April 1, 2003
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - In Coach John McHugh's 25th and final season as head coach of the Maryland wrestling team, he had high hopes for success.
Returning to the team were two seniors, Jake Stork, a two-time NCAA qualifier as well as a two-time ACC runner-up, and Sal Aquia, back after a one-year hiatus from wrestling. McHugh also had young talent in freshmen John-Henry Zarzycki and Jason Kiessling as well as returning starter Matt Pandullo.
The Terps began the season well with their senior leaders coming out hot from the gate. In the first full team tournament of the season, both Stork and Aquia scored second-place finishes at the East Stroudsburg Open.
The Terps' tournament schedule continued, and many of the Terps continued to show strong improvement. In the second tournament of the season, the Penn State Open, Stork continued to wrestle well, and the Terps got an unexpected boost from Zarzycki. Both Zarzycki and Stork followed the same path, winning two matches before dropping down to wrestle backs where they each won three matches in posting fifth-place finishes
The Wilkes-Barre Open proved to be a stepping stone for Stork. He won all four of his matches via pin fall and cruised to a first-place finish. The four wins gave him seven consecutive wins for the season, and was just the beginning of what would be a 27-match win streak that would extend all the way to the ACC Championships.
Fittingly, in the final tournament of 2002, the Terps wrestled their best. Five wrestlers placed at the Hitchcock Classic held in Millersville, Pa. Stork continued his dominance by pinning two more wrestlers en route to another tournament victory, and following in his shoes were Jason Gribschaw (4th place), Stephen Lanciotti (4th place), John Antonelli (6th place) and Eric Fehnel (3rd place).
Beginning the 2003 dual meet season, the Terps were looking to best last year's record of 10-4. Starting off hot, they won their first two dual meets of the season against Montclair and Anderson before falling to SUNY-Brockport in the finals of the Virginia Duals in early January.
Pushing on, the Terps lost two tough matches against Navy, 26-9, and ACC foe NC State. The Midshipmen handed the Terps their worst loss of the season thus far, but it was the match against the Wolfpack that really hurt.
Maryland fell down early, but clutch wins by Stork and Aquia sparked the Terps comeback, and with one match to go, they were within striking distance of the win. In the final match, Fehnel got pinned; the Terps lost, setting the stage for the rest of the dual meet season.
Bouncing back after the tough loss, the Terps won three straight, including a 45-4 victory over McDaniel, the Terps' largest margin of victory since a 1989-90 match against Coppin State.
Continuing the Terps' six-match road trip that included matches against McDaniel and Rutgers, the Terps headed down to the North Carolina for three matches. The Tar Heels easily got by the Terps, and Duke overcame an early lead to drop the Terps to 0-3 in ACC action. In the last match in North Carolina, the Terps beat out Duquesne 21-13 behind strong performances from Pandullo, Stork and Aquia. The finale of the road trip pitted the Terps against local rival American University, and the Terps turned in one of their best performances of the year. Winning nine out of ten matches, Maryland easily beat American 40-6.
Ending the season with two home matches was key for the Terps as they got some much needed rest as well as confidence heading into postseason action. After easily defeating Old Dominion, the Terps faced undefeated ACC foe Virginia, and although they dropped the match, the Terps wrestled hard and gave the Cavaliers an unexpected run for their money.
Heading into the ACC Championships held in Boone, N.C., Maryland had a slew of hopefuls for nationals. Stork won the regular season 184-pound crown, while both Aquia and Adam James finished second in ACC regular season action.
The team did not perform as well as expected at the ACC tournament as Stork, for the third consecutive season, lost in the championship match to a wrestler he beat earlier in the year, but James finished as expected in second and Aquia placed third.
Stork was the sole wrestler to qualify directly to nationals, but James was a second alternate for the ACC. Had another wrestler been unable to go, James would have earned a bid, but alas it was not to be.
Stork represented Maryland well at nationals, winning three matches before falling out to sixth-seeded Clint Wattenberg of Cornell.
The Terps' season was highlighted by many great individual performances. For the season, Stork led the NCAA in pins with 23, and finished second in the 184-pound weight class in wins. Zarzycki won an almost unheard of 23 matches as a freshman, Aquia came back from a year off to win 19, and fellow freshman Kiessling posted 18 wins.
Maryland's overall record of 6-7 (0-4 in the ACC) was a bit of a disappointment, but the Terps have a lot to look forward to as their younger wrestlers develop.