The winter sports season always seems to creep up on us, and with the leaves still sticking to tree tops it is hard to believe that the men’s wrestling team will be off to competition this weekend. With five new first-year wrestlers, the Cards will roll into the annual Roger Williams Invitational in Bristol, R.I. ready to make a statement against nationally ranked teams such as No. 8 Roger Williams and No. 2 Messiah College.

Last year Wes placed 7th out of 11 teams, and the squad has since graduated three of their star wrestlers: Chris Siracusa ’16, Keonmin Hwang ’16, and captain Taran Carr ’16. Carr was awarded second team honors in the 174 weight class at the end of last season, on top of being named a 2016 National Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar All-American. Carr had also gone 30-10 and placed 4th at NCAA regionals. Siracusa was named a national scholar All-American, placed 5th at NCAA regionals, and finished his senior season with a 30-7 record. The rest of the team knew they had big shoes to fill at the end of last season. This year’s senior class is no disappointment, with veteran and competitor in the 2016 NCAA Division III Championships Devon Carrillo ’17 returning alongside talented teammates Frank Crippen ’17 and Robert Rosenberg ’17. Accepting the role of captains, Isaiah Bellamy ’18 and Dominic Pirraglia ’18 are eager to lead the team into their first matchups on Saturday and surpass last year’s overall 11-8 record.

A close eye will be on the rookies, and who will debut this weekend is not yet clear. A first-year from Millstone, N.J. competing in the 195 weight class is Zachary Turner ’20. New Jersey high school sports articles have covered Turner extensively, commenting on his Region 7 Championship title and his plans to study linguistics and physics here at Wesleyan. The articles highlight Turner as a challenge addict and one heck of a difficult wrestler to face.

Tristan Stetson ’20, wrestling in the 130 weight class, is from Keene, N.H. Stetson was the No.1 seed in his weight class in Division I of the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association Wrestling Championships.

Grant Hill ’20 is from Easton, Conn. and went to Hopkins School where he wrestled in the 157 weight class. Hill’s team took 19th out of 45 teams in the New England tournament back in February. Hill placed 5th in his 152 weight class.

Another New Hampshire native, Amir Daouk ’20 comes from Tabor Academy and will wrestle in the 125 weight class. Daouk won his third New England tournament title this past February and his team finished 8th out of the 52 schools. Daouk qualified for Nationals, which were held at Lehigh University in Pa. In the 120 weight class, Daouk came in 8th in the Lehigh tournament.

The final first-year joining the Cards is Aaron Cranston ’20 of Pikesville, Md. He ranked No. 15 in the 170 weight class in December according to the Maryland State Wrestling Association, where he wrestled for his high school Gilman.

These five rookies add to a now nineteen-person wrestling squad. The team is completed by Carter Armendarez ’18 (149), Roy Forys ’19 (165), Dylan Jones ’19 (125), James Matias ’19 (141), Zack Murillo ’19 (125), Jonathan Oh ’19 (141), Shane Ross ’19 (133), Nicholas Taylor ’19 (149), and Matt Winchester ’18 (165). The Cards are led by head coach Drew Black and assistant coaches Matt Moran and Blair Tugman. Coach Black has been coaching the men’s wrestling team since 1998 and has a 172-141-3 record overall with a .549 winning percentage. He has been an absolute force of nature for the program and is dedicated to his wrestlers on and off the mat.

After Roger Williams, the team has a week-long break from competition. They return the following weekend, traveling to Springfield College for the Doug Parker Invite.

Though the team emphasizes a well-known grueling work ethic, the Cards hold each other and themselves to high academic and moral standards beyond practice and competition. One can see these wrestlers on the track for an afternoon jog together, at Weswings together, in the library together, and in the weight room together. They have an all for one mentality where, although each wrestler may be alone on the mat, he’s never alone in the competition. Wes is anxious to see what this 2016-2017 team has to offer this season and the wait is officially over. Leaves haven’t fallen yet, but the team is hoping some opponents do this weekend at Roger Williams.

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