We have been busy since the end of the season. The guys are one day away from completing a 6 week training cycle where we emphasized strength growth in power/explosion. We also emphasized skill development in the wrestling room. The guys will now be on their own until they finish final exams. I am hopeful they finish well in the classroom. As we know, their education will serve them well for their entire lifetime. As a NCAA Division 1 college wrestling program, it is important we keep our guys eligible and retain them in school until they graduate. We talk about it often to the team. It is about setting them up for a successful future; it is about making our team valuable to the University; it is about strengthening our program. Being successful (or unsuccessful) academically impacts the individual, team, and program.
We honored every team member at our end of the year banquet. There is nothing easy about being a college wrestler. Whether a guy is the star of the team or the last guy on the depth chart, it is easy for me to respect them for taking on the challenge and sticking it out. My first year at George Mason we held our banquet in a trailer. In year two, we went to a restaurant where they were unprepared for our banquet. In year three, Tom Carr set up a banquet that looked like a first class affair. We have come a long way in 3 years. Individually the honors went as follows: Upper class academic award – Derek Dwyer; Freshman academic award – Bryce Gentry; Paul Maltagliati award winner – Jake Kettler; Outstanding Red Shirt award Blake Roulo; Outstanding Freshman award – Zach Martinez; and Outstanding wrestler award – Sahid Kargbo. The guests were also entertained by the speeches of four graduating seniors – Matt Huffstickler, Seth Robertson, Chris Rodriguez, and Shohei Takagi.
On April 16, we had 12 wrestlers travel to Las Vegas to compete at the FILA JR and US Open as part of our Patriot Elite Wrestling Club. Our wrestling club, an outside entity that guys can choose to participate in, is a benefit for our guys in training and off-season competition. Thanks to some generous donors and effective fundraisers, we are able to assist in getting George Mason wrestlers to national Freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions. The following guys placed in the FILA JR Greco-Roman portion of the tournament: Freshman Zach Martinez, 4th (185lbs.); Sophomore Sahid Kargbo, 5th (145.5lbs.); Freshman Ibrahim Bunduka, 7th (121.25lbs.); Sophomore Matt Meadows, 7th (211.5lbs.); and Sophomore Patrick Davis, 8th (163lbs.). These five wrestlers have qualified for the final Jr World Team Trials on May 30 in Madison, WI. Junior Jake Kettler placed 7th in the US Open Greco-Roman Tournament at 286lbs. Jake has qualified for the final Senior World Team trials on June 13 in Daytona Beach, FL.
Our next competition for the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club will be the University National Freestyle and Greco-Roman Championships in Akron, OH May 22-25. I am hopeful every one of our George Mason wrestlers chooses to take advantage of the opportunity to train for the competition and to compete. Those who went last year had a positive experience. I know Tommy Owen is hopeful we have guys do well at the University Nationals. The winners of the tournament will be qualified to represent the USA at the University World Championships in Hungary in July. Tommy Owen will serve as one of the coaches for team USA.
To build a successful wrestling program, it takes the support and effort of many individuals. We have been fortunate to have so many people step up to support George Mason Wrestling this season. It literally took over a hundred volunteers for us to run a successful NWCA All-Star Meet weekend which included a College and Youth All-Star Meet, kid’s clinic, VIP social, and Alumni social. We also had several other events this year which required volunteer help. With each and every one, we had people step up to help the program grow. We have been blessed to have people donate financially to George Mason Wrestling and the Patriot Elite Wrestling Club. Together we can do great things. I am thankful and feel honored to be associated with so many great people.