Young Mat Men Working Hard In Open Tournaments

By Tim Goodenow, WVU Sports Information Office

December 17, 2004 MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Each season West Virginia University wrestling head coach Craig Turnbull enters his nationally ranked wrestlers into the country’s toughest tournament and challenging dual meet action.

A typical wrestling team uses a 12-man rotation throughout the year. Often not listed on the varsity schedule however, are demanding open tournaments.

“An open tournament has to fit certain criteria,” explains Turnbull. “It has to be open to anyone and there are no team scores. It also does not count as a date of competition from an eligibility standpoint.”

West Virginia begins each season with the annual WVU Open allowing redshirt and key backup wrestlers the opportunity to compete. Several young Mountaineers appeared in the open tournament including Shawn Cordell, Dimitar Kootadirov, Coclie Gustines, Teddy Adams, Vince Gioiella, Larry Hall, David Jauregui, Eric Connolly, Kurt Brenner, Roger Kupfer, Adam Zahradnik, Derek George and Sean McAllister.

“You redshirt guys for a variety of reasons but typically it’s used as a year for them to grow and adjust to the collegiate level,” says Turnbull. “In order for them to maximize their experience, they can’t go without a year of competition. Open tournaments give the ability to not lose their eligibility but also get matches in and receive feedback from competition.”

Two grapplers made the trip to Slippery Rock, Pa., for the National City Slippery Rock Open in mid-November. Gioiella went 5-0 in taking home 1st-place honors at 149 pounds. Brenner also shined with a 3-1 mark, finishing second at 184 pounds.

“It is important they have success, but more importantly is that they are out there competing,” says the 26-year veteran Turnbull. “I hope they accrue as many matches as possible. All of these matches will help them in their journey to become better wrestlers next season.”

Strapping on singlets for WVU at the Kent State Open on December 4 were Gioiella, Brenner, Kupfer and Hall. Brenner again placed second with a 2-1 record, while Hall posted a 4-2 mark to take fourth-place honors at 149 pounds.

“And it’s not just redshirt wrestlers who compete in these open tournaments,” utters Turnbull. “This allows our wrestlers to come back into the wrestling room more excited, they have some real ideas of areas that need improvement and it keeps them sharp from live competition.”

Last year, West Virginia used a strategic attack and an impressive run from 165 through 197 pounds to defeat Ohio, 23-22, in Athens. Turnbull altered his lineup and inserted Nate Lingle and Teddy Adams as both played a critical role in WVU’s crafty win over the Bobcats.

“It keeps people that aren’t necessarily redshirts sharp, motivated and available should the lineup change,” states Turnbull. “Being in the practice room for a year without any open tournament matches makes them start to flat line out a little bit. These matches are critical in the development of their skills to help them reach their goals. It’s essential to have guys like Eric Mullen, T.R. Chinn, Teddy Adams and Jamie Muir. These are all guys who can step in when called upon.”

“Being in a good wrestling area, open tournaments are available within driving distance for guys who aren’t starting or are taking redshirt seasons,” says Turnbull. “There are maybe three or four more open tournaments we’ll send guys to this season.”

Turnbull, the winningest coach in program history, has tallied 221 dual meet wins in 26 seasons at WVU. He has been on the bench for all four of West Virginia’s individual national championship titles and 22 of its All-Americans. This formula for success stems from an intense season full of open tournament competition for first-year wrestlers.

For some West Virginia wrestlers, this weekend will serve as a chance to get healthy. For others, especially the younger Mountaineers, this weekend is another behind the scenes workout in pursuit of being WVU’s next All-American.

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