LANCASTER, Pa. – A young and talented squad will take to the mats this winter for the 87th edition of Franklin & Marshall wrestling, the third under the guidance of head coach Mike Rogers. With 16 underclassmen on a roster of 19, the Diplomats are a youthful squad aiming to make some noise in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) and qualify individuals for the NCAA Championships.
F&M must make up for the graduation of starting seniors Matt Fullowan, Colin Ely, and Matt Latessa, but a solid core of five starters are back, along with a wealth of incoming talent that will aid the Diplomats in the continued rise of the program.
Despite having a roster that is undoubtedly one of the youngest in the country – a group that features eight freshmen and eight sophomores to go along with just three upperclassmen – the Diplomats still return numerous key contributors that have plenty of starting experience.
Rogers is excited to see what his young team is capable of after a hard-working offseason for the Diplomats.
"Each of our returners dedicated themselves to training in the offseason," said Rogers. "They are beginning to buy in to the disciplined lifestyle of successful Division I wrestlers. We expect to see continued growth and development this season as we look to start reaping the rewards of all of our hard work."
The list of key returners for the Diplomats begins with Richard Durso. A sophomore 141-pounder, Durso put together one of the best individual seasons in program history in his rookie campaign. He posted a team-high 30 wins, tying him for fourth all-time in single-season victories, and advanced to the NCAA Championships. Durso enters the year ranked 32nd in the nation and 17th in the Atlantic Region by wrestlingreport.com, and fifth amongst EIWA wrestlers in his weight class.
At last year's EIWA Tournament, F&M secured four placewinners, marking the first time since 1976 and just the third time in program history that the Diplomats sent four wrestlers to the podium at EIWA's. Durso was the top F&M finisher with a sixth-place finish, while Fullowan took seventh, and Ely and Andrew Murano, the Diplomats' 149-pounder entering his junior season, each took eighth.
While several starters are back in the fold, the incoming group of eight freshmen is full of talented individuals fresh off of superb prep careers and will challenge for starting positions at multiple spots.
At 125, freshman Aaron Moldoff will step right in to a starting role after a high school career in which he amassed 115 wins and qualified for the state tournament in Pennsylvania.
Freshman Scott Stevens will push Ruiz for time at 133 this year. Stevens was a four-time national prep qualifier and a two-time second-place finisher at the prep states in New Jersey.
In addition to Durso, the 141 position will feature a pair of freshmen, Sharron Townsend and Brandon Giovanetti. Townsend was a 2012 Pennsylvania state placewinner who recorded 112 victories in high school, while Giovanetti was a two-time New Jersey state qualifier.
Murano will hold down the 149 spot for the third straight season. Murano amassed eight victories a season ago and finished the season on a high note by earning a placewinning spot at EIWA's.
Tight position battles for starting nods at the 157, 165, 174 and heavyweight positions will continue throughout the season as this squad features the most depth that Rogers has had throughout his time in Lancaster.
At 157, freshman Rob King will look to challenge Norgard for time on the mat. King, a local product out of Garden Spot High School, was a two-time District III finalist that will vie for time right from the get-go.
The 165 spot will see junior Colin Lahiff and freshman Colin Gironda tussle for the starting spot all season long. Lahiff returns after an injury-plagued 2011-12 season, while Gironda looks to break into the lineup in his opening campaign.
A duo of sophomores, Adam Schroeder and Brad Bailey, will compete at 174. Both grapplers gained experience at the collegiate level a season ago, primarily in tournament action, with Schroeder notching six wins and Bailey claiming two.
Freshman Ekow Eshun, a third-place finisher at the New York City large school state tournament, will give additional depth to the middle of the lineup at both 165 and 174.
Sophomores Paul Alessandrini and Isaiah Cromwell will aim to progress off of solid opening campaigns as starters at 184 and 197, respectively. Alessandrini nabbed a pair of victories in limited action a season ago, while Cromwell posted an impressive 11-8 mark.
Heavyweight will feature a closely contested battle with returning starter Henry and freshman Chuckie Kerkesner dueling it out. Henry tallied five wins as a freshman, while Kerkesner brings an impressive resume to F&M that includes two Florida state championships and 156 career victories.
"We will still be a very young team, comprised of mostly freshmen and sophomores, but we have set several challenging goals for this team to strive for," added Rogers. "One of our goals is to be a more competitive dual meet team this year. We had a number of close losses last year, and we're looking to convert those into wins this winter."
F&M will also look to build off of Durso's NCAA appearance last year by taking multiple wrestlers this season to the national championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Diplomats will face a difficult schedule this winter that includes 11 dual matches and eight tournaments. F&M opens its season with three tournaments, beginning with the Ursinus Fall Brawl this Saturday. The Diplomats will then travel to Annapolis, Md. for the Navy Classic on Nov. 17 and the Mat-Town Open at Lock Haven on Nov. 24, before opening their dual meet season at home against VMI on Nov. 30. F&M will begin EIWA competition on Dec. 8 at Brown, the first of three duals matches that weekend. The Diplomats will also face off against Boston Dec. 8, before completing the trip with another EIWA showdown opposite Sacred Heart on Dec. 9.