TERRAPIN WRESTLING SEASON IN REVIEW
By Josh Vitale
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Entering the season, coach Kerry McCoy and the Terrapin wrestling team set out to achieve four primary goals: Go undefeated in conference competition. Win the ACC Championship. Have 10 wrestlers qualify for the NCAA championships. Finish in the top 20 nationally.
At the year’s end, the Terps (16-4, 4-1 ACC) have accomplished two of those goals. Three weeks ago, they captured their third ACC title in four years, and two weeks ago, they finished 18th at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, their third consecutive top-20 finish.
Completing just half of their season’s goals does not signify any type of failure for the Terps, however. The team narrowly missed out on achieving each of the other two goals, qualifying six wrestlers for nationals and falling short of an unblemished conference record by just one point, with an 18-17 loss to Virginia Tech on Jan. 23.
“You set your goals high, and if you fall a little bit short, you’re still in a good position,” McCoy said. “Although we didn’t get all of our goals, we put ourselves in a position that we could have reached all of them, and that’s the most important thing.”
The Terps aren’t content with just those accomplishments, though. Training for next season has already begun, and the team has every expectation of achieving these goals and more next season. That process, said 165-pound Josh Asper, begins now.
“The offseason is where everyone can make some big jumps; pressure is off and no one is competing,” Asper said. “It’s really going to be about how much everyone wants to work and get better in the offseason; that’s the big factor in how we’re going to do next year.”
Arguably the biggest challenge the Terps will face is replacing their departed seniors, including three starters: 133-pound Lou Ruland, 141-pound Jon Kohler and 174-pound Mike Letts. Kohler and Letts combined to win five individual ACC Championships in the past four seasons, and Letts finished his senior season as an All-American.
There are Terps ready to compete for those roles, however. Freshman Jimmy Sheptock, Alex Pagnotta and Frank Goodwin will likely all see increased time on the mat next season, and junior Joey Boone, who has starting experience at 133 pounds, will probably see more action as well.
“Some guys might get bigger, some guys might get smaller, but I think we’re in a good place,” McCoy said. “Whether it be guys that are currently on the team or guys that are going to be coming in, I think we’re in a pretty good position to move forward.”
“Everybody really has to contribute, keep guys out of trouble and make sure everybody is doing the right thing,” Asper said. “Most of the starters last year really have to take a bigger role and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to.”
The team will also receive a lift from a strong incoming freshman class. McCoy said he thinks Geoffrey Alexander and Josh Snook could play significant roles for the Terps next season, and T.J. Duncan comes to College Park after becoming the first wrestler in Tennessee state history to win five state titles.
“We got some quality guys that come in and buy into the system,” McCoy said. “This class is very important. … Guys like Hudson Taylor, Alex Krom and Steve Bell who really turned the program around and really built a legacy, and these guys are responsible for continuing that legacy.”
McCoy has been in College Park for only three seasons, but his teams have already won two ACC Championships and finished top-20 nationwide three times. McCoy, himself, has given every indication that he intends to build the Terps in into a wrestling power.
The wrestlers may be different next season, but his lofty expectations remain the same.
“We want to focus on winning the ACC tournament and improve on our finish this year at the NCAAs,” McCoy said. “We got two of our three All-Americans back, and we got a couple other guys ready to step up, so the expectation is for us to be one of the top programs in the nation.”