2013-14 Bearcats.
Junior David White has earned the starting spot after red-shirting last season. White wrestled two seasons at Army before transferring to Binghamton. He won 33 matches in two years and placed sixth at the 2011 EIWA Championship. He is ranked sixth in the first installment of the 2013 EIWA Rankings.
“David is coming off a great redshirt season when he won several open tournaments,” Dernlan said. “He is a tenacious wrestler and we will rely heavily on him this season as one of our leaders.”
Freshman Kyle Kelly, a two-time New York State high school champion, begins a promising collegiate career with a redshirt season in 2013-14. As he grows into the weight class, Kelly will be a strong contributor.
Freshman Nick Tighe jumps into a starting role after an outstanding preseason. Tighe, a two-time New York State high school champion, was the No. 15 recruit in the nation at his weight and Dernlan believes he can contribute right away.
“’Tiggy’ had a great scholastic career and we are throwing him in right away,” he said. “We have full confidence he has the ability to wrestle at a high level immediately.”
Redshirt sophomore Mike Sardo, who won 10 matches last season and was the starter in 11 duals, will serve as backup along with junior Vlad Mordach. Freshman Rob Person, a two-time state scholastic placewinner, will redshirt the season.
Highly-regarded freshman Nick Kelley won the starting spot in preseason but is injured and will likely redshirt the season, opening the weight back up for competition. Kelley was a five-time state placewinner for Shenendehowa High and captured the New York State crown as a senior. Redshirt freshman Dylan Caruana has gained the initial edge over sophomores Brian Conrad and Dylan Cohen in a wide-open weight.
Junior Joe Bonaldi moves up a weight class to take over the vacancy left by the All-American Vinson. Bonaldi, who was ranked early last season at 141, had much of his sophomore campaign curtailed by an injury. He returned just in time for the CAA Championship but wasn’t in match shape and didn’t advance to the NCAAs. Bonaldi won 16 matches as a freshman and Dernlan believes he has the talent to be among the nation’s best.
“Joe has all the tools to beat anyone in the country,” Dernlan said. “He’s at a much better weight class now – 149 is a more natural fit for him – and we have very high expectations. Joe is definitely a leader on our team and he has the ability to be standing on the podium at the NCAA Championship (All-American) in March.”
Redshirt sophomore Colton Perry has claimed the starting spot. Perry wrestled in seven matches last season and is a former four-time state placewinner at nearby Windsor High. Third-year team member Ben Price, a former two-time Vermont state champion, and redshirt freshman James Eustice offer backup.
Redshirt sophomore Vincent Grella returns to a starting role. Grella won three duals in 2012-13 and Dernlan hopes he can capitalize on the momentum he gained late last season.
Returning starter John Paris is back for his final collegiate season. A healthy Paris is looking to regain the form of his 2010-11 campaign, when he won 19 matches, was CAA runnerup and nearly snared an NCAA berth. Much-improved sophomore Jack McKeever, who bulked up and moved up a few weight classes, will redshirt this season, as will highly-touted freshman Zack Zupan, a New York state champion and top-90 overall recruit in the country.
Redshirt junior Caleb Wallace moves into a starting role as Reed moves up to 197. Wallace went 3-4 in duals in a back-up role last season but showed flashes of potential. He has 17 career wins and placed third at the 2012 CAA Championship.
Senior Cody Reed, a two-time NCAA qualifier and CAA champion at 184 last winter, moves up to take the spot vacated by Schiedel. Two years ago up at 197, Reed won 25 matches (including two at the NCAA Championship) and went 10-7 in duals. He is coming off a strong 2012-13 season that featured 18 wins and a return trip to the NCAAs that was made possible with a thrilling comeback overtime win in the CAA final. Reed owns 65 career wins and is ranked sixth in the preseason EIWA Rankings. Dernlan expects more of the same from Reed.
“Cody is all heart,” Dernlan said. “That’s what got him to NCAAs last season. He has high goals for his final year and he’d like to cap his career on the podium as an All-American. He’s up a weight and is every bit a 197-pounder, which is a more natural fit for him.”
Talented freshman Bryce Mazurowski begins his collegiate career with a redshirt season after claiming state runnerup honors in each of his last two scholastic seasons.
Junior Tyler Deuel returns to occupy the starting spot and is the only true heavyweight on the roster. Deuel went 18-16 with six pins as a sophomore and won eight dual matches.
“Tyler is a great kid who is engaged at the University in a lot of ways,” Dernlan said. “He’s put in an unbelievable amount of work to build the body he has and if he can show the same development that he had last year, he will have a very good season.”
Schedule features Kaloust Open, Journeymen Duals, 18 dual matches
The Bearcats will begin their 2013-14 season with a special tribute to former team member Jonathan Kaloust ‘10 and some four months later, the Bearcats will look to celebrate in a different way at the NCAA Championship in Oklahoma City. In-between, BU will wrestle a busy schedule that includes 18 dual matches and three in-season tournaments leading up to the program’s inaugural participation in the EIWA Championship.
“We’re excited about the new challenges that being in the EIWA brings,” head coach Matt Dernlan said. “Our schedule allows us to start creating new rivalries within the conference and along the East Coast. We’re also eager to engage our loyal Binghamton community with seven home dual matches this year.”
Binghamton will host the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open on Sunday, November 10 in the Events Center. The Open, which Binghamton has hosted for many years, will be renamed in honor of the former student-athlete and Navy SEAL who was killed in May while participating in a Navy training exercise.
“This will be a special event commemorating Jonathan and we are proud to have such a showcase event to honor him,” Dernlan said. The Open, which annually draws several hundred wrestlers from the top programs in the Northeast, will include a ceremony and presentation to honor Kaloust, who wrestled at Binghamton from 2007-10 and graduated with a degree in political science.
After the Open, Binghamton returns to the mat for a dual against sixth-ranked Cornell on November 23. Staying in Ithaca, BU will compete in the New York State Intercollegiate Championship on November 24. The Bearcats head to Albany the next weekend for three matches at the Journeymen Duals. The event, hosted by Hudson Valley CC, pits BU against North Carolina, NC State and George Mason. On December 7, BU welcomes Princeton (1 p.m.) and Rider (7 p.m.) to the West Gym for its home-opening duals. A trip to Northwestern for the prestigious Midlands Championship (Dec. 29-30) closes out the calendar year.
The dual-heavy second semester begins with a January 10 away match at Columbia - a match that will likely draw a heavy dose of BU downstate alumni. Two days later, the Bearcats will compete in the Boston University Duals, where they will square off against Harvard and Brown. The remainder of the schedule includes duals against six current EIWA members and a bout against longtime SUNY rival Buffalo (Feb. 14). Binghamton will host Bucknell (Feb. 21) and 17th-ranked Bloomsburg (Feb. 22) on successive days to conclude the regular season.
Binghamton will then head to Penn on March 8-9 for the 18-team EIWA Championship, where the Bearcats will look to qualify individuals for the NCAA Championship, held March 20-22 in Oklahoma City. Binghamton has generated 21 NCAA qualifiers in the last four years.
Young team may take time to gel
Without much experience in their starting lineup, the Bearcats may absorb some losses in dual matches, but Dernlan is eyeing the performances of several individuals to carry the banner for the program in 2013-14.
“We may lack some of the individual strength we’ve had in recent years, in terms of national contenders, but we do have a consistency in our lineup this year that maybe we didn’t have last year,” Dernlan said. “It should make for some interesting and close dual matches. Success will come from a collective effort this year and everyone has to step up – leadership by committee.”
As the wrestlers mature and the talented crop of freshmen gain a foothold in the practice room, Dernlan expects the program to continue an upward rise.
“I’m impressed with the ‘buy-in’ from our guys,” he said. “They train hard and are committed to being high-character student-athletes. Our freshman class has the ability to set new standards for the program. They all are embracing a new period of growth for Binghamton wrestling – and that’s exciting.”