BEREA, Ohio -- Last winter, the Baldwin Wallace University wrestling team had a school-record 17 victories, a 17-5 record, placed sixth at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional and 20th at the 2015 NCAA Division III National Tournament. With a veteran team returning this winter, fifth-year Head Coach Jamie Gibbs is hoping for even more success.
That's why the Division III National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) ranked Gibbs' Yellow Jackets 10th in its pre-season national poll and also why Ohio Athletic Conference wrestling coaches picked BW to win the 2016 OAC title.
Gibbs has been building the program into a championship team for the past five years. This winter he returns 18 lettermen, nine starters, a pair of Division III All-Americans and three national tourney qualifiers.
In the NWCA national poll, its committee lists a Top-15 and BW is 10th with 19 points. Defending national champion Wartburg (Iowa) is picked first. The Yellow Jackets are the only OAC school listed in the poll.
In addition, four of Gibbs' grapplers, senior two-time All-American 125-pounder Jesse Gunter (Akron/Coventry), senior All-American 174-pounder Garrett Chase (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Prep), junior 141-pound 2015 Division III national qualifier Josh Decatur (Akron/Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) and senior 165-pound 2014 national qualifier David Shapiro (Beachwood) are all ranked in the Top-10 in their respective weight classes. Gunter is fourth at 133 pounds (where he will start the season), Chase fourth at 174, Decatur sixth at 141 and Shapiro 10th at 165.
In the OAC poll, BW received five of six first place votes (Gibbs could not vote for his own team) and 25 total points to rank first. Defending OAC champion University of Mount Union received Gibbs vote and had 20 points to rank second.
"We appreciate the confidence that both the NWCA committee and the other OAC Coaches afforded our wrestling program," said Gibbs. "We have a great group of young men returning who are hard working and dedicated to our goal to be OAC and Division III national champions (either as a team or individually). Our young men are excited and looking forward to the challenges of the season and can't wait to get started."
The wrestlers open their season on November 14 when they compete at the Ohio Duals at the Spire Complex in Geneva. The first home match is on Wednesday, November 18 versus cross-town rival Case Western Reserve University in the Ursprung Gymnasium at 7:30 p.m.