William Penn 2012-2013 Wrestling Preview
2011-2012 dual record: 3-6
2011-2012 Central Qualifier finish: 10th
2011-2012 NAIA Nationals finish: 17th
Letterwinners returning/lost: 16/8
Carey Cloud, So., Havelock, N.C.
(NAIA All-American, 16-11, one fall)
Ishmael Rempson, So., Olympia Fields, Ill.
(National qualifier, 17-19, six falls)
Kyle Soderblom, So., Newton, Iowa
(National qualifier, 24-12, 15 falls)
Jay Fresh, Fr., Knoxville, Iowa
Joao Vicente, Fr., East Providence, R.I.
Tylor Pilcher, So., Fairfield, Iowa
David Jones, Fr., Bryan, Texas
While still overall a young squad, several key members of the William Penn program are a year older and the hope is that their experience will lead the Statesmen to a big finish next March.
William Penn placed 17th at last year’s NAIA Championships and have well over a handful of national qualifiers back on the mat. Highlighting the group is All-American Carey Cloud (So., Havelock, N.C., Physical Education), who placed eighth at 149 pounds.
“We have the largest number of varsity starters back since I have been here,” Head Coach Eric Reed said. “We also have three young men ranked, and all three are sophomores. So obviously we are still young, but getting national recognition this early in their careers is only a good thing for our program.”
Reed recruited additional depth as well and sees his program as the deepest it has been in his five-year tenure.
“Nearly every single one of our weights is deeper than it has ever been and competition breeds success, so we are excited to see how everything works out,” Reed said. “This freshman class is one of our strongest and so far our newcomers have been working hard and jumping on board. We will have several new guys fight for a position, if not right away, definitely by the end of the year.”
Newcomers will make an immediate impact at 125 pounds as John Bobeen (Fr., Troy, Mo., Physical Education) and Jay Fresh (Fr., Knoxville, Iowa, Sociology) will lock horns to determine the starting spot.
“Both of these young men have looked really tough in the practice room,” Reed said. “I am excited to get them out there and see how they do. Both had great high school careers to prepare them for this level.”
Another fresh face, Joao Vicente (Fr., East Providence, R.I., Secondary Education) has the inside track at 133 pounds, while O’Darius Williamson (Sr., Spartanburg, S.C., Physical Education) will provide a good test as a senior with plenty of collegiate experience.
Williamson was 2-9 with one major decision last year.
“Joao was a multiple state champion and has looked really good this fall,” Reed said. “O’Darius has improved every year and we are looking for him to finish off his career on a good note.”
One of William Penn’s deepest weights is at 141 pounds where at least a handful of returners are in a fight with at least a trio of newbies for the starting nod.
Eric Van Wagoner (So., Portland, Ore., Computer Science) and Tyler Schneider (Jr., Belleville, Mich., Software Engineering) are the most likely to secure the slot, but both are currently hampered by injuries, leaving the door open for fellow returners Marshawn Lacy (So., Chicago Heights, Ill., Computer Science), Bryan Pittman (Jr., Flossmoor, Ill., Sociology), and Zach Gordon (Jr., New Sharon, Iowa, Industrial Technology).
Van Wagoner was a pin machine last winter, claiming all seven of his victories via fall. Schneider went 12-20, while Lacey was 7-18 (four falls) and Pittman finished 2-6.
Freshmen Brad Watson (Rolla, Mo., Physical Education), Clint Doty (Warren, Mich., Biology), and Lane Colwell (Knoxville, Iowa, Computer Science) figure into the mix as well.
“Eric and Tyler are former starters and are the favorites, but are not even on the mat right now,” Reed said. “So now we have a real toss up with so many talented guys throwing their hat in the ring.”
A few less individuals will vie for the varsity position at 149 pounds, but it will be hard to argue that another weight is as strong with its top two competitors.
Cloud, who is ranked #4 in the preseason poll, is seeking his second All-American award after going 16-11 in 2011-2012. Charlton Benjamin (Fr., Atlanta, Ga., Sociology) is also back in the navy and gold singlet, trying to do more damage at nationals in his sophomore season. Benjamin was 10-16 as a freshman.
“149 is one of our most talented weights,” Reed said. “We feel comfortable putting either Carey or Charlton out there.”
Jason Mozley (Jr., Arlington, Texas, Biology) may provide depth if he can have a successful return from surgery.
Former national qualifiers Ishmael Rempson (So., Olympia Fields, Ill., Industrial Technology) and Brandon Smith (Jr., Malcom, Iowa, Biology) will provide a powerful 1-2 punch at 157 pounds. Rempson is currently ranked 13th in the NAIA.
Last season, Rempson won 17 of his 36 matches, while Smith was 5-3 in an injury-shortened campaign.
“Ishmael had a great freshman year, while Brandon was banged up last year and is hoping to return to his form of two years ago,” Reed said. “These guys are very competitive with each other. I figure this could change daily for the starting spot.”
Returners Christian Padilla (So., Tampa, Fla., Secondary Education) and Robert Pohlman (So., Tinley Park, Ill., Secondary Education) have experience on their side as they compete against newcomer Chris Pittman (Fr., Diamond, Mo., Secondary Education) for the start at 165 pounds.
Padilla had a 6-14 mark last year, while Pohlman was 0-7 in his first collegiate season.
“Christian and Robert both improved as last year progressed,” Reed said. “Christian is stronger and more mature than his freshman season, while Robert was hurt a lot last year. He seems to have figured all of that out.”
“Chris was a multiple placer in high school and is working really hard to improve,” Reed added.
Joe Sumner (Jr., Delaware, Ohio, Physical Education) has been the Statesmen’s 174 pounder the last two years, but a third-straight start may be in question with newcomer Tylor Pilcher (So., Fairfield, Iowa, Business Management) looking strong early.
Sumner picked up ten wins as a sophomore.
“Joe has been a steady representative for us at 174 pounds and we are happy to have him back,” Reed said. “Tylor came here at semester last year, so has been part of our program for almost a year. He continues to grow every day.”
Returner Andrew Majewski (Jr., Belleville, Mich., Sociology) and newcomer Nick Wise (Fr., Phoenix, Ariz., Biology) could also compete at 174 pounds. Majewski collected one victory a year ago.
“It has taken some time, more than we have liked, but we finally have depth at 174 pounds,” Reed said.
William Penn’s strongest upper weight is unquestionably 184 pounds with the return of national qualifier Kyle Soderblom (So., Newton, Iowa, Biology). The sophomore, who was 24-12 (15 falls) last year, is ranked #12 in the NAIA’s preseason poll.
“Kyle had a great freshman year, but it ended with an unfortunate injury that prevented him from competing at nationals,” Reed said. “He had a great chance to be an All-American and has worked extremely hard since then to make sure he is in the same position this year.”
Elson Civilma (So., Deerfield Beach, Fla., Communications) could provide a detour in Soderblom’s path to the starting job, though, as he has transferred in from Division I powerhouse Iowa State.
“Elson has had the better of Kyle from time to time, so either way, we have a great second option here,” Reed said. “This is another weight where we have good depth and should provide a great battle each day.”
Brandon Blanchard (Jr., St. Louis, Mo., Sociology) is a solid returner who could also represent the team well. Blanchard won one match in his sophomore season.
The team’s lone weak link may come at 197 pounds, a weight where most programs also struggle to find consistent grapplers. Reed plans to move the #2 wrestler from 184 up a weight for dual meets, but feels comfortable that the remainder of the weights will be strong enough to compensate for anything lost at 197.
“With our depth in so many other weights, we are comfortable with our situation at 197,” Reed said. “This is definitely the toughest weight to fill as most schools have the same issue as us.”
Nathan Merical (Jr., Grinnell, Iowa, Secondary Education) has the inside track at heavyweight and Reed hopes his strong showing in the practice room will finally transfer into competitive matches.
Merical was 1-12 at 197/285 one season ago.
“Nathan has improved each year and practices very well,” Reed said. “He is also bigger this year, so by not trying to cut down to 197 he should have a lot better year.”
David Jones (Fr., Bryan, Texas, Industrial Technology) will step in as Merical’s best challenger. A high school state champion, his past success should help in his conversion to the collegiate level.
“David has done well in practice, but we want to see him in actual competition to see how ready he is,” Reed said.
The wait is over for William Penn mat fans as the navy and gold open up 2012-2013 this Saturday at the Kaye Young NIACC Open.
The NAIA has passed some regulations that have forced Reed to make some scheduling changes this year. The division will no longer allow competitors to qualify at just any tournament. Beginning this winter, the season-ending Regional Qualifying tournaments will be just that–qualifiers–as wrestlers will have only one way to reach nationals. A top-four finish at their weight guarantees a spot, while some select top grapplers may also qualify as a wild card.
“We have lightened our pre-holiday schedule to accommodate for this new qualifying structure,” Reed said. “We are trying to space out our tourneys a bit more to keep us fresh and ready to go at the end of the season.”
Defending national champion Grand View headlines the Central Qualifying Group. They and several other top-20 programs will make things extremely difficult for Statesmen grapplers hoping to advance to nationals.
“We have a very tough qualifying group and that is why we are putting even more emphasis on getting everyone healthy and fresh entering that tournament,” Reed said. “In the past we could have had someone qualify early, making the rest of the regular season kind of pointless. But now we are looking to culminate at the end of the regular season like it should be.”
“I expect us to be much more competitive this year,” Reed added. “Still being young, we will need to learn as the year goes along. Even though we have some experience, we expect to be much stronger at the end because our newcomers will only get better each time out.”