It is difficult to top a season that included a fifth place finish at the NCAA Division III Championship, a Metropolitan (METS) Conference title and a 19-1 dual meet record, but the wrestling team believes it can do just that in the 2007-2008 season.
Despite the subtraction of All-American graduates Joe Galante and Mike Guenther at 157 pounds and 165 pounds, respectively, the Lions boast depth at every weight class. With seven returning starters, veteran head coach David Icenhower believes his team has the talent and experience to expand upon last year’s triumphs.
“This is a much more balanced team. There is a lot of potential,” Icenhower said. “This is probably the best overall group we’ve had in about seven or eight years.”
Icenhower’s assessment is no small compliment, considering his team has finished within the top 20 at the NCAA Division III Championship every year during that span.
Returning for his 32nd year, Icenhower has assembled a talented coaching staff that includes recent alumnus Galante, as well as 2007 NWCA Assistant Coach of the Year Joe Pollard.
Senior 285-pound co-captain Steve Carbone believes the coaches’ guidance coupled with the team’s work ethic will translate into success.
“Since practice has started, everyone has been working hard to get in shape and to work on technical flaws with the coaches,” Carbone said. “We pride ourselves on being in better shape than our opponents and this year should be no different.”
Carbone will share captain’s duties with seniors 133-pounder Ray Sarinelli and 157-pounder Lenny Goduto.
Other key returning members include junior 174-pounder Greg Osgoodby and All-American sophomore 149-pounder Tyler Branham, both of whom claimed METS titles in 2007.
They will be joined by a group of freshmen with impressive high school careers, including 125-pounders Dan Hughes and Kyle Kinchen and 141-pounder John Barnett.
The team will be tested early as it opens the season at the Ithaca College Invitational on Saturday.
“This is a very competitive tournament with a number of nationally ranked contenders at every weight class,” Carbone said. “Even though this is early in the season, it gives us a good idea of where a lot of our guys are at, especially the new guys.”
The Lions earned first place at the tournament last season.
Another important date for the Lions is Dec. 28, when they are set to compete at the Sunshine Open in Lakeland, Fla. This tournament will offer elite competition, including 2007 Division III national champion Augsburg College.
“We are going to see how good we are at the Sunshine Open,” Icenhower said. “When everyone else is on break and at home, we’ll be seeing what kind of team we have.”