Which New York college team could start a Fargo National champion, a three-time state champion and a two-time New York titlewinner in the middleweights this year?
If you answered Niagara County Community College, you’re correct.
The squad accomplished quite a bit during last season, collecting conference and region titles and a fourth place showing at the NJCAA National Duals, according to head coach Keith Maute. With some quality returners and talented newcomers, expectations are once again high.
“We did some really good things last year,” Maute said. “We didn’t have a great national tournament, but ended up with two All-Americans.”
One will be Kevin Strong (149), who fell just one win shy of being on the medal stand a year ago. According to Maute, Strong faced a tough road at the Nationals, losing by a point to the eventual champion and then in the Round of 12 to the bronze medalist.
In addition, Max Antone and Gunner Thomas, both regional champions in 2013, will return, but in different spots. Antone will move from heavyweight to 197, while Thomas will transition from 197 to 184. (Maute said Cedrick Stephens, a New York State qualifier, will also contend at 184). Meanwhile, Tyler Bruce will get a chance to show what he can do. Maute said Bruce won close to 30 matches last year, but couldn’t consistently break into the starting group.
Bruce, a 157-pounder, could be surrounded in the lineup by some of the incoming talent. A pair of transfers from Buffalo, Chris Nevinger (a three-time state champion from Letchworth Central) and Jimmy Kloc (a 2011 and 2012 gold medalist from Iroquois), both look to win big right out of the gate. Nevinger will be at 165 while Kloc could compete at 141 or 149. (Maute mentioned that Barry Hart and Michael Carson add great depth in the middleweights and are working extremely hard).
In addition, Mark Havers, the aforementioned Fargo National champion, joined Niagara from Clarion. The two-time Pennsylvania state finalist will take the mat at 174 for NCCC this winter.
“I expect all of those guys to do very well,” Maute said. “They’re all really good wrestlers who are ready to contribute.”
They all certainly came in with strong credentials. The same could be said at the heavyweight spot, where Maute has a plethora of options. Fans in Albany have seen Aaron Kroll, El Shaddai Van Hoesen, Kacee Sauer and Matt Montesanti wrestle in the state finals over the past few years. They’re all on the roster, as is Jim Donner, another formidable big man.
“They’re all pretty good,” Maute said. “Donner’s a little older and he wrestled Division I a few years ago. It’s hard to pick just one to talk about. There will definitely be interesting wrestleoffs for that heavyweight spot. We’ll see who comes out on top and some will probably redshirt.”
In the lightweights, Cody Carberry returns after competing as a bit of an undersized 125 for NCCC a year ago. Maute said Eric Velez, Marcus Popp, Jude Gardner and Lance Compton will be in the mix for starting roles.
“Eric Velez is going to be very good,” the coach said. “Out of high school he went to Brockport and he’s been working, taking care of his family. He did some MMA, stayed in good shape. I’m looking forward to seeing him. We have a lot of good guys who can step in across the lineup. We feel like we have a really nice roster.”
That roster will once again look to make an impact at the National Duals. But first Maute said he looks forward to competing with all the other Empire State teams at the New York State Intercollegiates in November in Ithaca.
“We’re really excited about the team we have,” Maute said. “We have to get everyone in the right weights, stay healthy and stay on the right path academically and we’ll be ok. This is the long part – the preseason. We’re looking forward to getting on the mat with some competition and seeing how this all plays out.”
NCCC Roster (As Provided by Keith Maute)
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