The Binghamton Bearcats enter their second season under head coach Matt Dernlan with some exciting changes. There is a new conference, an expanded home schedule and the arrival of a top 25 recruiting class. Assistant Jasen Borshoff spoke to New York Wrestling News about the upcoming campaign, including the projected lineup and expectations for 2013-14.
New York Wrestling News (NYWN): It will be your first year in the EIWA conference. What does that move mean for the program?
Jasen Borshoff (JB): We couldn’t be happier. The EIWA is a better place to be for us. There are great teams and we’re more aligned from an academic profile standpoint. It also helps our travel budget – we can get to so many of the schools within three hours. There are also more qualifying spots for nationals, which will give our guys a lot of opportunities. We’re really excited to be part of the EIWA.
NYWN: What are some of the highlights of your schedule this year?
JB: We have seven home matches this year instead of one. That’s exciting. For the most part, we’ll be wrestling most of the EIWA teams in duals and we’re excited about the Journeymen/Asics Northeast Duals in Albany. Going to Midlands is always a good test for the guys. Right off the bat, we’ll get good gauge of where we are with the Bearcat Open at home. We typically cut off the field at 300 wrestlers, but this year, we have a goal of 500 kids. We’ll do 12 mats at the Events Center and there will be a lot of really good wrestlers there. Cornell usually sends most of the team. This year, Penn State will be sending guys and so will Ohio State, Lehigh and other really good teams. It will be big for our team, especially because it will decide a few of our weights for the early season.
NYWN: What are the expectations for the team this year?
JB: We’d like to have half our team qualify for nationals and have some All-Americans. The way I see it, we can’t do any worse than last year because we didn’t have any All-Americans. We’re looking to change that this year.
Let’s take a look at the weight-by-weight to see who will try to break through to the podium for the Bearcats in 2013-14:
A number of the spots in the lineup have a strong favorite. This isn’t necessarily one of them. A pair of wrestlers who racked up large win totals last year – David White and Mike Sardo – continue to battle it out at the lightest weight. (White redshirted while Sardo took over at 125 when starter Patrick Hunter was injured). White has some experience in the EIWA, having placed sixth at 125 for Army at the conference tournament in his freshman season before transferring.
“This weight is up in the air,” Borshoff said. “Both guys have gotten a lot better over the past year. Mike had the fourth most wins on the team last year and David also won at least 25 matches. That will be a weight to watch at the [Bearcat] Open.”
A familiar face to Empire State wrestling fans is likely to man 133 pounds as a true freshman. New York’s 2013 Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winner, Nick Tighe of Phoenix, looks to carry over his high school success to the college level after finishing his career with his third straight state title in 2013 (at 138 pounds).
“Nick has gotten his weight down and is a wrecking ball,” Borshoff said. “He’s really tough and hard to wrestle. We’re excited to see how he’ll look at the Open in his first competition.”
While Tighe won the state championship at 138 pounds in Division II a year ago, Nick Kelley accomplished that feat at the same weight in Division I. Kelley has impressed so far, but will most likely redshirt. Looking to start at 141 are a trio of grapplers – Dylan Cohen, Dylan Caruana and David Almaviva.
“This will be a very young weight for us,” Borshoff said. “[Caruana] redshirted last year and has put on a lot of size this summer. [Cohen] was pulled out of redshirt during the season last year and is now at a better weight – he struggled to make 133 last year. [Almaviva] is a true freshman. He may only have one year in him at 141 before moving up, so we’ll see how he does. The question is who will show up most at the Open? We’re not sure what will happen here yet.”
Joe Bonaldi started last season with a bang. At the Binghamton Open, he defeated returning All-American Mike Nevinger in his opening bout and won the title, also topping NCAA qualifier Dan Neff. In the process, he entered the national rankings and looked primed for a breakout campaign. Unfortunately, an injury prevented that from taking place. He made a return to the lineup very late in the season, competing just once before the CAA tournament. The Bearcats are excited to have the Rochester native back.
“Joe’s doing really well,” Borshoff said. “He was doing really well last year early on too. He came back for the CAAs last year, but it was too long of a layoff before that. It will be interesting to see how the move to 149 works – he’ll be tested right away at the Open. He’s a guy to keep an eye on this year. He’s definitely very talented and he gives [assistant coach] Teyon [Ware] trouble in the room and we know how good Teyon is.”
Last year’s starter Jack McKeever will redshirt, and three wrestlers will look to get the nod in this class – Nick Mauriello, Ben Price and Brian Conrad. Conrad was a spot starter last season, while Mauriello redshirted. In high school, Mauriello earned fourth in New York as a senior for Hauppauge while Price was a two-time Vermont state champion and Conrad won the Section 8 title, according to the Binghamton athletics website.
Vincent Grella returns after handling the starting duties in 2012-13. He topped Drexel’s Connor Moran at the CAA championships.
“He got a lot better at the end of last year,” Borshoff said. “He wrestles hard and got some good experience. We think he’ll have a good year for us.”
In 2011, John Paris was the CAA Rookie of the Year. But injuries have interrupted him since then. However, he’s expected to be the starter once again after winning the job for the postseason a year ago.
“John’s a talented wrestler but he’s always been plagued by injuries,” Borshoff said. “Last year, John and Caleb Wallace kept flip flopping back and forth as our starter, but John won the final wrestleoff to take the spot. Bringing in [two-time New York state champion] Zack Zupan, who is doing very well but probably redshirting, has made John a lot better. He’s been fighting hard – he sees the competition and wants the spot.”
After battling both Paris and injuries last season, Caleb Wallace is ready to take hold of the 184-pound role. Wallace began the 2012-13 campaign well, defeating eventual EIWA champion Nathaniel Brown of Lehigh in an early dual by fall.
“Caleb is another good wrestler for us who has had trouble staying healthy,” Borshoff said. “We’re excited to see how he does moving up a weight after having a decent cut to make 174 last year.”
Cody Reed is the only projected starter who wrestled at the NCAAs last year. In fact, he has been to Nationals twice. In 2012, he registered one of the big upsets of the first round in St. Louis when he topped fourth-seeded Christian Boley of Maryland at 197 pounds, before finishing 2-2. Last season, Reed dropped down to 184 and once again qualified for the “Big Show”, going 0-2 following an 18-win campaign. Now, he’ll be back at 197 again, looking to win a few more matches on the national stage.
“Cody went down to 184 last year when Nate Schiedel moved up, but Cody’s much better off at 197,” Borshoff said. “He’s very capable – I wouldn’t count him out at Nationals. He was up and down last year, but got the job done in the qualifier. He wanted to do better at Nationals, but he has his senior year to look forward to.”
Tyler Deuel moved from 197 to heavyweight before last season and wound up with the third most wins on the team, according to Borshoff. Now, with a year of experience at the heaviest weight class, the coach thinks he’s ready to show even more.
“Tyler’s a great kid, always working out extra and trying to learn,” Borshoff said. “He had a good year last year and he’ll do even better this year because he’s acclimated to the weight. This year he’s a very solid 245 pounds – he’s ripped for a heavyweight.”
Borshoff had very positive things to say about the standout rookie class. Some were mentioned above. Others, such as multiple-time New York State champion Kyle Kelly, NYS placer Robert Person and two-time silver medalist Bryce Mazurowski, will likely redshirt.
How will the first year in the EIWA go? How many wrestlers will Binghamton qualify for the NCAAs this year? We’ll find out more as Binghamton opens the season on November 10 at home with the Bearcat Open.
Note: the Bearcat Open has been renamed the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open to honor the memory of Navy Seal (and former Binghamton wrestler) Jonathan Kaloust, who died during a training accident this spring.