New times for Wilkes Athletics

Wilkes Athletics has seen some drastic changes from the end of 2017 to the start of 2018. There has been almost a complete overhaul of head coaches, dawning a new era at Wilkes. Wilkes has seen new coaches in football, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming, baseball, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s soccer. On top of the new coaching additions, men’s soccer head coach Michael Piranian enters just his second season at the helm, placing a number of the sports teams under new leadership.

Each program has their specific reasons for their new mentors, as the University felt it was best to move on from coaches Trey Brown and Chris Heery, who coached football and women’s basketball respectively. After their poor seasons, Brown was replaced by former Hobart College assistant coach Jonathan Drach and Heery was replaced by former Marywood University head coach Tara Macciocco. In addition, men’s and women’s swimming coach Mark Barnes also decided to step down following his fourth season. Barnes has been replaced by former Sewanee: the University of the South assistant coach Thomas Limouze.

Through different circumstances, the Wilkes women’s soccer team found themselves searching for a new head coach after former head coach John Sumoski decided to move on and take a job at Franklin and Marshall College. Sumoski led the Colonels for 16 seasons and this past season helped them to go undefeated until the MAC Freedom championship game and a Division III national playoff berth. Following Sumoski’s leave, the Pennsylvania College of Technology’s former head coach John McNichol was named as his replacement.

Wilkes baseball is also coming off a great season, making the MAC Freedom playoffs for the first time in years. Interim head coach Brandon Michael lead the team to its best season in recent years, and appeared to have earned the full time position. However, between some off the the field issues and the interviewing process, the athletic department decided to move toward former Colonel and Wilkes alum, Kevin Gryboski. The name may sound familiar to fans of Major League Baseball because Gryboski spent time in the MLB as a pitcher from 2002 to 2006, going 12-8 with 4.07 earned run average and 103 strikeouts. Gryboski’s specialty was producing ground balls, earning him the nickname “Groundball Gryboski.” Gryboski will return to his alma mater this season to try and bring the Colonels back to MAC Freedom glory.

One of the more interesting coaching changes for the Colonels involves their most successful coach from recent years. Chris Leicht decided it was time to make the jump, from Division III to Division I tennis following tremendous success at Wilkes. Leicht lead the Colonels men’s and women’s teams on a historic run of sheer dominance, winning 12 straight MAC titles on the women’s side and 11 straight on the men’s. The Colonels have yet to name a full time head coach in Leicht’s absence, but there are still questions surrounding his decision.

There has been speculation of late on Leicht leaving to take a Division I or II job for the last couple of years, but despite the speculation, the rumors never seemed to pan out. Some sources close to the team have said that they feel Leicht and the athletic department have been growing apart over the last few years because of the lack of recognition his programs received after tremendous success. Others have speculated that Leicht might have been upset with the funding his program received as well.

Adding to Leicht’s reasons to leave Wilkes, he has recently had some personal circumstances develop that might have driven him to decide it was time to move on. Due to these changes in his home/family life, many of the sources close to the team believe this is why Leicht decided to leave so suddenly.

Players on both the men’s and women’s tennis teams say that, in hindsight, Leicht’s decision was not so surprising. Apparently, Leicht has been slowly growing distant from his team. With the constant rumors of him moving onto “greener pastures,” they felt that it was only a matter of time before he left. The players collectively admitted that they were not expecting Leicht to leave, but looking back on it, the signs were there.

Other parts of the Wilkes Athletics staff were caught off guard when Leicht announced that he was taking a job at Monmouth University. Due to Leicht’s success, he was viewed as one of the better coaches on campus and as a figure Wilkes could not afford to lose. In the meantime, graduate assistant Younes Hidass will be stepping into the interim head coaching position while Wilkes tries to name a new head coach for men’s and women’s tennis.

Following the abundance of new head coaching positions, a new era has dawned on Wilkes Athletics as the school year begins. A new wave of coaches look to leave their mark on the proud university and some have already started, with Drach already showing that he is turning the football program around. The 2018-2019 athletic year is looking up for the Colonels and every team is looking to do their part to make it a great year.