The Millersville wrestling team is set to host the NCAA East Regionals Saturday, and hopes to salvage a little bit joy out of what has been a disappointing season. Campbell University, Duquesne University, Liberty University, and Gardener-Webb University will meet the Marauders at Pucillo gymnasium as wrestlers from each school will compete for a spot in the NCAA Championships. The top two wrestlers in each weight class will travel to Omaha, Nebraska to compete for their chance to become national champions beginning March 18.
Millersville has high hopes for its team in the competition and is looking to overcome a season full of adversity. The team finished with an overall dual meet record of 4-13-1 which was much worse than they anticipated being by the season’s end heading into the year. Especially, after losing only two starters from last year’s roster and finishing the 2008-2009 campaign with a winning dual meet record. However, to put blame on the Marauder wrestling team is a little more than unfair.
The Marauders had to battle a slew of injuries which led to numerous forfeits in the majority of their matches this season. Millersville saw some of its most experienced wrestlers such as junior Mike Greck, senior Jeremy Brooks, junior Dave Morey, senior Phil Santee, and senior Sean Reed fall to injury. The most damaging loss, however, came two weeks ago with the untimely passing of junior Raymond Bennett.
“The wrestlers intend to dedicate their upcoming post-season competition for Ray,” Brooks explained. Bennett finished as a qualifier for the NCAA Championships last season and finished the year with a strong 20-15 record. To put it lightly, his services will be severely missed, not only as a passionate teammate to the wrestling team, but as a friend and comrade to many on Millersville’s campus.
The Marauders’ best chances at placing as many members on their roster start with seniors Jarrett Hostetter and J.J. Lester, and redshirt sophomore Shane Smith. Millersville will also be without the services of senior Jeremy Brooks who battled injury this season and was a national qualifier last year.
Hostetter, a two-time national qualifier in the 157-pound weight class, took a red-shirt last season. He picked up from his 34-win, 2008 form this year, and currently sits with an impressive 21-5 record. Hostetter still wrestled in open tournaments last season and posted a 26-5 record in those matches. Currently, he has a remarkable career record of 125-44.
Smith, another national qualifier from last year, looks to return to the big stage again this season after posting a 21-7 record thus far. Smith finished last season with a 32-15 overall record and has a career record of 69-29 during his time spent at Millersville. Millersville is also hoping experience will pay off for senior J.J. Lester who has posted a 13-16 record through this point in the season.
Millersville is also looking to get some more production from their freshmen who have filled in and played a valuable role for the team this year as they suffered through numerous injuries. What is also important is how much experience the younger wrestlers are getting this season as they prepare for the next few years of their career. Normally they would not have nearly as many matches under their belts as freshmen, but because of extenuating circumstances, they have had to play a major role for the team this season.
No matter how the Regionals play out the Marauders should do nothing but play the rest of their season out with their heads held high. To say it has been a difficult 2009-2010 campaign is an understatement.