Continued progress will be the key as the Case Western Reserve University wrestling team enters its second season under Head Coach Danny Song in 2016-17.
In Song's first season, he produced a University Athletic Association Champion and a UAA Rookie of the year. In 2015-16, the Spartans finished third at the UAA Championships and four members received UAA All-Academic Recognition based on their cumulative grade point averages.
"We have made a ton of progress in the last year and I am certain we will continue on that path as long as our work ethic matches our aspirations," said Song. "We have a great group of freshmen and veterans, coaches and support staff, amazing facilities and a competitive schedule; those are the ingredients necessary to achieve our goals and meet the standards of the program."
Song's 2016-17 roster will be the program's largest in recent history with a total of 20 wrestlers.
Headlining a group of 11 returnees is reigning UAA Rookie of the Year Brian McNamara in the 285-pound weight class. McNamara won both of his heavyweight matches at the 2016 UAA Championships in Chicago, Illinois to claim the UAA Championship in his weight class, becoming the 12th Spartan heavyweight to earn the honor, and the first since Dale English in 2013. McNamara would go on to be named the 2016 UAA Rookie of the Year, becoming the first CWRU wrestler since Josh Hall in 2013 and sixth Spartan overall to be selected as the conference Rookie of the Year. McNamara, also a member of the CWRU football team, is expected to join the team later in the season.
Also back following a successful rookie campaign is sophomore Gavin Dersh-Fisher. Competing primarily at 197, the team's "Most Improved" wrestler went 6-13 with a win at the NCAA Division III Mideast Region Championships.
Moy won four matches in the 125-pound weight class, and will serve as team captain this year. Lewis returns to the wrestling squad after not competing during the 2015-16 season, he has career record of 12-12 in the 285-pound weight class. Nick Tommas won two matches between 165 and 184, including a win at the NCAA Division III Mideast Region Championships. Gordon added seven wins and pair of pins at 157, while Nate Tommas picked up two wins in the 165-pound weight class. Vetturini won four times at 157.
"We return 11 wrestlers this year and they are responsible for the current state of our program," said Song. "Matt Moy, Nick Tommas, Nate Tommas and Gavin Dersh-Fisher have made gains this pre-season and have emerged as leaders we can build around. I believe our greatest recruiters are the individuals that make up our team and that could not be truer in this case. Our returners in addition to the academic reputation of CWRU are the reason for our outstanding freshman class."
In addition to the 11 returnees, Song welcomes nine newcomers to the program, including sophomore Chris Zhang, and freshmen Jack Chimenti, Isaac Collier, Jacob Frisch, Alec Hoover, Andrew Hoover, Ben Kring, Andrew Munn and Michael Petersen.
"As someone who is easily inspired I am as eager as ever to continue to connect with and motivate this group to achieve their goals and to meet program standards," said Song. "That said, this is a tough sport and the prerequisites to participate are passion and desire. As we know, wrestling does not allow you to fake those two traits. Simply stated, 'Once you have wrestled, everything in life is easy.' That is a theme we will embrace as we run through this season."
CWRU will hold their annual Throwback Scrimmage this Saturday, while also supporting freshman Isaac Collier as he competes in the showcase matches at the 51st annual National Wrestling Coaches' Association All-Star Classic at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center. Song and the Spartan wrestling team will also be volunteering at the Rudis Youth Wrestling Clinic which will be from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the day of the classic.
"Arguably this is collegiate wrestling's biggest stage outside of the NCAA Championships," said Song. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is a tremendous platform to compete and represent CWRU. Additionally, our program is locked in to support and volunteer for the event which takes place at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center."
The Spartans will open intercollegiate competition on Sunday, November 13th with the 2016 CWRU Tournament. From there, CWRU will head to Findlay, Ohio for the Findlay Open on Saturday, November 19th, before wrapping up the fall semester with an invitational meet at the Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday, December 3rd.
CWRU will resume its season at the Waynesburg Invite in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania on January 7th, before returning to Horsburgh Gymnasium for a dual-meet against Otterbein University on Wednesday, November 11th at 7:00 p.m. The Spartans will then go on the road for two meets, before returning to Cleveland for the final home meet of the year, the Si Ostrach Meet, where the team will face Muskingum, John Carroll, Waynesburg and Washington & Jefferson. CWRU closes out the month of January with the Pete Willson Invitational hosted by Wheaton College.
In February, the squad will compete at the Baldwin Wallace Invite in Berea, Ohio on February 4th. The Spartans will then travel to New York University for the University Athletic Association Championships, before competing at the NCAA Mideast Regional for the right to participate in the NCAA Championships. Any qualifying wrestlers will advance to the NCAA Championships at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin on March 10th-11th.