Reloaded with 10 freshmen and a returning NCAA-tournament qualifier, the Binghamton wrestling team is ready to pin its competition. The Bearcats will embark upon their second campaign in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) after being accepted to the conference two years ago.
“We want to continue to climb up to the top tier in the EIWA,” BU head coach Matt Dernlan said. “That’s just one of the immediate goals. We were kind of middle-of-the-pack, lower-in-the-pack last year.”
Last season, with then-senior Cody Reed leading the Bearcats at the 197-pound class, BU finished with a 5-11 team record, 3-8 in EIWA meets. But with a year’s experience in the second-toughest conference in the nation, Dernlan is confident his team can rise to the occasion.
“I think we’ve got the talent to do it,” Dernlan said. “Finally two years worth of recruiting classes, a large portion of those [recruited] guys are going to be in the line up this year. These are guys that were sold on our vision and our philosophy for the program and to see them get a shot at the line-up is going to be exciting.”
Highlighting this year’s newcomers are 157-pound Vincent DePrez and 174-pound Steven Schneider, both of whom are slated to start in their respective weight classes. The two combined for a high school record of 95-1, securing state titles along the way. According to Dernlan, freshmen will also be starting at the 125, 133, 149 and 165 classes.
While getting fresh faces on the mat may be exciting for Binghamton, Dernlan anticipates the learning curve that awaits the team.
“There’s exciting things about starting freshmen and there’s also challenges,” Dernlan said. “Obviously, the talent’s there. These first two recruiting classes were both ranked top-15 in the country, so we got the talent. Developing it in the second-toughest conference in the entire country can come with some high moments and some low moments.”
But BU won’t be without senior leadership in 2014-15. Decorated senior Tyler Deuel will return as the heavyweight starter after ending his junior campaign at the EIWA championships. This season, Dernlan expects “big things” from the heavyweight.
“Tyler really leads by example,” Dernlan said. “To see how far he’s progressed in the two and a half years I’ve been here — it’s been pretty impressive. But he’s done it because he’s gone all in with our philosophy and our beliefs and really led by example in every aspect of the program.”
Taking on the task of replacing Reed at 197 is redshirt senior Caleb Wallace. The former 184-pounder added 13 pounds in the offseason to fill the three-time NCAA tournament qualifier’s role.
“He knows the shoes he has to fill,” Dernlan said. “But he’s been a starter in our lineup for about two and a half years now, so he knows the expectations. He knows that he needs to step up.”
The Bearcats are set to see their first live action on Sunday, hosting the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open at the Events Center.
“We’re just excited to get the season started,” Dernlan said. “[We’ve] always been working hard — a lot of preparation since the summer. We’re excited that it’s time to get out on the mats.”