Wrestling season is underway! Both teams each have one competition under their belts this season. Maryland hosted the Terrapin Duals and beat Alderson-Broaddus, Johns Hopkins, Kutztown and Davidson. George Mason went to the Cavalier Duals and beat Anderson and VMI but dropped their match against Virginia 34-6.
Maryland pasted George Mason 35-3 in Fairfax last year. Let's take a look at the upcoming match. Maryland's stud wrestlers Christian Boley and national runner-up Jimmy Sheptock have graduated and we will see new faces try to produce in their place.
Ed. Note: After Noah drafted this insightful preview, TT spoke with head wrestling coach Kerry McCoy and we've included his comments below each weight class.
Maryland might send out Josh Polacek or Tyler Goodwin for this match. Goodwin did not wrestle at the Red and Black wrestle-offs or the Terrapin Duals and Polacek was very effective. Mason will counter with Ibrahim Bunduka. Bunduka red-shirted last year so this is his first season as the starter. This should be a good match and it will help to set the tone of the dual. I expect Maryland to come out on top in this match with either Polacek or Goodwin.
(Something fun that might happen would be if Mason started Bryce Gentry, the younger brother of former Maryland 125 wrestler Shane Gentry, at 125)
McCoy: Josh Polacek won the wrestle off. The battle was between him and Tyler Goodwin. Tyler is still managing his weight to get down to be able to compete at 125 so Josh wrestled Jhared Simmons who's a redshirt freshman from Good Counsel and Josh beat him. That makes Josh the guy right now.
Maryland has to be favored at this weight since Geoff Alexander returns as a consensus top-15 ranked wrestler. Vince Rodriguez will likely be his opponent. He won two out of his three matches at the Cavalier duals but Alexander will be expected to get bonus points out of this match.
McCoy: Geoffrey Alexander and Billy Rappo battled. It's really tough when you're wrestling a teammate and a friend. I don't know if there was as much intensity in the match of really trying to go out and dominate your opponent versus a feeling of me and my buddy are wrestling. But Geoff came out with a solid 2-0 victory - an escape and a riding time point. So he's put himself back in the drivers seat.
This will probably be one of the more entertaining matches of the day. We are going to see Shyheim Brown for Maryland and Sahid Kargbo for George Mason.
These two wrestlers battled last year and Brown won 1-0. Kargbo placed third at the EWL Championships and his lone loss at the Cavalier duals was to top-15 ranked Joe Spisak. I like Brown to win but it should be a closely contested decision either way.
McCoy: This was probably the biggest surprise. "Baby J" (Alfred) Bannister beat Frank Goodwin. Frank had beaten him in the weight room and in the challenge matches early in the week. Pretty significantly then in that match Bannister wrestled a good match and was able to score and stay away from him. But as it goes, it's one - one and we've got to figure out what the next steps are. Also, we're not really sure when, but Frank got a concussion so he's out for now. That kind of threw things off for the Mason match because Shyheim, who was injured for the wrestle off, got to wrestle in Sunday's duals and did well. And then we've got Daniel Sanchez in there so we've got a bunch of good options at 141.
George Mason used three different 149 pounders during the Cavalier duals. I believe it will be Blake Roulo for the Patriots even though he didn't wrestle at the Cavalier Duals. Ben Dorsay will start for Maryland. Dorsay went 1-1 and picked up a forfeit at the Terrapin Duals and his lone loss was when he was pinned by Davidson's Kevin Birmingham.
McCoy: Ben Dorsay looked really good in the wrestle off. He went out and scored a lot of points. In the past he's been the type of kid that usually wins 4-2 or 4-3. He gets a lead and holds on but he went out and scored a lot of points and that was good to see him take that momentum into last weekend.
Greg Flournoy will start at this weight for the Patriots. He picked up one of George Mason's two wins against UVA, beating Andrew Atkinson with a takedown in the first in Sudden Victory overtime period. Justin Alexander, a redshirt freshman and Geoff Alexander's younger brother, might start here after wrestling all four matches at 157 for Maryland last weekend. Alexander won all four, picking up three decisions and a fall.
Lou Mascola beat Alexander in the wrestle-off so I think Mascola ultimately will be the one that gets sent out.
Flournoy handily beat senior Danny Orem last year 10-5 for Mason's only win of the dual. Regardless of who Maryland sends out, I think Flournoy will win this match for the Patriots.
McCoy: Lou Mascola looked really good. He scored a lot of points and wrestled hard. He was going against a redshirt freshman, Justin Alexander, who really pushed him. So we've two good guys there that can battle and make each other better and try to get to that next level.
Tyler Manion got most of the starts at the Terrapin Duals at this weight and he edged T.J. Guidice in the wrestle-offs so I expect to see Manion wrestle N.C. State transfer Patrick Davis. Davis had to sit out last season because of NCAA transfer rules so this will be his first season starting for the Patriots. Davis picked up a fall against Anderson but lost by decision against VMI and got majored by #2 Nick Sulzer of Virginia. This should be an interesting match and unfortunately Ryan Forrest moved up to 174 so we will not get a rematch of last year's thrilling Manion-Forrest bout that went to overtime.
McCoy: The competition was between Tyler Manion and TJ Guidice. Tyler's a redshirt sophomore and TJ's a redshirt junior so they've been battling for the last couple of years. The thing I'm most excited about was that Tyler had been like Ben (Dorsay). He was one of those guys who would get a lead and kind of sit on it just trying to hang on. He went out and kept attacking the whole match. And that rolled over into the matches Sunday. He kept going the whole time so he's made real improvement.
Ryan Forrest who moved up from 165 will probably represent Mason here and Josh Snook should be the starter for Maryland. Snook, who also wrestled at 165 last year, looked great for the Terps at the Terrapin Duals, picking up a fall, two majors and an 8-1 decision in his last match of the day. This should be a close match.
McCoy: We have Josh Snook and Arashdeep Gill. Josh is a fourth year guy - a redshirt junior - and Arashdeep is a redshirt freshman. Josh is moving up a weight class. He's similar to Tyler and Ben. He's another guy that, if things weren't going his way, he might shut down or he'd just try to hang onto a lead. But he went after it in the wrestle off and started to open up a little more. It's good to see him making that adjustment.
Tony Gardner didn't wrestle at the Terrapin Duals but I expect him to start on Sunday. Arashdeep Gill will get the call if Gardner doesn't go. Gill probably had the poorest performance at the Terrapin Duals for Maryland. He won a 5-4 decision but lost two decisions and got pinned to finish 1-3 on the day. Ryan Hembury will likely be Mason's starter. If Gardner starts, I expect Maryland to win at this weight. If Gill starts, I do not.
McCoy: We have Tony Gardner another fifth year senior. He went out and wrestled our transfer Chanse Menendez who was the junior college national runner-up a couple of years ago and he transferred in. That was a good battle back and forth with a lot of end of match drama. Tony's a fifth year senior who's really committed himself to the program. He was voted as one of the team captains.
Redshirt senior Rob Fitzgerald was a bonus points machine last weekend at the Terrapin Duals picking up two majors and two pins. He will wrestle Matt Meadows who took 4th at the EWL Championships last season. Both of these wrestlers are pretty good. I expect the match to already be in hand for Maryland going into this weight but this weight features two exciting wrestlers. Meadows lost by decision to Christian Boley last year, 5-3, so Meadows has what it takes to wrestle with some of the country's best wrestlers.
McCoy: Rob Fitzgerald is another fifth year senior that's kind of battled adversity through his career. He had some injuries and some off the mat struggles. Finally in the last year and a half he's really buckled down. Like it is for many of the guys, it's an end of the road type deal.
Redshirt Senior Jake Kettler qualified for the NCAA Championships at heavyweight last year and I think he will win this match against either Ryan Kail or Sean Twigg. Spencer Myers, who beat Kettler 4-0 last year, is still on the gridiron with the Maryland football team so Kail or Twigg will get the call. Kail beat Twigg 4-1 at the wrestle-offs so the spot should be his. Regardless of who goes out there, Kettler should get the W for Mason.
McCoy: This was another surprise. Sean Twigg and Ryan Kail are both redshirt freshmen and in the room Ryan was on the back side of the matches. They were close overtime matches but he'd lose those close ones. And then in the wrestle-off he got a turn in the second period that opened the match up and he won. Sunday they split matches. Sean went 2-0 and Ryan went 1-1 and his loss was to the defending Division 2 national champ so they're good options to have while we're waiting for Spencer (Myers) to get back in the room and try to help us with our depth.
Maryland is a much better team and program than George Mason and I expect them to win handily this season just as they did last year. I don't think it will be as one-sided as last year's 35-3 win but I expect Maryland to pick up wins at 125, 133, 141, 149, 165, 174, 184 and 197. I think Flournoy and Kettler will both win for Mason and I think Kettler has a good chance to pick up a fall for Mason. There are some toss-up matches in this dual but I expect Maryland to win them and win the dual by a sizable margin.
Some final comments from the coach:
On what has "flipped the switch" for wrestlers like Dorsay, Manion, and Snook who have become more aggressive:
McCoy: I hope it's been years of hearing it from the coaches and that it's finally sunk in. I think part of it is urgency. You're getting to the end of your career and starting to think 'Hey, I don't have much time to do it.' Or maybe they've realized that they've been doing something one way for a long time and it hasn't worked out so well so maybe let's try it another way. It's probably a combination of things. But it's good.
On replacing Jimmy Sheptock and Christian Boley:
McCoy: It's one of those bittersweet things with Jimmy and Christian gone because we knew those were wins that we could count on every time. But at the same time, we don't have those guys as workout partners either. So these guys get some opportunities because now a door's open. These guys just have to try and pick up where they left off.
On the (temporary) absence of Spencer Myers:
McCoy: Spencer hasn't been working out with the team as much in the last few weeks just because they've been pretty busy over at football. All of his energy has to go to football right now. We don't want him to wear himself out and not be good for them. When he gets back here we want him to be ready to take off. Also, it's looking like we'll go to a decent bowl so when he gets back is probably going to be pushed back a little bit. We've just got to be smart about getting him back in and getting him trained so he's ready to go out and compete.
On who to watch for:
McCoy: Based on how he's performed, Ben Dorsay is a guy that everybody knew had a lot of potential and he looks like he's finally realized it himself. It's been a pleasant surprise to see him turn that corner. Geoffrey Alexander is another guy who, if he fully commits 100 percent, then the sky's the limit for him. And of the young guys, Alfred Bannister - Baby J. Right now we're trying to see how these few weeks go and what he's going to be. With Shyheim and Frank we've got two pretty good guys at the weight class (141) but if he continues to grow, you never know what's going to happen at the end of the year. And if he can't get past Frank and Shyheim, he does have a redshirt available. But we're going to put our best team on the mat. So we'll see what they force us to do.
On who's taking a leadership role:
McCoy: It's getting better. Over the past few years, there's been an established stature and a standard on the team and you didn't have to recycle. It was more, 'This is just the way it is.' So we've had a lot of passive leadership in that time because everyone understood. We've been spending some time with our older guys and our captains - Ben Dorsay and Tony Gardner - talking about leadership and what it means. It doesn't mean just showing up and working hard. Sometimes you've got to pick your teammate up pat him on the back and get him going again.