In the lead up to the Maryland wrestling team’s Red & Black Wrestle-offs, we will preview the contenders for spots at each weight class the the help of Terrapin head coach Kerry McCoy. First up are the 125, 133 and 141 weight classes.
When the Maryland wrestling team officially started practice last week, not only did the normal routine of preparation get under way, but the competition for positions began.
That’s because for each wrestler, the way to achieve ACC and NCAA tournament success is to first become the No. 1 wrestler in their weight class for the Terps. In the lower weight classes, that competition could yield some new faces in big roles for Maryland when the season officially kicks off with the Terrapin Duals on Nov. 4.
Senior Shane Gentry, who has anchored the Terps at 125 since his freshman year, could move up in weight this season, creating an opening for McCoy at college wrestling’s lowest weight class.
The candidates for that spot include redshirt sophomore Paul O’Neill, who went 8-7 in dual meets last season, recording three pins along the way. The Bethesda native also won the Wilkes Open at 125.
“Paul was the backup for the last year and a half and he’s done a great job and had some quality competitions,” McCoy said. “Paul’s the front runner because he was the guy last year.”
If O’Neill does indeed become the starter, he will face ample competition in the practice room from sophomore Billy Rappo, redshirt freshmen Cody Stageberg and Mike Parise and true freshman Tyler Goodwin.
Rappo, another Terp in potential weight class flux, went 6-10 last season, including two wins apiece at the Wilkes Open and F&M Open. Stageberg was a 2011 Virginia state champion.
If Gentry does move up in weight, the competition for the starting spot at 133 pounds between the senior, and two-year starter and NCAA qualifier, junior Geoffry Alexander, will be hotly contested.
Alexander has been a standout performer at 133 since he walked on campus, finishing second at the ACC championships as a freshman before notching a 17-3 record in duals as a sophomore. Alexander also recorded five victories over ranked opposition last season.
The junior is ranked in multiple preseason polls, and will be leaned on to provide the Terps with consistent performance and strong leadership.
“He’s established himself as one of the more dominant wrestlers that we’ve had. He’s one of our most dedicated and hardest working guys,” McCoy said. “Our focus this year is putting him into a championship mentality. We want him to be focused on being the best in the country.”
The potential test of Gentry would certainly not be easy for Alexander. An NCAA qualifier his sophomore campaign, the Virginia native has recorded double digit dual meet wins the past two seasons at 125. If nothing else, the hard-nosed competitor’s presence at the weight class could make some of Alexander’s hardest work come in the practice room.
Last year’s starter Frank Goodwin’s move to 149 has created an opening for the Terps at 141 pounds, one that McCoy expects sophomore Shyheim Brown to fill.
The Pennsylvania native served a redshirt season last year and rolled to a 32-9 record in open competition. Brown’s second place finish at the National Collegiate Open accounted for one of his seven top-four finishes in open competition.
“Shyheim’s got great counter offense and he’s really hard to takedown,” McCoy said. “All-around, he’s just a solid guy. The thing we stress with him is to go all out and don’t save anything. When he lets it all flow, he’s unbelievable.”
Junior Shane Arechiga will also be a factor at 141. Arechiga went 19-15 last year and has always impressed the coaching staff with his hard work. If the native of Silver Spring is unable to overcome Brown for the starting spot, he will provide a tough challenge week after week in practice.