PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University wrestling team opens the 2009-10 season this weekend with a trip to Springfield, Mass., for a tri-meet at American International College.
The Panthers will tangle with AIC as well as Seton Hill University (Pa.) on Saturday. PSU will be back for the home opener and the only home appearance of the first semester next Wednesday, Nov. 18, a dual meet at Foley Gymnasium against Norwich University (6:00 p.m.)
Plymouth State will also wrestle at Rhode Island College in a dual meet in early December and will compete in the annual tournaments at Springfield College (Doug Parker Invitational) and the University of Southern Maine (Ted Reese Invitational).
Highlights of the second semester include the Williams Invitational, the "Headlock for Hunger" New England Dual Meet Championships, and a road trip to Pennsylvania for a quad-meet at Wilkes University.
The annual New England Conference Championships are slated for the third weekend in February at Western New England College. The New England Conference individual champions and a handful of at-large wrestlers will qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships on Mar. 5-6 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
2009-10 PSU Wrestling Outlook
Third-year head coach Tommy Prairie welcomes back 18 veterans to this year's squad, including six starters and two All-New England wrestlers. Prairie (right) says the team is young but has a ton of potential.
"We have a couple of guys in each weight class who should do well," said Prairie. "We have a really talented sophomore class that had a good year last winter. They're all really working hard and have bonded well as a team. We're a lot more committed than we've been in the past in working toward our goals.
The Panthers are coming off a strong dual meet season, as the team finished with a 10-8 record last year. It was PSU's first winning season since 2001-02 and the most wins since the team finished 12-6 in 1998-99. Plymouth State slumped to 11th place at the New England Championships.
"We had a very good year last year, just one bad round," said Prairie. "We had seven guys who were one win away from earning All-New England honors, and only two won. The year before we had five out of seven win in that round. So after a great regular season, we had the worst round ever."
Prairie said the team is using that as motivation for this year's season.
Leading the group of returnees is a pair of All-New England wrestlers in senior co-captain Fred Wilkinson (Quogue, N.Y./Riverhead) at 125 pounds and sophomore Mike Willey (Tewksbury, Mass.) at 157. Wilkinson placed sixth in New England in 2008 and has a career record of 52-40. Willey placed fifth in New England last season and finished second on the team in victories with a 23-9 record.
Other key returnees include junior 197-pounder Eric Larcomb (Jefferson, N.H./White Mountain Regional), who has an 18-12 career record; sophomore 165-pounder Cody Oliverio (Brick, N.J.), who posted a 14-7 mark in a solid freshman year; senior co-captain Joe McGowan (Lincolnville, Maine/Camden Hills) at 141, junior co-captain Kyle Moseley (Hooksett, N.H./Brooks School) at 174, and sophomore heavyweight Jake Gagnon (Manchester, N.H./Memorial).
Prairie says sophomore Josh Huber (Hampton, N.H./Winnacunnet), who was 12-4 at 125 pounds last year, could also push for a starting job. Prairie also says freshman Seth Carter (Hudson, N.H./Alvirne) has been impressive and could challenge for a spot at 157. Two other wrestlers who are back from a year off that could contribute include junior Rob Phillips (Brick, N.J.) at 184 and senior Dan Burke (Salem, N.H./Central Catholic) at 197.
There is a pair of top freshmen battling in both the 141 and 149 weight classes, according to Prairie. Pete Bronder (North Berwick, Maine/Noble), a four-time Maine state finalist, and Steve Sughrue (Wilmington, Mass.), a highly-ranked New England wrestler, will battle in the 141-poind weight class, and James Matlack (Hamilton, N.J./Ewing) and Femi Wheeler (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) will likely go back and forth all season at 149.
"Our goals include improving on last year and having a winning record again," said Prairie. "We definitely want to improve on our New England finish. It will be interesting to see how well those freshmen succeed at 141 and 149. A couple of other weight classes will need to be sorted out, but if all goes well, we'll be looking to challenge for a place in the top three in New England."
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