Edinboro is now a household name in Division I wrestling after the Fighting Scots finished third as a team at the national championship last season.
Now the trick will be to stay there.
The wrestling team is coming off a record breaking season and quite the show at the national championships in March, but a lot of the reasons why that happened are no longer wrestling for Edinboro.
“We understand that we lost a lot of points from the NCAA tournament,” head coach Tim Flynn said. “We are optimistic, but we are going to have to have guys step up this year.”
Those departed point scorers are also some of the best wrestlers to ever come through Edinboro. Kory Mines at 125 pounds, A.J. Schopp at 133 pounds, Mitchell Port at 141 pounds and Dave Habat at 149 pounds are the notables that are no longer on the mats in Boro.
Despite the new faces, Flynn is keeping the same plan.
“We are just trying to keep the same formula,” he said about replacing the graduated seniors. “Keep putting our hard hat on every morning, going to work and training the guys. The guys are working hard. I think if you have a hard working group of guys, it is just a matter of time until you get success.”
One member of that group, Port, is still around in the wrestling room as he stayed with the program as a volunteer assistant coach. The Bellefonte, Pennsylvania native replaces Colt Sponseller, who took a position at Ohio University.
“He brings the same things he brought as an athlete,” Flynn said about Port the coach. “He brings enthusiasm, knowledge of the sport and just an unbelievable work ethic. I think the kids can relate to and hope to emulate.”
Port is just one of a few returning from last year’s group of Scots that made the trip to the national championships. The headlining returner is Vic Avery at 184 pounds. The Foxboro, Massachusetts native earned All-American status a year ago, finishing third at the national championships.
Additionally, Vince Pickett at 197 pounds returns for his final year in the Boro. Pickett won the EWL championship to qualify for nationals, getting a taste of the big stage in March.
Flynn knew what he had in Avery all along, but sees him ready as ever for this season.
“He has a different level of confidence,” he said about the redshirt senior. “We also knew he was good, but then you go and he was so close to a national championship. I see a really hungry, a really focused individual. He is really focused on winning that NCAA tournament”
With holes to fill in the starting lineup, Flynn is looking for some newcomers to fill and hopefully thrive in those roles.
“Right now they are up for grabs,” Flynn said of the starting spots. “We had the initial wrestle-offs and some guys emerged. We will see how they perform this weekend.”
Although the starting spots are not officially finalized yet, Flynn noted that Anthony Rivera will start at 133 pounds, Tyler Vath at 141 pounds and Pat Lugo at 149 pounds.
Sean Russell, who competed in the undercard at last week’s NWCA All- Star Classic and was 18-8 competing in open tournaments a year ago, looks to be the start at 125 pounds.
Additionally, Flynn noted that Billy Miller, who redshirted last season, looks to be the starter at heavyweight.
At 157 pounds they have Austin Matthews, who transferred from Clarion before a year ago, but missed the majority of the season after suffering an injury and then took a medical redshirt for the year. According to Flynn, it will be a few months until he makes his return.
“We should see him back in January,” he stated. “He is healing pretty well. He is really itching to get back on the mats. He has been out a little bit, so he is excited to get back.”
Regardless of the youth, the goals remain the same for Edinboro wrestling.
“You want to have these kids reach their individual goals at the NCAA tournament and I think if you get enough kids that have their eyes on that big prize, the team thing will take care of itself.”
Before that big prize is handed out at Madison Square Garden, the site for this year’s national championship, Edinboro has some big duals
on its schedule, including home contests against West Virginia and Virginia Tech, on Feb. 7 and Feb. 21, respectively.
In the near future, the Fighting Scots open up their 2015-16 season this Saturday at the Eastern Michigan Duals. Boro faces Olivet College, Ohio University and Northern Illinois University.
Tyler Trumbauer is the Sports Editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org