By: Justin Lockowitz
The Bloomsburg University wrestling team will begin their season this upcoming weekend as they head to Michigan to compete in the Michigan State Open on Nov. 9. This tournament proves to be a tough, early test for the team, as last year’s field included many teams that are ranked in this season’s USA Today/InterMat/NWCA Division I Team Rankings. These teams include: #4 Ohio State, #10 Michigan, #15 Edinboro, #16 Indiana, #18 Central Michigan, #19 Old Dominion and #21 Penn, as well as a host team in Michigan State that received votes in the preseason poll. The Huskies will need to get used to this level of competition as their schedule will not get any easier. The team wrestles a very competitive tournament schedule and is part of the EWL, a league that is very tough in general and has improved. Coach Stutzman describes the schedule as “a beast” and explains, “the team is not trying to wrestle down,” meaning that he feels there is no point in wrestling teams that can be easily defeated because it doesn’t improve the team. Team members Matt Moley and Ricky Donald echo this sentiment as Moley states, “the only way to get better is to wrestle the best teams in the nation and that’s what we have always done,” adding, “This schedule is probably our toughest yet, and we’re excited about it because it gives us a chance to wrestle with the best guys in the nation, and hopefully knock off some big names in the process.” Donald brings up a great point asking, “During the post season you’re wrestling the best in the country, so why not wrestle the best in the country throughout the year and get used to the high level of competition?”
Stutzman feels confident about his frontline guys and is looking for them to step up to lead the team this season. The team lost only two starters, although these two happen to be Mike Sees and Mike Spaid, stalwarts in Bloom’s lineup the past few seasons. Stutzman believes that you can’t replace two guys who each had over 100 career wins while at Bloomsburg, but feels he is “lucky to have Moley” who he described as “a quiet leader last year.” The team will look to redshirt sophomore, Ian Moser, to step in at the 125 pound weight class, a guy who Stutzman feels is very talented and is ranked in the top 20 in one national poll. At 285 the Huskies have Zach Walsh, a redshirt freshman who is a hard worker. In between these two the projected lineup looks to be 133: Jason Guffey, 141: Ricky Donald, 149: George Hickman, 157: Matt Moley, 165: Ricky Schmelyun, 174: Nate Graham, 184: Jesse Hasseman, and transfer Ryan Sutton at 197.
Though Moley is the only one ranked in the Top 20 of the USA Today/InterMat/ NWCA Division I Individual Rankings (#8), the team is very confident. Hasseman stated, “We have a very strong team. I think we are working harder than we ever have. We have one wrestler ranked in the top eight, and a few others that have a good chance of breaking into the rankings early.” Coach Stutzman will look to seniors Hickman and Hasseman to lead by example, and thinks that Moser and Guffey could have breakout years for the team. In general, Stutzman considers this team to be a good solid group, and believes “these ten guys coming together could surprise some people.” He also likes how the incoming freshman class looks on paper, but notes that wrestling isn’t done on paper. He admits he and the team will need to work with and develop the youngsters and that the rookies will have to “put more work in than they thought was possible.”
Stutzman will have a new assistant this year in Scott Owen, who brings to the team a passion for the sport and a great work ethic. Stutzman thinks Owen brings great knowledge of the sport to the team and considers him and Owen to be on the same page and have the same goals. Hickman confirms this adding, “I think that Coach did a good job hiring Owen, because he’s great for the program, and they have the same philosophies which makes them work well together.”
Stutzman says the goals are the same this year as they have always been in that he would like to finish in the top 20 in the nation, win the PSAC title, be the EWL champions and finish in the top 25 at the National Championships. He makes these goals clear to the team at the beginning of the season and believes they can accomplish them. Donald and Moley have both set goals of being national champions for themselves, and Moley declared he “won’t be satisfied with anything less.”
As the team heads west this weekend, Stutzman feels that by the end of the week they will be prepared to begin the season. He will be looking for his wrestlers to be aggressive and “impose our style and will on other teams.”
It’s clear to me, after talking to Coach Stutzman and a few of the wrestlers, that this team has the right attitude and a solid enough lineup to accomplish their goals, as well as advance a considerable amount of team members deep into March, where the NCAA Division I Championships in St. Louis, Missouri await them.