Panthers begin new era under coach Matt Eldredge
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A new era for the Plymouth State University wrestling team begins this weekend when the Panthers open the 2011-12 season under new head coach Matt Eldredge.
The Panthers will begin the campaign with a trip to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for some high-test competition at the John Reese Duals, hosted by Wilkes University. After returning to New England, PSU will hold its only home match of the season next Wednesday, Nov. 16, against Norwich University at Foley Gymnasium (7:00 p.m.)
|Head Coach Matt Eldredge|
Other tournament action for the Panthers this season includes the annual Doug Parker Invitational at Springfield College, the Ted Reese Invitational at the University of Southern Maine, the Williams College Invitational, and the New England Dual Meet Championships.
The annual New England Conference Championships are slated for the last weekend in February at Wesleyan University. The New England Conference individual champions and a handful of at-large wrestlers will qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships March 9-10 in La Crosse, Wis.
2011-12 PSU Wrestling Outlook
Coach Eldredge, who was an assistant at PSU for two years before taking over from Tommy Prairie after last season, welcomes back 17 veterans to this year's squad, including seven starters and six All-New England wrestlers. The Panthers are coming off a season that included a runner-up finish at the New England Dual Meet Championships, its highest finish ever, and a tie for fourth place at the New England Championships, its best finish since 2003.
"We feel good about this year's team," said Eldredge, "with six guys returning who were All-New England. They've been good leaders for us, showing what it takes to get to that level. We've had a good preseason; guys are healthy and have been working hard getting ready for the season."
Eldredge says the transition to a new coach has been near seamless. "I've been here for two years so most of the guys know me. Tommy did a great job when he was here, and was a big help in getting me started in my coaching career. There's not much change in our styles, except I'm bigger and probably more vocal than him."
Leading the group of returnees is senior Mike Willey, who won the New England Championship and advanced to the NCAA Division III Championships at 157 pounds, finishing with a 23-3 overall record. He is a three-time All-New England wrestler with a career record of 64-20, and plans to wrestle at 149 pounds this winter.
Senior Josh Huber is a two-time All-New England honoree at 125 pounds and is looking for a big senior season; he finished 16-5 last season and has a career record of 56-16.
Other All-New England wrestlers returning to the Panther lineup include junior Jake Gagnon, who was 18-6 and fourth in New England at heavyweight last year and owns a career mark of 43-27; junior James Matlack, who was 18-10 and fifth in New England at 165 pounds last winter; junior Femi Wheeler, who was 19-9 and sixth in New England at 141 points last winter but plans to wrestle at 157 this year; and junior Cody Oliverio, who was 12-10 and sixth in New England at 149 pounds last year and plans to battle Wheeler at 157 this year.
Other key returnees include three seniors -- Rob Phillips at 184, Dan Curley at 174, and Tom Paolera at 133. The top freshmen look like Josh Thornton at 141 pounds, Brandon Conrad at 157, Derek Knoop at 197, and Adam Reed in the heavyweight division.
"We have the most returning placewinners of any team in New England," said Eldredge. "We should be solid in just about every weight class, with several guys pushing for a New England Championship. If we stay healthy, which is always an "if" in this sport, we should be one of the top teams in New England again this year. We're looking forward to a good season."
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