Last season, the BU wrestling team had one of the most successful campaigns put forth by a Binghamton sports program in the 2017-18 school year. After a half-year offseason, the wrestling team finally returns to the mat, looking to replicate the success it captured just a year ago.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle the team will face in this venture is filling the void left after the graduation of Steven Schneider, ‘18, who was one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever don a Bearcat uniform, totaling 108 wins in his college career and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament three times. Schneider was the driving force behind the Bearcats’ highest-ever finish at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Tournament last season, and the team will certainly miss his presence on the roster.
On the positive side for the Bearcats, redshirt junior Frankie Garcia, the other big piece who propelled the Bearcats last year, returns to the mat with the team. Garcia led the team last season with 27 overall victories, earning a 13-4 record in dual matches and contributing 43 team points along the way. Garcia was the only Bearcat to advance to the NCAA Tournament alongside Schneider, and posted a 2-1 record on the big stage.
The team also returns redshirt seniors Joe Nelson and Vincent DePrez, both of whom will be competing for their final time as Bearcats this year. DePrez posted a team-best 14 wins in dual play last season and contributed a team-high 59 points.
Nelson, meanwhile, stepped up as a leader in the 125-pound weight class. Entering last season with just a 2-12 record in dual play, Nelson flipped things around by contributing 29 team points on a solid 10-5 record, part of an overall 25-11 season.
The Bearcats also enter the season with a change in leadership, as it was announced that redshirt sophomore Alex Melikian will become a team captain for the season. Melikian struggled last season, putting up just a 6-16 record because of a sudden shift in weight class that he was asked to undergo.
“Last year [Melikian] bumped up two weight classes to fill a hole that we had at 197 pounds,” said BU head coach Kyle Borshoff, per bubearcats.com. “Despite being massively undersized, he never complained or allowed his circumstances to negatively affect his attitude. I am hoping that his eagerness to go the extra mile in all aspects of his life translates over to his teammates and [I] am confident that he will lead by example in his role as captain.”
This upcoming season marks a special occasion for the wrestling team, as it marks the 50th season that the program has been in existence. To commemorate the occasion, the BU athletic department has scheduled an event-filled weekend running up to the opening event of the season, highlighted by a reception to be held the evening of Saturday, Nov. 10.
The wrestling season officially gets underway the next morning with the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open, which will feature wrestlers from 18 different teams. The event is slated to begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11 from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.