BEREA, Ohio -- It is Jamie Gibbs goal to elevate the Baldwin Wallace University wrestling program among the elite in Division III. In the five years since arriving on the Berea based campus, he has done a great deal to help make that goal a reality.
On January 8-9, Gibbs' 15th-ranked Yellow Jacket grapplers (National Wrestling Coaches Association January 4, 2016 Division III poll) will compete at the 2016 Division III National Duals in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. His team is already battle-tested this winter having faced five nationally-ranked teams, including No.1-ranked Wartburg (Iowa) College.
BW opens action at 9 a.m. on Friday versus No. 24 New York University (5-2). The winner faces No.4-ranked Roger Williams (R.I.) University (7-0) at 11 a.m. and the loser drops into the consolation bracket and wrestles at 1 p.m. The championship bracket semifinals are on Saturday at 11 a.m. and the championship match is on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
"We are excited and honored to be participating in the Division III National Duals," said Gibbs, who led his team to a school single-season record 17 wins last winter. "We again will be facing outstanding competition and that is always good for our young men. We hope that the better competition we face during the regular season will help us and pay dividends once we get to the Ohio Athletic Conference schedule and both regional and national competition
"So far, we have faced five nationally-ranked opponents and have beaten three of them and came close to a fourth," continued Gibbs. "This weekend, the defending national champion, Augsburg (Minn.) College, will be at the Duals, and in two weeks (January 23), we will face the current No.5-ranked team at the Thiel (Pa.) College Mel Berry Duals. When our staff designed the schedule, this is what we had in mind."
This year's Yellow Jackets (9-5 overall) are led by senior two-time Division III All-American and NWCA Scholar All-American Jesse Gunter (Akron/ Coventry) at 133 pounds. Gunter is one of two BW grapplers to currently be nationally-ranked and includes senior 174-pounder Garrett Chase (Erie, Pa./ Cathedral Prep). The duo represent two of eight starters from Gibbs' first recruiting class that includes six starters.
Gunter is ranked second at 133 pounds, is 13-0 this season and 99-12 for his career. He bumped up to 133 from 125 pounds after three seasons and has already beaten the previous No.2-ranked wrestler at his weight class. Chase is a four-year starter, ranked eighth at 174 pounds and was a Div. III All-American at 174 a year ago. He is 9-3 this season and 105-33 in his career.
A quartet of other four-year senior starters include 165-pounder David Shapiro (Beachwood), who was a Div. III national qualifier in 2014. He is 10-4 this season and 105-39 for his career; 149-pounder Joey Schmidt (Hinckley/Brunswick), who is 11-3 this season and 75-50 in his career; 184-pounder Ben LeBrun (Strongsville), who is 10-5 this season and 79-49 in his career; and 285-pounder Joe Belford (Berea/St. Edward), who is 10-9 this season and 56-46 in his career.
Joining the six seniors in the starting lineup and competing for mat time are sophomore Chris Doyle (Akron/ Green) at 125 pounds, junior Zach Taylor (Brunswick) at 141 pounds, junior Graham Montague (Independence) and freshman Richie Burke (Ithaca, N.Y.) at 157 pounds, sophomore Jimmy Sandlin (Carlisle) at 174 pounds, sophomore Tyler Maclellan (Medina/ CVCA), an All-OAC pick a year ago, and sophomore Sam Groff (Waynesburg/Sandy Valley) at 197 pounds.
Following its appearance at the Division III Duals, BW is idle until it travel to University Heights to open its OAC schedule at 29th-ranked and cross-town rival John Carroll University in the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center at 7:30 p.m. Then, on Saturday, Jan. 23, BW travels to Greenville, Pensylvania to participate at the 2016 Mel Berry Duals where it will wrestle three matches, including one against No.5-ranked Ithaca (N.Y.) College.