BOONE, N.C. – Appalachian State University wrestling will begin its 2013-14 season on Sunday when it hosts both Anderson University and Cumberland College. The Mountaineers will face Cumberland at 2 p.m. and Anderson at 5 p.m. with the two visiting schools matching up in between matchups with the Apps.
After finishing the 2012-13 conference season at 5-2 in a tie for second place in the Southern Conference the Mountaineers saw postseason success that extended into the NCAA Championships with much to build off of for this year.
Returning from last year’s roster are 2013 NCAA Qualifiers Dominic Parisi at 125 pounds and Zack Strickland at 165 pounds. Both wrestlers combined for three wins in Des Moines, Iowa last spring at the NCAA Championships with Parisi earning two wins. Dylan Cottrell is someone to keep an eye on this season at 149 pounds. After a highly successful redshirt season last year, Cottrell figures to be a force for coach head coach JohnMark Bentley’s team and a threat to capture a conference title. All three are recognized nationally numerous media outlets as top flight wrestlers in their respective weight classes and threats to capture a conference crown.
“We could start nine freshmen or sophomores and one upper classman,” said Bentley. “It’s exciting to have a lot of young competitive wrestlers, but there are going to be some growing pains that come with that. I’m really excited about the talent level with this team.”
Bentley returns for his fourth season at the helm of the Mountaineers with an overall record of 38-32-1. Assistant coach Matt Fisk will return for his fourth season and Daren Burns will enter his second season on the coaching staff.
Appalachian added former UNCG head coach Jason Loukides as a volunteer assistant coach. Loukides brings a vast amount of experience to the table for the Mountaineers having led UNCG to a SoCon title in 2010 as head coach of the Spartans.
The Mountaineers are primed at several weight classes to not only contend at the conference level, but also the national level. Now, a look at each weight class for the Mountaineers this season:
The Mountaineers have just two wrestlers at 125 pounds, but the weight class chould prove to be a strong one. returns as an NCAA qualifier from last season and picked up two wins in Des Moines last year. Parisi finished with 30 wins on the season and took third at the SoCon championships. Vito Pasone also returns after wrestling strictly unattached and finishing 29-9. Whomever does not win the wrestle-off at 125 between Parisi and Pasone will secure the 133 pound starting slot and both could compete on a national level.
Probably the most undecided weight class of the current Mountineer roster comes at the 133-pound weight class. No clear-cut competitor has been identified, but it looks as if Parisi or Pasone will compete at this spot if needed.
Redshirt-freshman Jake Smith garnered a lot of good wins in 2012-13, including winning the Wolfpack Open and defeating several national qualifiers. Behind Smith are two seniors, Acton Pifer and Chris Johnson, who started last year at 141. Pifer and Johnson will be pushing Smith for the starting job.
Highligting this class is redshirt-freshman . Bentley calls him "one of the most anticipated wrestlers in the lineup for the upcoming season". Cottrell will start the season off ranked top 20 in the country. Cottrell is very athletic and physical with Bentley calling him a “dangerous wrestler” being able to turn anyone at any point.
True freshman Nick Hall looks to have secured the starting spot at 157. Hall comes to App with a very decorated high school career, winning four state titles in Alabama, he was a Fargo all-American and competed at the Super 32. Bentley calls Hall possibly the most improved wrestler on the team.
Redshirt-sophomore will assume the starting spot at 165 after qualifying for the NCAA’s last season and earning a win at the NCAA’s last season. His experience last year helps the Mountaineers overall, especially with being one of the key leaders of the squad. Bentley believes he can have a breakout season and be a top-10 wrestler nationally.
Several wrestlers are battling for this spot. Likely, it will be redshirt-sophomore Colin Hedash. Hedash was the starter last year at this class and garnered some good wins. Bentely believes that Hedash can win the Southern Conference and be very competitive at the national tournament. Freshmen Nick Kee and Forrest Przybysz are pushing Hedash in this spot.
The front-runner is Alex Kruklinski. The true-freshman from St. Petersburg, Florida was a high school state champion last year. Coach Bentley calls him one of the most physically impressive athletes that the team will put out on the mat. Junior Nick Vetell will be pushing him the most in this spot. Vetell is another example of a physical specimen who is very strong for his weight and possesses great athleticism.
Probably the only upper-classman in the starting lineup is junior Paul Weiss. The two-year starter is on the verge of a breakout season. Bentley is impressed with his raw talent and ability and says his physical capabilities are endless.
Redshirt-freshman Denzel Dejournette had an oustanding redshirt season last year. He was a double All-American at Fila’s and won many open tournaments last season. Bentley says he’ll bring a pace and a tempo to a heavyweight match that most heavyweights are not able to keep up with.
Final Word from Coach Bentley
“Top to bottom a lot the guys are freshman or sophomores and we look for these guys to be in our lineup for many years to come.”