WVU Wrestling Outlook - 2005
by Tim Goodenow
WVU Sports Information Office
October 25, 2004
Wrestling devotees are predicting this year's West Virginia University team will be among the nation's best. The experts have released their preseason polls and pinned a No. 10 ranking on the Mountaineers. Last season the squad was assigned the same spot in the preseason polls and eventually finished 16th at the NCAA Championships.
Directing the team's fortunes will be head coach Craig Turnbull. The veteran coach returns for his 27th season at the helm of the Mountaineers in a career where his teams have collected 221 wins. He will be guiding a group that includes eight returning NCAA qualifiers. Turnbull knows that to justify the Top 10 ranking he needs improved performances and leadership from those experienced veterans and for capable newcomers to step forward.
"We'll need consistent performances from our returning starters," says Turnbull. "If we can progress well and stay healthy, I'd like to say we have a chance to compete for a plaque at the NCAA Championships. It is a goal of this team and its achievable with hard work, strong focus and improved wrestling."
The foundation on which the high expectations are built begins with Greg Jones. The two-time NCAA champion enters his senior season with the No. 1 ranking at 184 pounds. Turnbull believes Jones will again prove himself capable of handling the pressure of being a marked man.
"Looking at Greg's record, I think he handles himself very well," says Turnbull. "His second year was a valuable learning experience for him. He learned to not defend his title, but to go out and earn the next one. He has worked extremely hard to score points and become a better wrestler. And puts him in an elite class, is that fact that he is never satisfied."
Jones will be leading a talented group that includes nine other members who earned individual preseason rankings.
Senior Brandon Lauer makes a highly anticipated return to the mats this season. Lauer, who has two years of eligibility remaining, moves up to 141 pounds after his medical redshirt year. He turned in an All-America performance as a sophomore with an eighth-place finish in Kansas City.
"Brandon is a fourth-year guy who we expect a lot from," says Turnbull. "And I know he expects a lot from himself. He is an intelligent person who analyzes all his experiences. Also, taking something away from a person for a year, they learn to value it more. He's excited to get back out there and become the best wrestler he can be."
Three other Mountaineer seniors will be counted on to provide leadership and earn quality wins. A high energy Mike Torriero should make some noise at 149 pounds. Ryan Wilman brings a wealth of experience to the mat as he drops to 174 pounds. Brent Miller, a two-time NCAA qualifier, is primed for a big year in the heavyweight class.
Included in the group of returning NCAA qualifiers are juniors Seth Lisa and Matt Lebe. Lisa, who battled through injuries last season, is healthy and ready to regain his position amongst the nation's best at 133 pounds. Lebe, who is wrestling in perhaps the country's toughest weight class at 157 pounds, tallied a team-high 31 wins last season, reaching the round of 12 at NCAAs.
Sophomore Zac Fryling generated lot of excitement while wrestling as a true freshman last season. He earned All-Rookies honors from Amateur Wrestling News and returns at 165 pounds.
A year ago, the Mountaineers used a variety of starting combinations in working towards their EWL Championship. WVU hopes to again taste success with contributions from all weight classes.
"With our schedule and the nature of our sport, you can almost anticipate some bangs and bruises along the way," says the 2004 EWL Coach of the Year. "It's a difficult role for the guys on our team as many of them were 'the guy' at their high schools. Many of them have to compete and work towards being 'the guy' in college. Last year we had some injuries and many of our guys were disciplined and filled in when called upon. It takes a room full of individuals to stay focused and win championships."
Competing for the starting slot at 125 pounds will be junior Nathan Kendjorsky and freshmen Kyle Turnbull and Shawn Cordell. The three will battle for mat time all season long.
Lisa will again handle the 133 pound duties while junior Jamie Muir sits at the No. 2 position. Pushing them in practice will be four freshmen, Matt Grahek, Codie Gustines, Dimitar Kostadinov and Mike Taylor.
Lauer holds the 141 pound class as Teddy Adams and Nate Lingle provided a quality backup. A trio of freshmen in Vince Gioiella, David Newmann and Nick Rendinell will use the season to adjust to the collegiate wrestling level.
The 149 pound spot is held by senior Mike Torriero. Talented freshmen David Jauregui, Larry Hall and Eric Connolly will learn from the high-energy senior.
Lebe secures the 157 pound weight class. An experienced Eric Mullen backs Lebe up at this middle weight group.
After a strong 19-win season, Fryling secures the 165 pound slot. T.R. Chinn provides experience and Chris Stein will push the trio in the wrestling room.
Wilman will be counted on to fill a void at 174 pounds this fall. Heralded freshman Kurt Brenner, along with Matt Cameron, Derek George and Roger Kupter will all make an effort for mat time.
At 184 pounds, Greg Jones looks to become just the 39th wrestler in NCAA history to win three national titles. He also aims to become just the fourth EWL wrestler to win four league crowns. John Tranquillo will work with WVU's national champion in a backup role.
A football transfer from Illinois State, Jared Villers makes his debut for the Mountaineers at 197 pounds. Villers has worked hard to regain his wrestling form and will battle Jeff Courtney for the starting slot.
Securing the heavyweight position is senior Miller. The talented big man has won 55 matches in his career and plans on making a third trip to the NCAA tournament. Pushing Miller to that goal will be junior Sean McAllister.
West Virginia again features a grueling schedule and plays host only four times during the 2004-05 season. Highlighting their non-conference slate is a dual meet with Hofstra and road trips to Nebraska and Penn State - all of them nationally ranked teams.
"We have road trips at two great wrestling environments in Nebraska and Penn State," adds Turnbull. "We have a solid team in Hofstra coming to the Coliseum in late January. These dual meets serve as good early and mid-season challenges."
The Eastern Wrestling League portion of the schedule includes seven league contents, including two at home to close the regular season. Also sandwiched in the schedule is competition against the nation's best teams at the Navy Classic, Las Vegas Invitational, Midlands Classic and NWCA National Duals.
"This year's schedule is full of challenging and competitive dual meets and tournament action," comments Turnbull. "Being invited to back to the National Duals for a fourth consecutive year is of great significance for our program. The schedule allows our guys to see most everybody they'll face at the national tournament."
The makeup of the team changes each season and the challenges that arise vary from year to year. But the primary goals remain the same - win the EWL and make a run at the national tournament. With a roster full of talent and depth, the Mountaineers appear poised to enjoy a banner year.
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