Lancaster, Pa. – Fresh off its first winning dual-meet record in eight years and producing its first All-American since 1981, the Franklin & Marshall wrestling program is entering the 2014-15 season with a full head of steam. The Diplomats open competition this weekend, sending a split squad to take part in the Fall Brawl hosted by Ursinus on Saturday and the Binghamton Open in Sunday.
To watch the season preview video, click here.
F&M returns 19 wresters from last season's 7-6 team and welcome a talented 10-member freshmen class, expected to compete for lineup spots, into the fold. Eight wrestlers who won at least 12 matches enter back into the mix as the Diplomats graduated only one senior who was a regular in last season's dual-meet lineup. However, Andrew Murano's void at 157 will be difficult to fill after he accumulated a 23-12 record and exited Lancaster with the 15th-most wins in program history (63).
Another spot in the lineup that will test the depth of F&M's roster will be the hole left at 141 due to All-American Richard Durso sitting out dual meet competition this season. Durso produced one of the top finishes in program history a year ago, placing eighth at the NCAA Championships to become the Diplomats' first All-American in 33 years.
Robert Ruiz – 133
Jason Bing – 141
Rob King – 157
Charles Kerkesner - 197
Alex Henry – 285
A balanced and deep group of upperclassmen, along with a few breakout candidates throughout the lineup, return to form the foundation of the 2014-15 team. Jason Bing is one of the wrestlers being looked upon to fill 141 after making the jump from 125, which he competed at last year with a 20-16 overall record.
Ruiz will also compete at 141 for the first semester and will look to move down to 133 later in the year, after coming off a successful 17-13 campaign at the weight class, including a 10-11 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) mark.
King is expected to compete for the vacant 157 spot, capturing 16 wins last season, while Kerkesner and Henry will be looked at to anchor the bottom half of the Diplomats' lineup. Henry was strong at the heavyweight position last season, tallying an 18-17 record, while Kerkesner notched 14 wins.
The Road Ahead
Following this weekend's tournament action, F&M's dual-meet season opener is scheduled for Nov. 16 on the road against EIWA foe Army, before taking on Sacred Heart the following Sunday (Nov. 23). George Mason is welcomed to the Mayser Center on Dec. 6 for the season's first home event, before VMI comes to Lancaster the following Friday (Dec. 12) for another dual-meet competition.
The historic Midlands Championships are set for Dec. 29-30, hosted by Northwestern, while the newly minted David H. Lehman F&M Open is set for Saturday, Jan. 3. Five F&M grapplers will travel out to Northwestern for the tournament, including Durso who will wrestle unattached.
On Jan. 17, the Diplomat Duals will take place at home, before the team travels to face another stout EIWA competitor in Lehigh on Jan. 24. The regular season culminates with the annual Rupp Cup against Millersville on Feb. 19, while the EIWA Championships, hosted by Lehigh, are set for March 6-7. The NCAA Championships will take place in St. Louis, Mo., and run from March 19-21.
A Look at this Weekend
Historically, the Diplomats have found success at the Fall Brawl after Durso, Murano and Henry all ran the table in their respective brackets to pick up first-place finishes last season. Half the squad will travel to Binghamton University on Sunday for the fifth annual Jonathon Kaloust Bearcat Open, renamed in honor of the former Binghamton student-athlete and Navy SEAL who was killed in a training exercise in May of 2013.
The Lehman Endowment Gift
A $5 million gift from prominent geologist David Lehman, a 1968 alumnus, in September endowed the F&M wrestling program for generations of student-athletes to come.
The gift establishing the "David H. Lehman Endowed Wrestling Program Fund" will fully endow wrestling program operations, including funding for existing personnel, equipment, competitions, and ongoing recruitment of student-athletes.
To read more about the endowment gift, click here.
Taffur Named Assistant Coach
Another highlight of the Diplomats' monumental offseason was the addition of former Boston University standout Nestor Taffur to the coaching staff. He comes to F&M after wrapping up his career on the mat at Boston University as one of the program's most successful grapplers, wrapping up his career as the program's all-time wins leader (119-47) and falling just one win shy of All-America status at last year's NCAA Championships.
To read more about Taffur's hiring, click here.
Follow Along (Social Media)
All of your favorite Diplomat athletic teams are available on social media. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram, like them on Facebook and subscribe to the Diplomats Youtube page for frequent highlight videos of games throughout the season. All home wrestling matches at the Mayser Center will be broadcast live in HD at GoDiplomats.com/Live.