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The 18th-ranked Wilkes University wrestling team will open their 2006-07 season on Saturday when they host 14th-ranked York College in a dual match beginning at 6:00 p.m. in the Marts Center. The Colonels, under the direction of fourth-year head coach Jon Laudenslager, are coming off a campaign in which they fashioned a 13-5 dual match record, finished third at the Middle Atlantic Conference championships, and earned a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Division III Championships.
“We are excited to get started,” commented Laudenslager. “Our captains have challenged their teammates each and every day, and the competition in the wrestling room has been outstanding. I think that we are going to see a lot of different guys on the mat for us throughout the season because of our depth.”
Wilkes will move in to a new conference this season after the Middle Atlantic Conference decided to drop wrestling as a sponsored sport. The Colonels will compete in the Metropolitan Conference in wrestling, a move which presents a new challenge according to Laudenslager.
“Wrestling in the Metropolitan Conference will certainly be a new and exciting challenge for us. We are looking forward to competing in the conference and one of our goal’s is to try and win the Metropolitan. Another goal that this team has set is to improve on last season’s 12th-place finish at the NCAA Tournament.”
The Colonels have two All-Americans returning in senior 197-pounder Brandon Kelly and sophomore 125-pounder Felipe Queiroz. Kelly is ranked first in Division III in his weight class after fashioning an overall record of 25-5 and garnering a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships a year ago. Queiroz is the number-two ranked wrestler in Division III in his weight class. He went 26-9 during his rookie season and claimed the Middle Atlantic Conference championship. Queiroz went on to finish sixth at the NCAA Championships.
Wilkes has plenty of other experienced wrestlers to rely on as well. Sophomore Josh Pauling (20-8) returns at 133 pounds after garnering a third-place finish at the MAC Championships. Junior Adam Penberthy (27-11), who was the MAC runner-up at 141 pounds, and sophomore Erik Smith (20-14), who was the MAC runner-up at 149 pounds, also return for the Colonels.
Sophomore Justin Barowski was the starter at 157 pounds a season ago and posted a 24-5 mark and a third-place finish at MAC’s. He will move up to 165 pounds this season. Senior Keith Altiery returns after fashioning a 14-16 record at 285 pounds as a junior.
Here is a breakdown of the Colonels by weight class:
125 Lbs.: Queiroz is the returning starter but is not alone at this weight class. Also looking for mat time will be sophomore Shaun Farnham, who went 9-13 last season and lost to Queiroz in the final of the King’s Tournament, along with freshmen Damian DeStefano and Danny Franke.
133 Lbs.: Pauling is likely to get the start in this weight class after moving up midway through his rookie campaign. The Colonels will rely on the remaining wrestlers at 125 pounds to add depth.
141 Lbs.: Penberthy will battle with four wrestlers for the starting nod this season. Joining him in the weight class are sophomore Peter George, who went 3-6 as a freshman, and newcomers Donald Clark, Justin Dellario and Robert Griffith.
149 Lbs.: Smith is expected to get the start at 149, although he will have plenty of competition to keep the spot. Junior Josh Sperling had a 0-4 record last season at 133 before moving up two classes this season. Freshmen Derek Brownmiller, Joseph Riccardella and Kyle Stump are expected to push for time.
157 Lbs.: Five wrestlers will compete for the starting nod at 157 pounds. Senior Mike Sciulara moved up a weight class after going 2-8 last year. Sophomore Andrew Franko had a 3-4 record last season, while fellow sophomore Joe Henshaw was 0-2. The Colonels also have two freshmen in Frank Heffernan and Rich Clocker who could end up on the mat.
165 Lbs.: Barowski should give Wilkes a solid starter in the 165-pound weight class. Also expected to vie for time on the mat are freshmen Richard Pellegrini and Andrew Rock.
174 Lbs.: Three veterans a pair of newcomers will look to gain the start at 174. Junior Kyle Lenio sat out last season after posting a 21-14 record during the 2004-05 season. Senior Daniel Giancola was 7-13 last season, while junior Tom Leggio had a 4-7 record. Freshmen Joshua Lamb and Devin Sassone-McHugh could also figure into the mix.
184 Lbs.: Sophomore Andy Drake has experience at 184 pounds after earning a 5-7 record last season. Junior Joe Scala and freshmen Josh Ballan, Colin Nagy and Chris Matra will all have an opportunity to compete for the starting position.
197 Lbs.: Kelly was the runner-up at the MAC Championships last season, dropping a tough 3-2 decision to the eventual national champion, Jamall Johnson from Delaware Valley, in the final. Sophomore Chris Olsen also saw action last season and went 4-8. Freshman Craig Logan will provide additional depth for the Colonels.
285 Lbs.: Four grapplers will vie for the starting position at 285, including Altiery. Senior Matt Carey missed all of last season after posting a 20-16 mark in 2004-05. The Colonels are also expecting contributions from junior Richard Read and talented freshman Andrew Feldman.