Rider

Last weekend, was positive for the George Mason Wrestling program. We invited alums back to campus. It was great to see them reconnecting with each other, building new memories, and supporting the current team. Alums are unbelievably important to our program. They helped shaped the past and will help shape our future. Thanks to those who came to support our alumni weekend, including former head coaches Jerry Mullins, Mike Moyer and Brian Shaffer.

We lost our dual to Rider, but did split matches 5-5. We gave up a discouraging 9 bonus points in the 5 matches we lost. We were not competitive in some of the matches. I was frustrated by the number of stall calls against us. Part of the problem was the gap in skill level, but part of the problem was a lack of fight. We need to address the short comings that are within our control.

There were certainly positives as well. Things we can learn from and build upon. I was pleased to see Ibrahim Bunduka find a way to win a match where he was struggling physically and mentally. I loved seeing Lio Quezada overcome a 6-2 deficit heading into the last period of his bout to come away with the win. 3rd period comebacks are fun to watch – they show grit; they show a person who has prepared properly; they inspire others…Tejon Anthony and Sahid Kargbo picked up their 16th and 22nd victories of the season. Both are helping lead their team. In the last bout of the day, Matt Voss won and exciting match over a wrestler who beat him twice last season. It was a statement win for him in his bid to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

We have a rare weekend off from competing. Many times I have scheduled competitions on Super Bowl Sunday. Many times I have been told I ruined the day. When I coached at Minnesota, the Big Ten often mandated we compete on Super Bowl Sunday. It really was not my fault, but because I was in charge of travel more than once I felt the anger from the team. I remember being jeered by the team when we were in the air and the pilot gave Super Bowl updates. I remember guys waiting to the last moment to board a flight as they watched the game near the departure gate. This year, while putting the scheduling jigsaw puzzle together, I actually blocked off Sunday as a date we could not compete.

I think the team appreciates my forethought, but I also know they now see we have more training days than normal. As a coach it feels good to get in training days without trying to balance guys cutting weight and allowing recovery before competing. In the end, I think some of the guys might wish they had a competition instead. Funny thing is some of the team will compete this weekend in Open competitions.

Our next home meet will be on Wednesday, February 8. We will compete against the United States Naval Academy at the RAC. The first whistle will be at 7pm.

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Deans List, Clarion and Edinboro Duals

I am pleased to announce 5 members of the wrestling team made the Dean’s list fall semester (GPA above 3.5). Congratulations to True Freshmen Trevor Mello, Lio Quezada and Philip Stolfi; Redshirt Sophomore Matt Voss; and 5th year senior Ryan Renkey. Their efforts in the classroom will serve them well down the road and are a blessing to our wrestling program. Although it has yet to be announced, I also believe Ryan Renkey will be named a Provost Scholar. This award requires a student-athlete to maintain a GPA above a 3.75 for a minimum of 3 semesters. It is also worth noting Trevor Mello and Lio Quezada were starters for the wrestling team as true freshmen during their first semester in college. Thus, they were cutting weight, traveling and competing shortly after their arrival on campus. It is great to see they possess the skills to balance the demands of being D1 student-athletes. Thank you and congratulations to our Deans List grapplers.

We had 2 conference duals this past weekend. On Friday we traveled to Clarion where we lost 7 matches to 3. I felt our effort was good, but we lost critical situations during the bouts. Clarion won more of the close matches as a result. Sahid Kargbo won by a major decision. Matt Raines and Matt Voss won their matches by decision. I was also pleased to see Tejon Anthony wrestle a close match against his #16th ranked Clarion opponent.

On Sunday, we returned home and faced Edinboro University. They beat us 8 matches to 2. Matt Meadows won 14-0. It was great to see him get his offense going. Tejon Anthony also won. In Tejon’s match he rode his opponent the entire 3rd period to force overtime. It was a dangerous strategy, but it worked. As a result of the effort he put forth, I believe it gave him an advantage in overtime. Ryan Forrest led his opponent for all but the last few seconds of his bout. It was a disappointing finish as he was in a good position to win. Matt Raines did a good job in his bout but lost a critical situation at the end of the second period to lose. In the remaining bouts we lost by major decision or technical fall. It was disappointing to see the gap so wide in bouts where we wrestled ranked wrestlers. We need to close the gap and close it quickly. I was also surprised how many times we gave up near fall points while in the down position this weekend. Giving up back points makes it difficult to stay in matches, let alone win. We must do a better job of staying off our backs.

We host our final EWL dual on Sunday, January 29 2pm at the RAC. This is also an important weekend for us as we are trying to get our alums back on campus. We will have a reception for alums on Saturday, 7pm at Brion’s Grille, we will also have a pre-match get together at 1pm at the RAC and honor the 1995, 1996, and 1997 CAA championship teams at half-time on Sunday. Please help spread the word to alums.

Cleveland State

We had a home dual against Cleveland State University on Sunday, January 15. We won the dual 8 matches to 2. The guys did a good job winning the tough situations. In close matches it takes extreme effort to win the tough situations. Our guys did well. Thanks mostly to our freshmen; we had a good crowd considering school was not in session. Just so people know, it is a big deal for our guys to see people in the stands. Before the dual, they were excited by the crowd. Lio and Matt Raines were proud their friends and family had come to watch in mass. It was certainly noticed by the guys competing. Thanks to those who came to the dual. Thanks for giving our team extra energy to compete.

Ibrahim Bunduka continued his unbeaten streak by scoring points. His energy level and attack rate help get our team going in the right direction. He does a great job preparing and competing. He continues to get better.

Lio Quezada stepped up again for himself, his team and his community. He gave great effort in his bout. He did a good job defensively in the first period. I was pleased to see him stay a bit more basic. He did a great job in the second period by riding his opponent. It requires effort to hold your opponent down. Lio used the extra effort and as a result, it put him in a great place to win the bout. He won a tough situation in the 3rd and was able to get a reversal and gain riding time to win.

Tejon Anthony wrestled a tough opponent. He had a good game plan and stuck to it. Toward the end of the bout he was thrown off the mat and onto the gym floor. It looked and sounded bad. Nevertheless,Tejon hustled back to the center and proceeded to be unfazed by the incident. It was fun to see.

Senior captain Sahid Kargbo wrestled another senior who had recently placed at the Southern Scuffle. I was pleased to see Sahid win positions and score points. In the end, Sahid was able to win by a major decision for his team. I know the crowd appreciated his effort as their reactions were loud and visible.

Matt Raines did a good job of putting pressure on his opponent. He took risks. In the end, I believe it helped him to score the winning takedown. With so many from his community in the stands, it made the third period win even more special.

Ryan Forrest made his season debut. Ryan had originally planned on not using his red shirt year. Thus, he did not compete this fall. After many months of wearing him down, we finally got him to agree to wrestle spring semester. Ryan did not disappoint as he won his bout. Without Ryan in the lineup, we would have been forced to forfeit a weight class. It was good for Ryan and the team to have him back.

Daniel Mika weighed in a weight class lower than he competed. He, as he has often done, sacrificed for his team. Although he did not have the result or performance he wanted, I tip my hat to him for sacrificing for his team. He helped us win the dual and field a full line up. The team aspect of an individual sport is special to see.

Austin Harrison represented the University this weekend at a conference. He got back to campus in time to compete. He wrestled a tough opponent. Although he struggled during the first two periods of the match, I was pleased with his third period. Even though he had been ridden and turned twice, he chose the down position to start the third period. He was able to get away and take his opponent down. It was good for him to learn he could score points on his opponent.

Matt Meadows was able to win his bout by not allowing his opponent to score. Although I wanted him to score more points, I was pleased to see him shut out the opponent for 7 minutes. Wins help with confidence. My hope is he can gain confidence and use it to his favor.

Matt Voss scored lots of points and won his bout by a technical fall. Often time, heavyweight bouts are low scoring. I was pleased to see Matt scoring from several different positions.

We have a quicker turn around this week as we compete at Clarion on Friday night. Then, we return home to face Edinboro on Sunday at 2pm at the RAC. Both meets are conference matches. Clarion and Edinboro have better results thus far against common opponents. Thus, both duals will require us to wrestle at a high level to be competitive. Nevertheless, the team is coming together and getting better. I have confidence we will give our best effort and have a great attitude. If we do those things, we will do something special. There will also be multiple individual match ups against ranked foes.

Davidson, SIUE, VMI

This past weekend, we were able to experience 3 consecutive team dual meet wins. I was pleased the guys were able to come together as a group, wrestle for each other and see some of the fruits to the effort they put forth in their preparation and during their bouts.

On Friday we wrestled at Davidson College for the mythical Atlantic 10 Dual Meet Championship. We brought our traveling trophy with us and Rene, our great bus driver, made sure he warned us if we didn’t get to keep it, he wasn’t going to drive us back home. We won the dual 8 matches to 2. The 2 bouts we lost were disappointing because we lost both in overtime. We need to find ways to win the close overtime bouts. We train too hard not to win in overtime. The dual meet started at 184 and Austin Harrison did a great job leading the team. He scored at the end of the 1st period, where his opponent did not have the opportunity to earn an escape point. In the 2nd period he rode his opponent for the entire round. Before the meet we talked about being extra stingy on top. Austin was stingy. We also talked about winning the 3rd period which Austin did scoring an escape and another takedown. Matt Meadows, Matt Voss, Ibrahim Bunduka, Logan Harvich (his debut at 141) and Sahid Kargbo all scored bonus points for their team. It was a good team win.

After the dual at Davidson, Rene drove us to Lexington, Virginia. The next morning we started the day against a tough Southern Illinois Edwardsville team. I thought it was our best team performance thus far of the year. Our attitude and effort was great. We won the bout 6 matches to 4. Ibrahim Bunduka and Sahid Kargbo both beat returning Southern Conference Champions. Lio Quezada and Tejon Anthony had come from behind wins. Matt Raines scored a fall that had our entire bench jumping for joy. Austin Harrison sealed the victory for the team with a shutout victory. Unfortunately, Pat Davis was hurt in his bout and had to injury default.

In our final dual of the weekend, we faced VMI. The dual turned out to be a nail bitter as we split 5 matches a piece. We jumped out to a huge lead after the first four bouts (Ibrahim Bunduka won by forfeit; Lio Quezada won another come from behind bout with an impressive and ultimately a team winning pin; Tejon Anthony barely missed getting a major decision win; and Sahid Kargbo won by a technical fall). We lost the next 5 bouts and so the dual meet victory fell to the hands of Matt Voss. Fortunately, Matt Voss came thru with a pin for us to win the dual.

We made it safely back to campus and began preparations for our next competition. As an added bonus to the successful trip, a few of the guys were able to bring the trophy with them to show Eric, our teammate via Team Impact, as they visited Eric in the hospital. I hope holding the trophy was enjoyable for Eric.

I look forward to the team building on the successes and learning from the failures from the weekend. We will compete at home in the RAC on Sunday, January 15 at 2pm against Cleveland State University in an Eastern Wrestling League dual. I hope we get a home mat advantage as the team tries to extend their win streak to 4 in a row.