Head Copy Editor
At the close of 2016-17, the Millersville wrestling team capped off a 2-8 season with a thirteenth place finish at the NCAA Super Regional. One wrestler, Shane Ruhnke, placed fifth and narrowly missed a national berth.
Now, with a new coaching staff, the Marauder wrestling team is making its resurgence.
Kerry Regner joined the coaching staff in June 2017 as a two-time American Midwest Conference Coach of the Year, who built the wrestling program at Williams Baptist College from the ground up. In just three years, the team earned a No. 3 national rank and finished fourth at the NAIA Championship.
“I think everyone was excited for a change,” Coach Regner said. “The team has welcomed me and embraced the changes I’ve brought to the table. The guys are working hard and doing everything I ask them to do, so it’s been a pretty smooth transition.”
Ruhnke, now a redshirt junior agrees, noticing a change in his team. He stated that the biggest difference with the team was the change in mentality.
“We definitely have a more resilient mentality when facing adversity in competition,” Ruhnke mentioned. A lot of the team has definitely had a more optimistic and confident approach when competing this season.”
Not only are Regner’s wrestlers doing what he asks, but they are going above and beyond to better themselves.
“We had a practice, and it was a pretty difficult practice,” Regner says. “A good amount of athletes stayed after and continued to work on their own things. My assistant coach said this would never have happened in previous years.”
The change Ruhnke and Regner are talking about comes not from winning, but instead from work in the practice room when no one is watching.
And their hard work is definitely paying off.
The Marauders finished the 2017-18 regular season with an overall record of 7-7 — that’s a five-win improvement from last year.
The team also moved up two places at the PSAC Championships, jumping from 10th to 12th.
Ruhnke placed third in the 165-pound weight class at PSACs, the highest finish by a Marauder since 2010.
“The team has embraced our new coach,” says Ruhnke. “Coach Regner has created a more competitive environment, always expecting our best effort. Our training this past year has felt much more methodical. Everything we do relates to wrestling and is meant to help us improve.”
Regner wants his team to get better on the mat, and not only be aware of the past, but also take part in writing the history of Millersville wrestling. “The resurgence is understanding our tradition here. It’s been done before, success has been had here, and we deserve to be part of that success,” he says.
“That history includes 19 All-Americans, 29 NCAA Division I East Region Champions, and six NCAA Division II Champions. Since 2013, seven wrestlers have placed at the NCAA Division II Super Regional tournament.
When Shane Ruhnke and Colton Dull finished third and fifth respectively, the number of Marauders to place at the NCAA Super Regional increased to nine.
With third place, Ruhnke earned a berth to the NCAA Division II Championships. He is the first wrestler to qualify for nationals since 2011.
On day one, Ruhnke went 2-0 with wins by technical fall and major decision. He was knocked from the championship bracket in the first match on the second day of competition.
He bounced back in the consolation quarterfinals by winning a 18-7 major decision.
He won the third place bout with a dominant pin in 1:02.
“I really felt getting to nationals was more [of an] expectation than an accomplishment, considering all the work I have put in with my teammates,” Ruhnke recalled.
Two more Marauders, Evan Morrill and Connor Sheehan, fought their way through the consolation bracket to advance to the second day of competition, both losing close decisions by two points.
As a team, the Marauders earned 39.5 points, finishing eighth out of 15 teams, the highest the team has placed since moving to Division II.
Regner tries not to focus on wins and losses. To him, the way his athletes compete is more important. He believes the young men on his team have trained incredibly hard.
“I want them to go out there and fight for every position and every point, and keep moving forward,” says Regner. “Good things will happen, and the guys are starting to recognize that.”