CLEVELAND – Daily improvement is the focus as the Case Western Reserve University wrestling team looks for additional success in its third season under Head Coach Mark Hawald.
"Our biggest goal is to improve every day, but we can't assume that will happen without putting in the work," said Hawald. "If we're able to achieve that goal, we know the results will come."
In two seasons, the former national coach of the year has produced back-to-back CWRU Bill Sudeck Rookie of the Year award winners and a pair of NWCA Scholar Team Awards. In 2013-14, the Spartans finished third in the nation in Division III in team grade point average and won more dual matches than the previous five seasons combined.
"This is a process, and our guys know that," stated Hawald. "Last year was important as we took a few more small steps forward. We need to take larger steps this season, namely qualifying someone for the national tournament. Once a member of this team has experience at the national level, the entire dynamic of the program will change moving forward."
Hawald's 2014-15 roster will be the program's largest in recent memory with a total of 19 wrestlers.
Headlining a group of six returnees is a two-time All-UAA performer in junior 125-pounder Josh Hall (Galloway, Ohio/Bishop Ready). With an overall mark of 36-19 in his two seasons, Hall was 18-8 as an NWCA Scholar All-American in 2013-14.
"Josh has shown the ability to compete with the best, but he needs to be better when it counts the most (at regionals)," said the head coach. "He could be back next year, but he will be graduating in the spring and beginning medical school. This is likely his last chance, and I know he plans to make the most of it."
Also back following a successful rookie campaign is sophomore 184-pounder David Brunk (Hood River, Ore./Hood River Valley). Competing primarily at 174, the team's "Outstanding Freshman" went 20-18 with a team-best seven pins.
"David, like Josh, had a nice year, but he didn't perform at his best at regionals," noted Hawald. "He will be moving up a class, and I'm excited for what he is capable of achieving. I want to let his wrestling do the talking."
Also back with significant experience from last season are sophomores Jeff Gould (Pittsford, N.Y./Pittsford Mendon), Nick Lees (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius), Connor Medlang (Export, Pa./Franklin Regional) and Matt Moy (Bayside, N.Y./Stuyvesant).
Gould won nine matches between 133 and 141. Lees was 11-15 while competing mostly at 165. Medlang picked up six wins in combined action at 133 and 141. Moy won nine times at 125.
In addition to the six returnees, Hawald welcomes 13 newcomers to the program with three sophomores that are currently wrapping up their seasons with the CWRU football team and 10 freshmen.
"We have a great group of newcomers that will have plenty of opportunities to compete," noted Hawald. "I'm confident that there will be one or more from this group that will have an outstanding campaign, but who that is remains to be seen. This is a tough sport and a long season."
The long season will also serve as opportunity for the program to continue to heal from the unthinkable tragedy it suffered at the beginning of the academic year.
"We experienced a tragedy that no team should ever have to deal with," said Hawald. "The value of a team has never been more evident. Our fallen teammates will no doubt be on our minds."
The Spartans open the season this Saturday, November 8 with the 2014 CWRU Wrestling Festival. Action begins at 10:00 a.m. with the Bob Del Rosa Duals and Claude Sharer Classic run simultaneously at the Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center.
The team is then right back in action with a home dual versus local-rival John Carroll University on Tuesday, November 11 at 7:00 p.m. at Horsburgh Gymnasium. Overall, the squad's first three competition dates are at home.
After two months of competition away from Cleveland, the Spartans host back-to-back meets in February with the UAA Championship on the 14th and the annual Si Ostrach Meet on the 21st.