The Wilkes University wrestling team is hitting the mats and hitting the books as the season begins. The nationally-ranked squad made its debut this past Saturday with a huge tournament title at the King’s College Monarch invitational. Head Coach Jon Laudenslager believes in getting off on the right foot to get your season started.
“Well you always want to get off to a good start,” Laundenslager said. “ It becomes a great confidence booster in that the things we have done to prepare for the tournament are all worth it. For the young guys, it’s a great time to get the nerves out and have some of your weaknesses exploited so we can work on fine tuning things for second semester.”
The Colonels took home two individual titles with returning All-American and captain Anthony Dattolo taking home the trophy at 149 pounds, while teammate and fellow captain Ryan Wilson took the gold at 141 pounds. The Colonels also saw multiple runner-ups in Michael Fleck, Jeff Peterson, Tyler Lauchaire and Nathan White at 125,141,149 and 165 pounds respectively.
The Colonels are currently ranked 12th in the nation, and are looking to improve according to Laudenslager, but he said there is no added pressure within being ranked so high.
“We are giving 100 percent and will continue to do that,” Laundenslager said. “Wrestling is fun, so why put pressure when all you can do is put all you have into it and really wanting success. This team may be perhaps the strongest I have coached in terms of work ethic.”
Captain Benjamin Marich, a senior integrated media major, reiterated the mentality of working hard and how he instills that into the younger guys.
“I’m not a vocal leader, I kind of try and lead by example,” Marich said. “I work hard and try to get a couple guy to follow me, then they get a couple guys, and sooner or later the whole team is working hard.”
Senior captain Ryan Wilson, a Business major, also talked about leading by example.
“Even though we are named captains, we are not better than anyone person on the team, we just have the most experience,” Wilson said. “Everyone on the team is treated equal, but we are looked upon to bring some leadership to the team, they look at us to guide them in the right direction.”
Wilson also said he has his team and individual goals set high for this upcoming season.
“We are looking to be the team we expected to be the last two years,” Wilson said. “By the end of the year we are going to the top ten team we’ve been wanting to be if we continue to work hard.”
Laudenslager reinforced these goals for the season, for not only wrestling, but for earning a degree also.
“Our No. 1 goal each year is to keep everyone academically on track for graduation,” Laundenslager said. “After that we want to break in the top ten rankings both athletically and academically after finishing 13th last year in both. Finally we want to have 100 percent commitment toward winning the Metro Title and sending multiple guys to nationals.”
Wilkes won the Monarch invitational by a heavy margin. The Colonels posted a tournament high of 146.5 total points with York College following far behind with 117 total points. At the end of the day, 11 Colonels finished in the top five or better in this year’s tournament.
Dattolo expects to keep the ball rolling this weekend at the annual John Reese Duals.
“I expect everyone we send out on the mat to wrestle hard for the full seven minutes,” Dattolo said.
The Colonels finished last year with a record of 15-10-2 and are looking to improve that record this season. The Colonels will be in action next, this Saturday at the John Reese Duals at the Marts Gymnasium at 11 a.m.