CLEVELAND – A new era begins for the Case Western Reserve University wrestling program as first-year Head Coach Mark Hawald and his 11 grapplers look to build a foundation for success during the winter of 2012-13.
"There is no hiding the fact that we're young, inexperienced and small in numbers," said Hawald. "But, I know that this group is focused and ready to work as hard as any other. That dedication is going to be key for us in developing a winning culture and building a foundation for the future of the program."
Hawald, who coached at the University of Mount Union for the past five seasons, was the D3Wrestle.com National Coach of the Year in 2011 and a three-time Ohio Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. His program finished eighth in the nation in 2011 and produced two OAC Championships, seven NCAA All-Americans and 11 National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar All-Americans.
Of the 11 student-athletes on Hawald's roster, only three return with collegiate wrestling experience. Expected to lead the group of eight freshmen, two juniors and a senior is third-year 165-pounder Brian Snyder (Charlotte, N.C./East Mecklenburg).
Snyder has competed in four different weight classes during his first two years ranging from 141 to 174. Last season, he posted a combined nine victories with two pins and a technical fall.
"Brian (Snyder) has been a very valuable wrestler for this program because of his versatility," noted Hawald. "But, all of that moving around has prevented him from settling in and recognizing his true potential. He has been an outstanding leader early on, and we are expecting him to perform at a very high level this winter."
Also back is senior 157-pounder Evan McDowell (Bellaire, Texas/Episcopal) and junior 149-pounder Noah Feldstein (Redwood City, Calif./Palo Alto). McDowell has competed at three different weights in his career and has 15 victories overall. Feldstein missed last season but has experience at both 149 and 157.
With only three returnees, the entire freshman class will have the opportunity to gain valuable mat time this season, but Hawald isn't ready to predict any of the eight rookies will be key scorers in the lineup.
"It's a rule of mine to not talk about freshmen until they give us a reason to talk about them," said the head coach. "The wrestling room and the competitive mat are two very different environments, so until someone emerges as a performer, we won't really know what to expect. I will say that I'm very pleased with the work ethic and eagerness of our freshman class, and it will be exciting to see what they do in competition."
The Spartans open the season this Saturday, November 10 at the Washington & Jefferson Invitational at 9:30 a.m. in Washington, Pennsylvania. The team then returns home to host its first dual meet of the season versus local-rival John Carroll University at 7:00 p.m. at Horsburgh Gymnasium.
"We can't be too focused on wins and losses right now," said Hawald. "Our guys have to make sure that they continue to work and keep building through the process. When March rolls around, those factors will determine how much success we had as a program this season."
Other highlights on the schedule include the Citrus Invitational in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on December 29-30, the UAA Championship Meet in Chicago on February 16, the annual Si Ostrach Meet at home on February 23, and the NCAA Midwest Regional in Ada, Ohio on March 2.
"We are working toward long-term goals of being UAA Champions and building this program into a national power," said Hawald. "Where we finish this year won't be as important as how we perform on those stages."