Oct. 19, 2009
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - By many accounts, the University of Maryland wrestling team had a record-setting season in 2008-09. With three All-Americans and six individual Atlantic Coast Conference champions returning, the outlook for the upcoming season is even more promising. Experts around the country agree, as the Terps earned their highest preseason ranking in school history - No. 6 - by several wrestling publications.
The Terps are coming off a season in which they won their second straight ACC Championship and finished in 10th place at the NCAA Championships. Head coach Kerry McCoy earned ACC Coach of the Year honors for helping the Terps to one of their best finishes in school history. The 2009-10 promises to be a challenging one, but McCoy looks to build from last year's momentum.
"I am really excited about the upcoming season," said McCoy. "We have high expectations for this year and with the work the guys have put in this summer and fall, I know we can reach our goals."
Taylor has won a combined 75 matches over the past two seasons, and is just the fourth repeat All-American in school history. He has finished third in the past two NCAA Championships.
"Hudson is on pace to break a lot of Maryland records this season," said McCoy. "He has to keep everything in perspective and take one day at a time. But I think he is right where he needs to be and is getting better every day."
Standing out among a host of other returnees are Jon Kohler (141), Brian Letters (157) and Mike Letts (174), who all have ACC individual championships on their resume. Pat Gilmore (heavyweight), Corey Peltier (184), Josh Asper (165) will be key contributors as well.
"Pat Gilmore, Brian Letters and Corey Peltier were very close to going to NCAA's last year and the fire is burning even brighter in those three," McCoy said. "Mike Letts, Josh Asper and Jon Kohler are coming off very successful redshirt seasons and look to stake their claim as some of the best wrestlers in the country."
The Terps will face another tough schedule this season, which will undoubtedly leave the team well-prepared for the postseason. In addition to a challenging ACC slate, Maryland will have high-profile matches against Central Michigan, Kent State, American, Navy, Hofstra, Penn and Purdue, among others.
"Similar to last year, we will have a very tough schedule," said McCoy. "We will face some of the nation's best teams and compete in some very tough events. The National Duals is one event that I am really looking forward to. This schedule will be a challenge, but it will make sure we are prepared for the postseason."
The 125-pound division could be one of the more competitive weight classes on the team this season. The Terps will have to replace 2009 ACC Champion Brendan Byrne, who graduated and is now with the team as an assistant coach. James Knox, Lou Ruland and Pat Stritzki are the top contenders for the starting position, and all three have experience from last season. Knox won nine matches wresting at 133 pounds last season, while Ruland won 21 and recorded the second-fastest fall (38 seconds) of the season for the Terps. Stritzki, meanwhile, won eight matches at 125 pounds.
Steven Bell, an All-American and two-time ACC Champion, returns at 133 pounds. Bell won 29 matches last season, including a 15-1 record (.938 winning percentage) in dual meets. Last season, Bell defeated seven ranked wrestlers and won five matches at the NCAA Championship, and will be counted upon again to provide leadership and be an impact wrestler.
Senior Alex Krom is back at the 141-pound division and primed for another big season for the Terps. Krom won the ACC Championship and saw almost all of the action at 141 last season. Perhaps his most impressive victory of the year came in the first round of the NCAA Championships, when he defeated No. 6 Alex Tsirtsis of Iowa, on his way to a fifth-place finish. Krom won 25 matches overall last season, including a team-high 17 in dual action, and finished with a perfect 5-0 record in ACC dual matches.
Jon Kohler moves up one weight class from 141 pounds, and is expected to see most of the action here. Kohler won 24 matches last season, and was the ACC champion at 141 in 2008. Dexter Lederer and Chris Stinnett are back as well, and newcomer Justin Cash could factor into the equation.
Brian Letters, a versatile wrestler and ACC champ at 157 pounds as a freshman in 2008, looks to be the first option at 157 pounds in 2009-10. Letters won 23 matches at 165 pounds last season and narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Kyle John, a 15-match winner a year ago, Andrew Bradley, and freshman Jimmy Sheptock should challenge Letters for time at 157.
Josh Asper won the second-most matches (34) for the Terps in 2008-09, dominating open competition in his redshirt season. After claiming five open titles a year ago, Asper will be the first option at 165 pounds this year. Newcomers Andrik Cruz and Steven Gamble will also look to challenge here.
Mike Letts, who won 26 matches and was ranked No. 11 starting last season, returns at 174 pounds. Letts won four open titles during his redshirt season and finished 5th in the Midlands. An ACC champion in 2007 and 2008, Letts figures to be a strong All-America candidate this season.
Corey Peltier moves to 184 pounds and looks to be the starter for the Terps as a sophomore in 2009-10. Peltier won 13 matches at 174 pounds last year, and will be pushed by seniors Richard Dipietro and Bradley Nielson, as well as freshman Dallas Brown.
Having established himself as one of the best wrestlers in the nation, Hudson Taylor returns for his final season in College Park. Ranked as high as No. 2 last year, Taylor is a two-time All-American, a 2008 ACC Champion in his weight division, and has finished third at the NCAA Championships the past two seasons. He had a team-high 38 wins, including 19 by pin, also a team-best. Taylor defeated 12 ranked opponents last season, highlighted by his win over No. 3 Tyrel Todd of Michigan, capturing his third-place finish at the NCAA's. Taylor, a two-year captain, is one of the most decorated wrestlers in Maryland history.
The heavyweight division is another strength for the Terps, with senior Pat Gilmore having secured the position for the past two seasons. Gilmore won 24 matches a season ago, and will be pushed by junior Owen Duffy.
After a 10th-place finish at the NCAA's last year, tied for the best in school history, the Terps face yet another trying schedule in 2009-10.
The season will kick off on October 24 with the annual Red and Black Wrestle-Offs, which will determine the initial starting lineup and feature some exhibition matches. The following weekend the Terps to head to New York for the Buffalo Open on November 1.
Maryland returns home for its first home matches on November 7, when it faces Drexel University and York College.
The toughest test of the young season will come during the next two weekends. The Terps return to the road on November 20 for a match against No. 3 Cornell, and will then compete in the Body Bar Invitational in Ithaca, N.Y., on the 21st. Maryland will also send a partial squad to the East Stroudsburg Open on the same weekend.
On November 28, Maryland travels to Troy, N.Y., to take on a Central Michigan team ranked No. 7 by Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine. The match will be an emotional one for Maryland assistant Brandon Sinnott, who was an All-American for the Chippewas and served as their volunteer assistant last season. The Terps also face Lehigh, led by former Maryland head coach Pat Santoro, and Northern Colorado on the 28th. Some Terps may compete in the Mat Town Open on the same day.
Maryland will open Atlantic Coast Conference competition on December 4 when it travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., to take on the Tar Heels.
The Terps will send some wrestlers to the Penn State Open on December 6 before hosting nationally ranked Penn on the 11th in College Park.
Following a holiday break, Maryland will return to action at the Wilkes Open (Dec. 27) and the Midlands Championships (Dec. 29-30), which will both be tough tests.
Maryland travels to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for the NWCA National Duals January 9-10. This is the first time the Terps have ever competed in this event. A week later they head to Ashland, Ohio, to face Ashland, as well as nationally ranked Kent State and Purdue.
The Terps make the short trip to face off against Navy in Annapolis, Md., on January 22 before returning home for a dual conference meet with NC State and Duke on January 23.
McCoy takes his team to Fairfax, Va., for a matchup with George Mason on January 29, then returns home for bouts against Virginia Tech (Feb. 6), American (Feb. 12), and Hofstra (Feb. 14).
Maryland closes the regular season at Virginia on February 20.
The ACC Championships will be held March 6 in Raleigh, N.C., where the Terps will look to win their third straight conference championship. The NCAA Championships will be held March 18-20 in Omaha, Neb., with the Terps looking to improve upon a 10th-place finish a year ago.