BEREA, OHIO -- The 2015-2016 Baldwin Wallace University wrestling team has high expectations. Fifth-year Head Coach Jamie Gibbs returns a veteran cast, including 18 lettermen, nine starters, two Division III All-Americans and two other national qualifiers. The goals are to win the OAC title and continue a quest toward winning a national title.
"We return a veteran group of wrestlers and we are very excited to get started," said Gibbs. "We had a great season a year ago and we have high expectations against this season. We hope to live up to our exectations and exceed them.
"We have 18 lettermen competing both with a number of other returning upperclassmen, a talented group of freshmen and a transfer," continued Gibbs. "It is really fun to watch the competition. It's great for wrestling and excellent for our program."
Last season, Gibbs' 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. Gibbs has been building the program into a championship team. That's why the Ohio Athletic Conference wrestling coaches picked the Yellow Jackets to win the 2016 OAC title and the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) picked BW 10th in its national Div. III Top-15 poll. In addition, the NWCA also placed all four BW standouts in its Top-10 in their respective weight classes.
Gibbs currently has 38 wrestlers competing in pre-season camp for the 10 spots in the starting lineup. Leading the way will be senior All-American 125/133-pounder Jesse Gunter (Akron/ Coventry), senior All-American 174-pounder Garrett Chase (Erie, Pa./ Cathedral Prep), junior 141-pound national qualifier Josh Decatur (Akron/ Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) and senior 165-pounder David Shapiro (Beachwood), who was a national qualifier in 2014.
Gunter has been one of the best 125-pounders in Division III the past three years. He is a two-time All-American at 125 and placed third at the national meet as a freshman and fourth as a junior. He was 23-5 last season and has an 86-12 career mark. Gunter is ranked fourth by NWCA at 133 pounds. He will start the season at 133 pounds and may move back to 125 at some point in time.
Chase was 37-8 last season and placed seventh at the national meet. He has a 96-30 career slate. He also is ranked fourth by the NWCA at 174 pounds. Decatur just missed being an All-American last winter and had a 33-12 record. He enters the season ranked sixth by the NWCA at 141 pounds. Shapiro had 40 wins as a junior when he was a natonal qualifier and was 27-14 last season at 165 pounds. The 10th-ranked 165-pounder by the NWCA this season has a 95-35 career mark.
In addition to the top four, the other returning starters include senior Joe Belford (Berea/ Lakewood St. Edward) at 285 pounds, senior Ben LeBrun (Strongsville) at 184 pounds, sophomore Tyler Maclellan (Medina/ CVCA) at 197 pounds, junior Graham Montague (Independence) at 157/165 pounds and senior Joe Schmidt (Hinckley/ Brunswick) at 149 pounds.
Belford was 13-11 last season and has been a starter on-and-off for three years and has a 46-37 career mark. LeBrun is a four-year starter who has two 20-win seasons, including a 27-13 mark last season and a 69-44 career record. Maclellan had an outstanding freshman season a year ago with a 16-7 record and earned All-OAC honors. Montague also has started on-and-off the last two years, has one 20-win campaign to his credit, was 18-14 last season and is 40-33 in his career. Schmidt is another four-year starter who has a pair of 20-win seasons, including a 27-22 record last winter and a 64-47 career slate.
Look for Gibbs to begin the season with sophomores Chris Doyle (Akron/ Green) and Sean Kuklisin (Streetsboro) battling for Gunter's old starting spot at 125 pounds. Doyle had an 18-13 mark as a freshman.
Gunter moves to 133 pounds and will battle with senior Jacob Landers (Liberty Township/ Lakota East). Landers was 4-7 last season and is 17-36 in his career.
Decatur is the returning starter at 141 pounds and he will compete with juniors Patt McGinnis (Egg Harbor City, N.J./ Cedar Creek) and Zack Taylor (Brunswick) for mat time. McGinnis was 5-15 a year ago and is 10-27 in his career, and Taylor had a 13-12 mark last season and is 25-26 in two seasons.
Schmidt returns to 149 pounds for the fourth straight season and he will train with freshmen Benjamin Hooff (Worthington/ Thomas Worthington) and Evan Francis (Jefferson/ Kirtland), sophomores Sam Delarge (Clifton Park, N.J./ Albany Academy) and RJ Martin (Sunbury/ Big Walnut) and senior Jaleel Richardson (Copley). Delarge was 2-2 last season and Martin was 10-8. Richardson had a 2-11 slate last season.
Montague returns at 157 pounds and will receive competition from freshmen Richie Burke (Ithaca, N.Y./ Ithaca), sophomores Grant Rathburn (New Albany/ Columbus Bishop Hartley) and Blake Perry (Jefferson/ Jefferson Area) and junior Seamus Bermingham (Orchard Park, N.Y./ Orchard Park). Rathburn had a 17-11 mark as a freshman and Perry was 1-12. Bermingham was 18-10 in his second season and has a 25-20 career mark.
Shapiro is the incumbent at 165 pounds and he will receive a test from transfer Jimmy Sandlin (Carlisle and via Limestone, S.C. College) and Perry.
Chase is back at 174 pounds and will compete against freshman Anthony Arroyo (Maumee), sophomore Kaegan Pearsall (Moretown, Vt./ Harwood Union) and junior Kenny Faulkner (Beliot/ West Branch) for the starting role. Pearsall was 6-12 last season. Faulkner was 13-8 a year ago and has a 21-20 career mark.
LeBrun returns to 184 pounds and is expected to battle with freshmen Christopher Head (Massillon/ Jackson), Zeckary Lehman (Akron/ Richfield Revere) and sophomore Gabe Mahaney (North Canton/ Green) for mat time. Mahaney was 9-9 as a freshman.
Maclellan returns at 197 pounds and will compete with freshman Chris McCullough (Carlisle, Pa./ Carlisle), sophomores Sam Groff (Waynesburg/ Sandy Valley) and James Ritchie (Carlisle, Ohio/ Carlisle) and junior Tyler Keating (Fairview Park/ Fairview). Groff did not wrestle as a freshman and is currently a starting linebacker on the football team. Ritchie had a 2-9 slate a year ago. Keating was 7-12 last winter and has a 12-29 career mark.
Belford returns at 285. He lost his starting spot at the end of last season. This winter, he will battle with freshmen Landon Blackburn (Laport, Ind./ Laport) and Michael Gregory (Toledo/ Central Catholic) and sophomore Andrew Sierawski (Delaware/ Hayes), who is a starting offensive tackle in football. Sierawski, who started a few matches last winter as a freshman, had a solid, 15-9 mark.
The wrestlers open their season on Nov. 14 when they compete at the Ohio Duals at the Spire Complex in Geneva, Ohio. The first home match is on Wednesday, Nov. 18 versus cross-town rival Case Western Reserve University in the Ursprung Gym at 7:30 p.m.