Roar of the Lions: Columbia Looks to Build Upon Historic Year (The 2013-14 Season Preview)

One of the loudest ovations during the Saturday morning medal rounds at the 2013 NCAA Championships came after Steve Santos topped Dylan Ness for third place at 149 pounds. The announcer told the crowd that the bronze medal showing by Santos was the highest finish in the history of Columbia wrestling.

Matt Bystol, Courtesy of Brock Malone

That stellar performance by Santos in Des Moines was one of the many highlights for the Lions in 2012-13.  The squad sent five wrestlers to Nationals and had three EIWA finalists. Santos won the conference title while Matt Bystol (133) and Josh Houldsworth (165) nabbed silver.

Santos, Jake O’Hara (157) and Stephen West (174), all longtime starters and leaders for the Ivy League program, have graduated, but their final season with Columbia set the tone going forward.

“I think what happened last year paves the way for the younger guys,” said head coach Carl Fronhofer. “The expectations are now higher as a result.  It’s a good thing – we don’t have to preach it all the time because the guys saw what was accomplished and they know what’s expected here.  There’s a higher bar to jump over now.”

The squad will look to jump over that bar during a challenging schedule.

“Early in the year we’ll have some pretty big matches at the Northeast Duals,” Fronhofer said. “Midlands is obviously always a huge test – a good measuring stick.  We have a solid dual schedule in February – Ivy duals are always exciting and important to us.  We’ll be ready to go by the end of the year.”

What does he expect the team to accomplish after last year’s achievements?

“Our goals really don’t change,” he said. “We’ll be a younger team this year, but we always are trying to win the Ivy League title, the EIWA title and be a top 10 team nationally.  We’ve put a lot of pieces in place to do that.  We’ll be young and exciting this year with some fresh faces.”

Those fresh faces include a rookie group that has made an impact already in the room.

“We’re really excited about the freshman class that’s getting after it with a great work ethic and attitude,” Fronhofer said. “They’ve bonded really well.  We’ll have a lot of spots up for grabs this year and there will be an opportunity for some of those freshmen to get into the lineup.  We only started one freshman last year [Alec Mooradian at 141], but I’ll be pretty surprised if that happens again this year.”

The following is a weight-by-weight look at the Lions for the upcoming campaign:

125:

Penn Gottfried has been the starter at this weight for multiple seasons.  A year ago, he posted eight victories.  Fronhofer expects Gottfried to be challenged in the room, but believes the Section 1 native has made significant strides going into the 2013-14 campaign.

“Penn looks good and strong,” Fronhofer said. “I expect him to make a jump this year. I’ll be really surprised if we don’t see better results.  He does everything right and eventually that pays off for you.  He will be pushed by a couple of guys.  Johnson Mai, a California state champ and double Fargo finalist, made some improvements and put on some size last year.  He’s still a little small at the weight, but he has the ability to win a bunch of matches at Open tournaments this year.”

133:

Last year, Matt Bystol began the season at 141.  However, in the second semester, Bystol made the transition down to 133, where he went on an impressive run, making the EIWA finals and qualifying for the NCAA tournament (He won a match in Des Moines over Davidson’s Anthony Elias).  The same approach may be on tap again this year.

“The current plan is to follow a similar strategy,” Fronhofer said. “He’s big for 133, so he’ll probably start the year at 141.  If he’s winning at a high level, he might consider staying, but the plan now is to have him be ready to get down to ‘33’ by Midlands.  We have a few guys in the room who could see time at this weight.  Joey Moita is also big for the weight, but he looks pretty good this preseason.  We have two freshmen from Long Island, Chris Araoz and Matt Leshinger, who could see some time here.”

141:

Alec Mooradian took over the 141-pound job in his first year as a Lion, picking up dual victories in Ivy action against Princeton and Brown.  As mentioned earlier, Matt Bystol will likely be in this class initially as well.

“When all is said and done, I think we’ll see Alec at 141, at least in the second semester. He’s definitely a competitor.  [Matt] Leshinger might find himself here as well.  People keep asking me what the lineup will look like and I say – your guess is as good as mine,” Fronhofer said jokingly. “That’s a good thing because we have lots of guys competing hard in the room and lots of talented wrestlers.”

149:

Taking over for the highest placer in school history (Steve Santos) won’t be an easy task. But both Ryan Ponte and Connor Sutton are looking to take on the challenge.

“Ponte had a great summer, put on some mass and trained really hard,” Fronhofer said. “Connor Sutton was at 157 last year but was small at that weight. He’ll be competitive for the spot as well.”

157:

Longtime starter and multi-time NCAA qualifier Jake O’Hara graduated, leaving an open battle for the 157 slot.  According to Fronhofer, there is a line of candidates looking to get the nod.

“We probably have 4-5 guys competing for that spot,” the coach said. “We have some guys who have been in the room for a while and have collegiate experience.  They couldn’t break into the lineup because of Santos or O’Hara but they’re good kids who work hard and want their chance. I’m talking about guys like Chad Ryan, Jake Kazimir, Kevin Brown and Ben Villaret. We also have freshman Markus Scheidel [2013 Fargo Freestyle National Champion], who will be competitive right out of the gate.  He has a big gas tank and will make the transition quickly. We’re going to hold a mini tournament and see what happens and then go to MSU Open and see what happens there. We have options.”

165:

Josh Houldsworth had a breakthrough season in 2012-13, winning 20 bouts and taking second at the EIWA championships.  He made his first appearance at the NCAA tournament and looks for another leap in performance this year.

“Josh had an awesome summer and put more mass on,” Fronhofer said.  “Obviously, he made a big move from 149 to 165 last year and he has continued to fill into the weight.  We expect a lot of big things out of him and he’s thinking the same way. His freshman year we needed a ’41’ pounder and he struggled with cutting so much weight.  His sophomore year he was behind Santos at 149.  We always knew he could wrestle and the potential was there.  Last year, he didn’t have to worry about the weight and with growing and lifting he was able to do the things he did. He’s done some critical work this summer and I think you’ll see another big jump out of him.”

174:

Like Santos and O’Hara, Stephen West was a mainstay in the Columbia lineup, starting for years at 174 pounds.  His departure leaves an opportunity for wrestlers such as Adam Fondale, Eric Fajardo and Drew Rebling to see significant time.

“This is another place where we have a bunch of guys looking to step in,” Fronhofer said. “Adam Fondale has been in the room for three years. A few years ago he did a really good job as a backup ’65’ pounder – winning about 20 matches and placing at good tournaments like the Penn State Open.  He’s grown into a 174. Eric Fajardo is coming off a medical redshirt. He’s a pretty talented guy – a good athlete who will certainly compete. Drew Rebling started for us at 184 last year, but he was never big enough for 184. We just needed him there.  He’ll be a factor as well.  We have some other guys who will wrestle off at 184 but will certify at 174 and be possibilities too.”

184:

With Rebling going to 174, the next weight has an opening.  A pair of returners and a fresh face will be among those looking to take the mat in that position for the Lions.

Zack Hernandez is a great kid and great athlete who came in pretty inexperienced as a wrestler,” Fronhofer said. “He made some big jumps in the room last year as a freshman and will be in the mix. Shane Hughes is getting back to form. He started two years ago, but struggled a little last year. He seems focused and ready to go. Freshman Troy Hembury will certainly make things interesting. He’s very competitive in the room already.”

197:

Nick Mills has been the 197-pounder for Columbia in recent years, but with his graduation, two Keystone State natives are among the contenders to take over.

Matt Idelson has been in the room for two years and has some experience for us,” Fronhofer said. “Another freshman from Pennsylvania, Mike Fetchet, was a ‘70’ pounder this year in high school.  But he hit a huge growth spurt and will battle it out with Matt for the spot.”

285:

2012 Greco Roman Junior World Team member Wyatt Baker returns for the Lions, looking to be a regular for the first time. As a freshman, he trained while sitting behind NCAA qualifier Kevin Lester.  A year ago, he battled injuries and senior Chris Manna.  A transfer from Bucknell will also be available in the second semester.

“I thought Wyatt Baker would be in the lineup last year, but he really couldn’t stay healthy,” Fronhofer said. “He missed almost all of preseason, was pretty banged up and went into wrestleoffs with very little training. This spring and summer has been different – he’s had a long stretch of training consistently and stayed healthy.  He looks better than he’s ever looked.”

Can Columbia send five or more qualifiers to the NCAA tournament again?  Will the Lions once again have an EIWA champion? How many freshmen will break through to the starting lineup? We’ll find out when the Lions begin the campaign on November 9 at the Michigan State Open in East Lansing.

Columbia Posts 2013-14 Schedule, Including the Midlands and Duals With Buffalo, Binghamton and Cornell

In 2012-13, Columbia featured a trio of EIWA finalists (champion Steve Santos and second placers Matt Bystol and Josh Houldsworth) and saw Santos achieve the highest finish in program history at the NCAA tournament when he took third.

What will 2013-14 bring for the Lions?  The team’s schedule is now available for the upcoming campaign.

Head coach Carl Fronhofer‘s squad will begin at the Michigan State Open on November 9 before going Upstate for the New York State Championships in Ithaca on the 23rd of that same month.  The Lions will take part in two top notch events before the end of 2013, competing at the Northeast Duals in Troy and the powerful Midlands.

Columbia will square off with three Empire State teams in duals during the second part of the season, with Binghamton and Buffalo coming to New York City in January and the Lions traveling to Cornell in February.

To view the schedule, see here.

Columbia Announces Recuiting Class, Including Three NYers and Fargo Champion Scheidel

On Monday, Columbia University announced the freshman class that will begin in the classroom and on the mat in the fall of 2013.  The nine person group includes a trio of New York wrestlers – state champion Matt Leshinger of Sayville, 2012 NHSCA National champion Chris Araoz of Wantagh and 2013 New York state placer Andrew Psomas of Monsignor Farrell.  Markus Scheidel of Ohio, who captured a prestigious Junior Freestyle crown over the weekend in Fargo, also is part of the class.

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Courtesy of Columbia University Athletics

NEW YORK – Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling, Carl Fronhofer, has announced the addition of nine incoming first-years for the 2013-14 season. The incoming class features a pair of grapplers that have won national championships, as well as a plethora of state placewinners over multiple years.

“We are very excited about this class of young men,” said Fronhofer. “They are a talented group of wrestlers with the ability to win at this level. The entire staff is looking forward to the fall when we can start working with them.”

Chris Araoz – Wantagh HS – Wantagh, N.Y.
Araoz became the first Wantagh, Section 8 and Nassau County wrestler to win a national title when he claimed the 120-pound championship at the NHSCA Junior Nationals his junior season. Araoz has been competing at national events for multiple years, winning matches at the Iron Horse Invitational and the Super 32 Challenge.

His Wantagh team has also been very successful, winning the New York State tournament, crowned Dual Meet champions in 2011-12 and winning three Section 8 titles in four years.

For the remainder of the release from Columbia University Athletics and details on the remaining members of the Class of 2017, see Columbia Recruiting Full Release link.

 

On to the Next Goal: Columbia's Steve Santos Wins EIWA Title and is Now Focused on the NCAA Podium

 
 
On Feb 16, Steve Santos scored a dramatic takedown and back points in the waning seconds of the third period to defeat Penn’s Andrew Lenzi, 7-4, in a bout he trailed most of the way.

A rematch seemed imminent when the EIWA Tournament brackets were released with Santos as the top seed and Lenzi in the eighth spot. Could Lenzi finish off the upset this time?

Santos never gave him a chance. Late heroics were unnecessary as the Columbia senior got out to an early lead and then made quick work of the Quaker with a second period fall.

“I was really looking forward to improving on my performance,” Santos said. “It was a totally different match. I was able to get a takedown and a couple sets of back points to build up a lead before the pin.”

Photo courtesy of Brock Malone/Columbia Athletics

“Steve had a couple of close matches in February so I’m sure some people in the weight thought they had a shot at him,” said Columbia head coach Carl Fronhofer. “He was pretty dinged up then, but we finally got him healthy at the right time. Steve’s pretty hard to beat anytime. But he’s really hard to beat when he has extra motivation like he did [against Lenzi].”

Extra motivation was also there for his next bout with Cornell’s Chris Villalonga in the semifinals, the wrestler who topped Santos in the EIWA third place bout in 2012.

“I was looking forward to facing him again,” Santos said. “It’s always good to get revenge for a loss. I wasn’t able to wrestle him in the dual meet this year because I was still injured, but he’s had a good season. Getting the win was a big confidence boost for me.”

Villalonga got on the board first with a takedown, but Santos controlled the latter portions of the match, something Fronhofer said has happened many times over the years.

“Without question, his work on top in that match was key,” Fronhofer said. “But Steve’s good in every position. The thing is, if you look at his matches, they’re all pretty competitive for the first three or four minutes. But at the four-minute mark or so, the tide turns in his favor. He just has another gear to go to that I think some guys have a hard time keeping pace with.”

That trait has helped Santos compile a 26-2 record this season and the EIWA championship over Army’s Daniel Young. And, according to Fronhofer, this was one of the reasons Santos made an instant impact for the Lions as a highly-touted rookie out of Brick, New Jersey.

“He was thrown right in there as a freshman and he could compete with the best right away,” Fronhofer said. “He didn’t always win, but you know you have a special kid when he’s in every match. He’s a guy who doesn’t care how good you are. He wrestles his match regardless of who you are. He’s always had the ability to finish matches strong. Sometimes early in his career, he’d be down big after the first period and still come back to win or at least make it really interesting.”

“As a freshman, I made up for inexperience with being able to wrestle hard and wearing guys down,” Santos added. “Just having good conditioning and really being able to win that third period really helped me have some level of success right away.”

But on top of that seven-minute intensity, Santos had another characteristic from the start that the head coach said set the captain apart.

“Steve doesn’t get scared or nervous; even at the beginning of his career that was true,” Fronhofer said. “He’s just excited to compete. That’s an attribute that can’t be overstated in its importance.”

“Generally, I love to compete, especially in big matches,” Santos said. “I’m always excited to have a chance to knock someone off. I feel like I generally keep my cool and don’t take myself out of matches no matter what the score is because I’ve come from behind to win so many times.”

He certainly has embraced some big moments in the past. He has beaten some highly ranked competitors such as Mario Mason when he was in the nation’s Top 10, Donnie Vinson (twice) and David Habat.

His victory over the Edinboro grappler was a part of his run at the NCAA tournament last year, in which he came within one victory of making the podium, dropping a 5-0 decision to Oklahoma’s Nick Lester in the Round of 12.

“I was definitely upset about my performance,” Santos said. “The goal is always to be an All-American and a National Champion. I came close to the first one but didn’t get it. Right after that match, I thought about having only one chance left. I went right to work. I put in a lot of time this summer thinking about reversing some outcomes and getting on the podium this year.”

Much of that training came with frequent workout partner (and fellow two-time NCAA qualifier at 157) Jake O’Hara. In addition, the presence of former All-American Adam Hall in the Columbia room played a key role.

“Having someone on [Hall’s] level definitely helped me a lot,” Santos said. “He’s able to share his experiences and the fact that he’s still training hard for his own personal goals pushes everyone harder. It brings a whole extra level of competitiveness to our team.”

That team improvement was evident this past weekend. The Lions had three conference finalists (Santos, plus Matt Bystol and Josh Houldsworth, who took second at 133 and 165, respectively). That trio plus O’Hara, who grabbed fourth at 157, secured four bids at the NCAAs for Columbia. (174-pounder Stephen West could make it five Lions heading to Des Moines, as he is a strong candidate for an at large bid and will find out his fate on Wednesday).

“I think the program has really turned around since my freshman year,” Santos said. “We had a really small team then and every year it has grown and we’ve made progress. Having four NCAA qualifiers and possibly five is a great thing and shows all the hard work this team has put in.”

There are a lot of reasons for the results, but Fronhofer pointed out that Santos and his classmates are one of them.

“Steve is a true pleasure to coach,” Fronhofer said. “He and the rest of our senior class did a lot to shape the culture of Columbia wrestling. It’s a special group to me because it’s the first class I had a chance to help recruit as an assistant. All eight of them are still on the team and will be graduating. Those guys as a whole will definitely be missed. Steve is a leader among leaders. He’s quiet; he doesn’t say too much because he doesn’t need to. All the guys should strive to have a work ethic like him in the wrestling room and in the classroom. If guys follow what he does, they’ll be successful.”

Santos was successful at the EIWAs, making the finals for the first time and earning the championship. He said that was one of his senior year goals and with that checked off the list, making the medal stand at NCAAs is next.

He ended the campaign as the nation’s fifth ranked wrestler in both the Coaches’ Panel and the RPI. That will likely translate into a seed that should put him in good position to end his career on a high note. Fronhofer believes it could be a very high note.

“Steve’s goal has been a National Championship from the start of the year,” Fronhofer said. “He has the experience and the ability to get it done. It’s clearly a loaded class like the middleweights usually are and there are some uber talented wrestlers. We’ll have to have a good gameplan and he’ll have to wrestle smart to get there.”

Santos believes he’s prepared for his last few days as a college wrestler, before likely staying in New York City to work in the finance field.

“I think that I’m really starting to peak at the right level,” he said. “I had a break in the middle of the season when I was hurt and it took me a little while to get back. But my performance at EIWAs gave me a lot of confidence. I come from a wrestling family and have been competing since elementary school. I know I’ve worked hard toward my goals and I think I’m ready for the big matches.”

He’s ready. Whoever steps on the mat with him better be ready too – for seven full minutes.

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Steve Santos wished to thank his parents for all their support. “My mom and dad took me to all those tournaments, pushed me and gave me the opportunities to do something I love.”

He also wished to thank his coaches and Columbia wrestling for “providing me with everything I needed to compete at this level and being a huge part of my success.”

Friday College Roundup: Buffalo Earns First Dual Win of the Season; Bucknell Tops Columbia

Courtesy of buffalobulls.com

BUFFALO, NY – Last weekend was a frustrating one for the Buffalo wrestling team, with two of the three matches wrestled at the Virginia Duals being lost in the final bout of the match – heavyweight – to fall to 0-7 on the season. On Friday night, though, both monkeys were taken off UB’s back and thrown to the mat, as the Bulls (1-7, 1-1 MAC) beat the Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-10, 0-2 MAC) 19-14 at Alumni Arena.

Heiserman, Photo by BV

It was not just the team’s first win of an injury-riddled season, but the dual fittingly came down to heavyweight Justin Heiserman. The sophomore won 3-1 over Khodor Hobollah to seal the win. After going up 1-0 with a quick escape in the second period, Heiserman then came out on top of a scramble to finish the second period up 3-0 and held off his opponent for the final two minutes.

“We have had a lot on his (Heiserman’s) shoulders this year, and it’s nice to see him come up on the good end of it,” head coach Jim Beichner said. “As the heavyweight, a lot of times it comes down to you, and he handled it well tonight.”

The dual started on a similar note the team has seen for the past month, with the two teams trading decisions in the lower weights. Max Soria controlled the pace in a 10-5 win over Alexander Calandrino to open the dual, and after a UB loss at 133, Erik Galloway and Blake Roulo won close matches at 141 and 149, respectively. Eastern cut into the 9-3 lead with a win at 157, but the senior leaders for UB would help extend the lead back out.

For more, see here.

Bucknell 24, Columbia 14

Courtesy of gocolumbialions.com

LEWISBURG, Pa. – The Columbia wrestling team rallied from a 15-point deficit to within one point of Bucknell Friday night, but the Bison were able to hold on with victories in the final two matches to knock off the Lions, 24-14, inside Davis Gym.

Bucknell rushed out to an early 15-0 advantage on Columbia, taking three decisions and a pin in the opening four matches. No. 18/18 Jake O’Hara got the Lions on the board in the 157-pound match, earning a 10-2 major decision over Vincent Favia. After building a 7-1 lead in the first period with two takedowns and a near fall, O’Hara would stay in control through the remainder of the match to secure the win giving Columbia four points.

Josh Houldsworth followed suit in the 165-pound bout, picking up his fourth major decision of the season over Ray Schlitt. Houldsworth notched four points in each of the first two periods and added another for riding time to raise the final tally to 9-0 and bring the team score to 15-8 in favor of Bucknell.

For the third straight match, the Lions came out on top, as No. 17/- Stephen West garnered a 4-2 decision over Stephen McPeek. The match entered the third period scoreless, but West used an escape, takedown and the riding time point to tally his 16th win of the season and get the Lions within four, 15-11.

In the loudest match of the night inside Davis Gym, Drew Rebling took advantage of the full time allotment, scoring a reversal in the final seconds of the third period to tie the match at 6-6. Having maintained the top position throughout much of the second and third periods, Rebling earned the riding time point and the win, 7-6, for Columbia. The victory, Rebling’s seventh of the year, got the Lions within one, 15-14.

For more, see here.