Despite victories from stalwarts Greg Jones and Matt Lebe, and up and coming underclassmen Zac Fryling and Shawn Cordell, the Mountaineers keenly felt the loss of 2003 All-American Brandon Lauer, who re-injured his shoulder during practice earlier in the week. It was heartbreaking to watch Lauer, in jeans and sweater, plying his teammates with heartfelt encouragement. This should have been his big year. Instead, he faces an agonizing decision about whether to undergo shoulder surgery and rehabilitation for the third time.
True freshman Vince Gioiella, his redshirt necessarily broken, stepped into Lauer's very big shoes at 141, but was unfortunately overmatched, losing to John Manarte 17-2. Seth Lisa (133) went into the meet ranked 20th in the nation, but dropped a 9-2 decision to Charles Griffin, and 18th-ranked Mountaineer Mike Torriero (149) was pinned late in the 2nd round by Jon Masa, the nation's 8th-rated wrestler. At 174, Hofstra's 11th ranked Paul Siemon defeated Eric Mullen on a 17-2 technical fall in 6:12. Jared Villers dropped a 9-0 major decision at 197 to Hofstra's All-American and #2-ranked Chris Skretkowicz.
WVU freshman Shawn Cordell (125) faced Dave Tomasetti in a very exciting, evenly-matched contest. Cordell finally took the lead with 15 seconds remaining in the third round to win 4-3. Seventh-ranked Matt Lebe's quick reflexes and willingness to take risks made the difference in his 3-2 victory over Hofstra's James Strouse. Newcomer Matt Holsopple (HWT) earned 6 points without a bead of perspiration, as Hofstra declined to weigh in a competitor at that class.
The two high points for the Mountaineers today were Zac Fryling and, of course, Greg Jones. Fryling, who defeated Chris Vondruska at 165, is the scrappiest man on the team. He's usually a little shorter than his opponents, but what he gives up in wingspan he gains in optimism and explosiveness.
"My whole life I've been the shorter guy," Fryling admitted with a wry grin. "That has its ups and downs, but I always look at the positive side. It's harder for guys to get underneath me, and I am more explosive. I'm compact and explosive."
In his second season on the mat, Fryling is starting to come into his own.
"I'm still young, but I have the attitude that everyone is the same. They all put their pants on one leg at a time," he mused. "I work hard, and my preparation is starting to show on the mat."
Greg Jones, the Lion of the Mountains, dispatched Hofstra's sacrificial lamb, Joe Rovelli,, 13-7. How many superlatives are there for this 184-pound top-ranked competitor and two-time national champion? Such poise, such surety he possesses, never seeming to so much as break a sweat. One almost feels the need to post a sign at mat's edge: Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. The Coliseum faithful gasped as one when Jones took a hard shot to the groin during today's match. He was obviously in great pain, but the King of the Appalachian Forest shook it off to finish out the victory.
No. 9 Hofstra 23 (8-3, 0-0 CAA)
No. 18 West Virginia 18 (2-5, 2-0 EWL)
125: Shawn Cordell (WVU) dec. Dave Tomasette (Hof) 4-3
133: Charles Griffin (Hof) dec. #20 Seth Lisa (WVU) 9-2
141: John Manarte (Hof) tech fall Vince Gioiella (WVU) 17-2, 7:00
149: #8 Jon Masa (Hof) tech fall #18 Mike Torriero (WVU) 4:44
157: #7 Matt Lebe (WVU) dec. James Strouse (Hof) 3-2
165: Zac Fryling (WVU) dec. Chris Vondruska (Hof) 5-4
174: #11 Paul Siemon (Hof) tec fall Eric Mullen (WVU) 6:12
184: #1 Greg Jones (WVU) dec. Joe Rovelli (Hof), 13-7
197: #2 Chris Skretkowicz (Hof) maj dec Jared Villers (WVU) 10-0
HWT: Matt Holsopple (WVU) forfeit
The Mountaineers give the impression of a very strong team spirit. The entire West Virginia bench was focused and intent through each match, cheering their teammates on and offering lots of encouragement. Hofstra's bench was noticeably quieter and more passive.
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WVU definitely has the classiest uniforms in college wrestling, which can't hurt.
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One of the things I like about this team is head coach Craig Turnbull's calm demeanor. He pushes and challenges his players but always treats them with respect. He's a classy guy who sets a positive and dignified atmosphere. It's always about the team, not about him.
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In general, WVU is showing a longer, leaner profile this year, more so than Hofstra and more so than last year's Mountaineers. The lionine form of Greg Jones seems to be contagious.
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I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but, really, you have to get to the Coliseum to see Greg Jones wrestle before he graduates this spring. I don't care where you live, it's worth the trip to Morgantown just to watch him. He may be the most amazing athlete I've ever seen compete, in any sport.
Just 3 more chances: Feb 11 at 8:00 p.m. against Ohio; Feb 17 at 7:30 p.m. against Edinboro; and Feb 18 at 8:00 p.m. against Cleveland State. How many national championships have we ever had at WVU? Do you really want to miss out on the athlete responsible for two of them?