We finished the season in a disappointing fashion. We actually did a little better than predicted based on our regular season. Nevertheless, we fell short of getting anyone qualified for the NCAA tournament. I was hopeful we could get some guys to the national tournament and that they would perform well at the NCAA tournament. Overall, we were 10-18 at the conference tournament. We finished in last place as a team. The EWL is a tougher conference and we will have to improve to be more competitive. We can and must get better. A short synopsis of my thoughts on each wrestlers EWL tournament:
125 True Freshman Bill Prochniewski – Bill lost by tech fall to the #1 seed in the first round of the tournament. He had similar results when he wrestled the same guy at Midlands and in our dual against Rider. The 4th seeded wrestler was upset in the first round so Bill drew him in the wrestle-back. Bill wrestled well. He had a lead and put his opponent on his back in the second period. He ended up losing 7-4. Starting as a true freshman can be difficult. Bill probably lost more this year than he had his whole high school career. It is a big jump to D1 wrestling. My hope is Bill now has a better understanding of what it will take to be successful in college. He can now formulate and implement a plan to succeed. My fear is the lack of success will be hard for him to overcome. I have seen it break both ways for young starters. Some guys get used to losing and don’t make the transition. Others have used the tough freshman year to motivate them to heights they may never have reached. I hope Bill rises due to starting as a true freshman.
133 Red-Shirt Sophomore Vince Rodriguez – Vince lost a 3-2 decision in the first round to the 4th seed. He wrestled a better match against the guy than he had at our dual meet against Rider in January. Vince had trouble getting to his offense. In Vince’s second match he was upset by an unseeded wrestler. The turning point in the bout was not being able to get off bottom and giving up some near fall points. Once again Vince struggled getting his offense going. Vince had some good wins this year but also several unexpected losses. Personally, I just enjoyed seeing him compete again, but am also frustrated by his lack of success. Vince is a much better wrestler than he showed this season. My hope is he will continue to improve and get back to the wrestler he is capable of being. Missing last season and being sidelined some during this season hurt his progress. I am confident Vince will be a force in his junior and senior seasons.
141 True Sophomore Sahid Kargbo – Sahid was seeded 3rd and finished 3rd. In the quarter-final round Sahid wrestled tight. He did not attack like he should. He needed a come from behind throw to win the match 8-6. In the semi-final round, Sahid scored the first takedown, but gave up 2 escapes and a takedown. Going into the third period Sahid was behind 4-3. Sahid chose down and was unable to get away. He ended up losing 5-3 due to riding time being awarded to his opponent. In the consolation rounds, Sahid wrestled a much more aggressive and dominating style. He took more risk. Sahid was rewarded by getting a major decision over the Bloomsburg wrestler and a major over the same opponent he beat in the first round. Sahid had a good season. He was worthy and capable of doing well at the National tournament. We are all bummed he will not be able to compete next week. If Sahid continues to improve like he has been his first two years of college, he will be tough to beat.
149 Red-Shirt Senior Shohei Takagi – Shohei had a tough draw. Both guys he wrestled at the EWL tournament had handily beaten him during the season. Shohei wrestled both of them much better this time around but was still unable to beat either of them. As a senior, I was happy Shohei was able to represent the team at the conference tournament. My hope is we can keep Shohei competing for the club program as he has some promise as a Greco-Roman wrestler. We will see. I can now start recruiting him.
157 Red-Shirt Sophomore Greg Flournoy – Greg was seeded 4th and finished 3rd. Greg easily won his first bout, but lost to the number one seed in the semi-final round. I believe Greg was one or two breaks away from winning his semi-final bout, but the breaks did not go his direction. In the consolation rounds Greg wrestled a great pace and was able to win both matches. His final match was quite exciting and the crowd was on the edge of their seats. I did notice that at the end of the bout the Lock Haven and George Mason benches were all on our feet cheering the combatants. Greg is a very skilled wrestler who I now believe knows he is capable of doing something special as a George Mason wrestler.
165 Red-Shirt Freshman Ryan Forrest – Ryan had a tough first season as a college wrestler. He struggled with belief and health issues. He was also in a tough battle for the starting spot that lasted until the regular season had ended. I was pleased to see him wrestle with a desire to win at the EWL tournament. Ryan does take risks in his matches. Although I like the attitude, I would like to see him take some more calculated risks. He lost to the number two and four seeded wrestlers. He also beat the third seeded wrestler. I felt his effort was much better in the three matches he wrestled at the conference tournament. Ryan finished in fifth place. I hope the lessons learned this season spur Ryan on during the off season. He has the physical ability to gain lots of ground this spring and summer.
174 True Freshman Zach Martinez – Zach wrestled a strategically sound match against the number one seeded wrestler to start the tournament. I know Zach along with his team believed he could upset the number one seed. We had been talking to him about it even before we knew his draw. In the waning seconds of the bout Zach nearly scored the winning takedown. Nevertheless, he was unable to convert and his opponent did. I know the loss was devastating to him and the team. Zach did not do a good job of regrouping and wrestled poorly in his only wrestle-back bout. It is important Zach learns how to compete with greater resolve after a loss. He was capable of coming back for third, but he did not give himself the opportunity. The pain of a loss only grows when you do not rebound well. Zach needs to show more fortitude when fighting back from disappointment. I am excited about Zach’s future. Like Bill, my hope is Zach has a greater understanding of what he needs to do to be successful. He is no longer a freshman and should have gained more knowledge from being a starter as a true freshman.
184 Junior Ryan Hembury – Ryan was another one of our guys that drew a number one seed in the opening round. Unfortunately, Ryan sustained an injury early in the bout and he was unable to continue in the tournament. We are waiting to hear the extent of the injury, but it does appear that he will be sidelined for quite a while. I felt Ryan made some competitive progress this fall. He had a better understanding of college wrestling and was able to be more competitive. Toward the end of the season, he started to struggle again but I believe there were extenuating circumstances that held him back. My hope is Ryan can put it all together and have a great senior season.
197 Sophomore Matt Meadows – Matt was the number 4 seed and he finished 4th. He lost to the Number one and two seeds, while he beat two opponents. Matt impressed me with his ability to ride his opponents this weekend. He was able to ride all four of his opponents for quite a while. Being able to ride can change the course of a bout. Guys are more afraid to take a risk for the fear of getting away. I was pleased to see the improvement Matt made from his freshman season as a technical wrestler. He holds better position and is able to get his opponent out of position. Now my hope is he will continue to improve technically, become more physical and believe in his capabilities. He can be a dangerous wrestler.
HWT Red-Shirt Junior Jake Kettler – Jake was our fourth wrestler to draw a number one seed in the opening round. Jake wrestled well but was unable to score on the number one seed. After receiving a bye, Jake lost to the number 3 seed. Jake started the bout very well, but finished the bout poorly. I believe if he was able to stay competitive mentally for seven minutes he had a good shot at winning the match. Instead, he became discouraged and put his head down. He knew it. I knew it. I was pleased to see him come back and wrestle aggressively in his final bout to finish 5th. Jake had a discouraging season. He trains too hard to have the disappointing results during the season. Jake is diligent and will work hard to finish his senior year on a high note.
We traveled by bus to Cleveland. We arrived late Thursday night for the Saturday competition. I think the extra night to acclimate helped the guys prepare to compete.
Before we left for Cleveland, Sadie made treats for each wrestler along with a good luck poster to get them ready for our first EWL tournament. The starters were able to walk on to the bus with their new training shoes they received before the tournament. When we arrived at the hotel the Meadow’s family had huge treat bags ready for the guys along with a Cleveland Rocks signs and balloons. The host school, Cleveland State University, ran a first class event. The gifts the athletes received from Cleveland State University are something I know they will cherish. We had a significant fan section that the guys could hear while competing. I was happy some of the non-starters attended as well. I know the guys appreciated the extra perks and support for being in the EWL tournament.
We need to continue to evaluate and move forward. It is now time for candid self-review as individuals and as an entity. My initial thoughts are although not having a qualifier is a significant setback and it scares me, I firmly believe we are headed in a positive direction. We are making progress. We need to believe in the system; trust the program. My hope is we will get more of us headed in a positive direction which will help us become a stronger program on and off the mat.