Three Millersville wrestlers showed their stuff at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis last weekend. Each failed to win a match, but the valuable experience set them up for the possibility of even more success next season.
Junior Jeremy Brooks (165-lb), sophomore Raymond Bennett (197-lb) and redshirt-freshman Shane Smith (174-lb) each made their first trip to the national championships.
Head Coach Todd Roberts said that while they may not have been at the top of their game, all three wrestled well and were very competitive. It showed in how close they were to winning many of the matches.
Brooks faced Rider’s Jason Lapham in his first match and was right with him the entire time. Trailing late in the third period, Brooks managed an escape to the tie the match at 4-4. However, a riding-time advantage gave Lapham the win.
“I think if he wrestled him again he would be victorious,” Roberts said.
Brooks took on West Virginia’s Donald Jones in the consolation round. Brooks fell 13-6. ?Brooks ended his season with a 30-10 record.
Both Bennett and Smith drew high-seeded opponents in their opening round matches.
Bennett scored a takedown in the opening minute of his match against Missouri’s Maxwell Askren. However, he could not hold on for the victory and eventually lost 7-2.
Bennett also dropped a 10-4 decision in the consolation bracket to Andrew Anderson of Northern Iowa.
Smith went up against Christopher Heinrich of Virginia in his first match and was pinned at 4:05. He fell in the consolation round 20-6 against Ohio State’s David Rella.
None of the three Marauders are seniors, so they will have another chance at competing in the national championships next year.
Roberts feels that they should do better if they qualify next year with what they learned from this experience. They now know what it is like to compete at the top level in intercollegiate wrestling.
“I think they got some confidence knowing that they’re right there with some of these guys, but they also saw what they need to improve on,” Roberts said.
The Marauders have some technical things they can work on during the off-season. They will also be training harder in preparation for next season.
Roberts expects Brooks, Bennett and Smith to push the whole team. After seeing that it is within their reach, the rest of the team should be inspired to get to the national championships next season.
Most of the top performers from this year will be back next season, including senior Jarrett Hostetter, who redshirted this year. Hostetter was the team’s top performer the previous two seasons.
After a huge improvement this year, the possibility that the Marauders can still get stronger as a team is very encouraging for Roberts. They should have enough depth to allow people to rest during a long season.
With an experienced team and new recruits, the PSAC should look out for an even better Millersville wrestling team next year.