After a tough 2018-19 season where it only secured two victories, Maryland wrestling is gearing up for 2019-2020 with a much different look under new head coach Alex Clemsen.
Clemsen and his assistant coaches, Nick Brascetta, Devin Mellon and newly added Brent Fleetwood, have put their wrestlers through a grind in the offseason to ensure peak performance come match time.
“We are giving them an environment where they can grow, learn and evolve to have more ownership of the program and themselves,” Clemsen said.
The Terps have won just one Big Ten dual meet since joining the conference, and the program suffered a .143 win percentage, going 0-9 in the Big Ten, last season. Clemsen is focused on ensuring his wrestlers get more wins in every scheduled event.
“Every dual meet is important, every time we compete, it doesn’t matter if it is a Big Ten dual, non-conference dual, tournament, or an open, these guys need to understand how important this opportunity is to represent themselves, our program and our department. They need to compete accordingly,” Clemsen said.
Key wrestlers lost
The Terps’ roster looks a lot lighter after losing its top three performers to graduation in the spring.
The undoubtedly biggest loss to the team is heavyweight Youssif Hemida, who served a more than substantial role on the mat for Maryland. Hemida was a two-time All-American, three-time NCAA qualifier and three-time Big Ten placer.
The Maryland wrestling program also lost Ryan Diehl, who wrestled his final season as the starting 141 pounder. In his time as a Terp, he managed to become a two-time NCAA qualifier and two-time Big Ten placer.
Alfred “Baby J” Bannister is also not returning to the Maryland wrestling squad. Bannister was a two-time NCAA qualifier and two-time Big Ten placer as a Terp in the 149-pound class.
Losing these three performers is a massive blow to the program, as they were often the only positives for the team in recent years, but Clemsen is confident he can whip his new team into a successful bunch of wrestlers.
The starter at 149 pounds for this season has yet to be named. But after the Red vs. Black wrestle-offs on Saturday, Clemsen has his eye on 149-pound Michael Doetsch to possibly fill the void of Bannister. The redshirt junior went 9-9 in his previous season.
“Michael Doetsch is a sleeper. People are gonna find out really quick how hard he wrestles and the kind of effort he gives and the fight he brings,” Clemsen said.
Clemsen also name dropped Kyle Cochran as one of his top wrestlers. The redshirt sophomore spent the last season as a redshirt due to injury and Clemsen is ready to see how he’ll fare in competition this year.
“Kyle Cochran probably jumps off the page at me as a kid who is really talented and has an opportunity to compete at a high level,” said Clemsen.
The Maryland wrestling team is mostly a younger group of guys this season. Clemsen sees this as an opportunity to mold them into stronger competitors throughout the season and into their upcoming years.
King Sandoval, a redshirt freshman reigning from Waldorf, Md., displayed a 13-8 record during his redshirt season last year. He lead the wrestling team in most falls last year with an impressive amount of eight. Sandoval will compete this season at 133 pounds.
Clemsen also stated that redshirt sophomore Kyle Jasenski will play an important role in the Terps performance this season. Jasenski posted a record of 9-19 while serving as Maryland’s primary starter last season at 184 pounds.
The Maryland wrestling program brings in 11 freshman this season, two more than last year.
The 125-pound weight class now has Zach Spence, who was named the 2019 Delaware Wrestler of the Year out of Salesianum High School in Wilmington. He was also a three-time state champion with a record of 130-30.
PJ Truntich from Harwood, Maryland, stands out for the 133-pound class. He attended Archbishop Spalding where he was a two-time state champion, four-time state finalist, and a three-time national prep All-American.
The Terps typically struggle to get top talent from the midwest, but bring in 149-pounder Michael North from Wadsworth, Ohio. He placed in the top-three two separate times in the Ohio state championships while at Wadsworth High School, which is a rare feat in one of the biggest wrestling hotbeds.
Maryland also brings in Ryan Garlitz from Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts, who holds the record for the most wins in the state of Massachusetts at 226-13. He was also a three-time state champion, as well as an NHSCA All-American.
The 157-pound weight class gained Garrett Fisk from Severn, Maryland. Fisk is a Maryland state champion and placed in the top three for national preps while attending Archbishop Spalding.
The 165-pound weight class welcomes Jonathan Spadafora from Dix Hills, New York. In his high school career at Half Hallow Hills East, Spadafora posted a record of 188-22, holding the record for most wins in his high school.
Hunter Jack Parr enters the 184-pound class out of from Westminster, Maryland, where he was a three-time state champion at St. Paul’s.
And the 197-pound weight class has an impressive addition in Kevin Makosy from Ijamsville, Maryland. He is a two-time state champion, three-time NHSCA All-American, and Super 32 All-American out of Urbana High School.
The Terps first official competition is set for Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Cavalier Duals hosted by No. 22 University of Virginia. The Terps will compete against Southern Virginia at noon and then against Virginia at 2 p.m.
The following weekend on Nov. 9, the Terps will head just down the road to American University to compete in the AU Round Robin Tournament.
Maryland’s first conference matchup will be held away against Rutgers (Dec. 6). The Terps didn’t win a single Big Ten matchup last season and are looking to boost their victories.
Maryland’s top competitors for this season look to be No. 1 Penn State (Feb. 2), No. 3 Ohio State (Jan. 31), No. 12 Pittsburgh (Dec. 20), No. 17 Northwestern (Feb. 16) and No. 18 Michigan (Jan. 17). All teams are ranked, according to InterMat Wrestling.
Three Things To Know
- It is Josh Ugalde’s Final Season. The redshirt senior is underway in his last competitive season with the Terps. After posting 17 dual points last season, the most for any returning wrestler, Ugalde is one of Maryland’s top competitors on the mat. With an overall record of 6-14 in the 2018-2019 season, he will be thirsting to boost his win/loss ratio. Ugalde is definitely someone to keep your eye on.
- The Terps recently added volunteer assistant Brent Fleetwood to their staff. The former North Dakota State and Central Michigan wrestler will serve as a vital part of Clemsen’s coaching arsenal. Fleetwood had a commendable collegiate career, finishing with 86 wins and qualifying for the NCAA Championships three times. The assistant will be an excellent addition for practicing with the lightweight wrestlers.
- The Starting 10. Clemsen stated that he won’t directly start the wrestlers who won in their weight class at the Red vs. Black wrestle-offs. He uses the event as “an opportunity to get our guys down to weight and watch them compete.” Clemsen and his coaching staff will choose the starting lineup for each dual meet depending on their performance on the mat, how they carry themselves as a person, and their effort in the classroom.