Nov. 1, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State Spartan wrestling team brings an experienced group of wrestlers and a roster deep with talent into the 2011-12 wrestling season.
The Spartans boast a roster filled with eight wrestlers that have NCAA Championships experience and 14 letterwinners return. The Spartans only lost Ben Boudro and Joel Trombly to graduation. NCAA qualifiers Dan Osterman (149), Curran Jacobs (174), Tyler Dickenson (197) and Joe Rizqallah (HWT) lead the Spartans.
Michigan State head coach Tom Minkel is in his 21st season coaching the Spartans and recorded his 150th career victory at MSU last season. Minkel said he expects to have five or six seniors in the starting lineup this season.
"Whenever you have that kind of experience in your lineup, you have the potential to have a pretty special season," said Minkel. "We expect to have a pretty good season."
The Spartans get two major contributors back this season, as both Anthony Jones Jr. (157) and David Cheza (165) missed last season due to injuries but are both healthy heading into 2011-12. Cheza qualified for the NCAA Championships in his sophomore season in 2010 and placed sixth at the Big Ten Championships.
Minkel acknowledged that it will be critical having both Jones and Cheza back this season and they will be absolutely huge in the middle of the lineup.
"Both are NCAA qualifiers, they are both team leaders, they have both been in the lineup a lot in their careers and a lot of our leadership comes from those guys," Minkel said. "There is no question they both have a lot of talent and a lot of experience. They will definitely be a big part of the team this year."
Here is a breakdown of the 2011-12 projected Spartan lineup as well as a breakdown at each weight class. The Michigan State wrestling season kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Eastern Michigan Open in Ypsilanti, Mich.
Senior Eric Olanowski enters the season as the starter at 125 pounds for Michigan State. Last season, Olanowski finished in eighth at the Big Ten Championships and started in 18 duals for the Green and White. Olanowski finished with a 17-17 overall record last season. In his 2008-09 season, Olanowski qualified for the NCAA Championships and is looking to end his senior year there as well.
"Eric has enormous athletic potential and has got a lot of experience - he just has to control his emotions and be fundamentally sound," said Minkel. "He has a tendency to kind of just roll with what's going on. The biggest thing is just more discipline, and that is likely to happen because he is a little older and a little more experienced."
Brennan Lyon, a sophomore from Ithaca, Mich., is expected to push Olanowski at 125 pounds. Lyon redshirted last season but finished with a 13-6 record in open tournaments.
The 133-pound weight class is a bit more open and three true freshmen will compete for the starting spot. Brandon Fifield, Terry Turner, and Robert Buckhannon will contend for time in the Spartan lineup.
"We are going to be young there no matter what but all three of them have pretty good experience in terms of their high school careers," said Minkel. "All three have the chance to be pretty successful competitors there."
Brandon Fifield is a two-time state champion at Leslie High School.
The Spartans are also young in the 141-pound class after losing Joel Trombly to graduation last season. Red-shirt freshman Andrew Ermatinger will compete with a group of true freshmen for the starting spot.
"Andrew Ermatinger is our most experienced wrestler at 141, and he's just a red-shirt freshman," Minkel said. "Then you have Brian Gibbs, Zach Corcoran and Joe Johnson and they are all true freshmen, but again, real solid guys. They're all talented and bring in good high school credentials."
Ermatinger finished last season with a 3-3 overall record in open tournaments and redshirted after suffering a knee injury.
"We are young at 133 and 141, but we have some young talent and I'm optimistic that they can hold their own," Minkel said.
Junior Dan Osterman returns at 149 after tying for the team lead in wins last season and qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
Osterman went 25-11 overall and was 15-3 in dual matches last season. Osterman will be pushed by freshman Roger Wildmo, a two-time state champion from Durand, Mich. Wildmo was ranked the No. 33 recruit in the nation according to InterMat.
"We have Roger Wildmo, who was one of the best high school wrestlers in the country at 149. He is off to a great start and is a very, very tough kid," Minkel said of Wildmo.
Minkel acknowledged that the experience that Osterman has is key for the Spartans. Osterman comes into the season ranked No. 15 in the nation at 149 pounds by InterMat.
"Danny Osterman probably gives us our best shot to be as strong as we can be there," Minkel said. "He just brings a lot. He's one of our hardest workers, he has good experience, he went to the NCAA's last year, had the most wins on the team and he is just a focused, hard-working and wide-open kid. I think there is no question that he could compete for All-America honors this year."
Michigan State gets two wrestlers back that suffered season-ending injuries last season but are healthy now heading into the 2011-12 season. Anthony Jones Jr. and David Cheza both have NCAA Championships experience and are both ideally 157-pounders, according to Minkel.
Through practice and training, the staff will determine who starts at 157, while the other will most likely wrestle at 165 pounds.
"Both of those guys are talented and experienced," said Minkel. "We know that they will have a big impact this year."
Jones, who comes into the season ranked No. 16 by InterMat, qualified for the NCAA Championships both as a sophomore in 2009 and as a junior in 2010 as a 157-pounder. He went 4-1 and placed third at the 2010 Big Ten Championships.
"Anthony is not only a great wrestler but he has a lot of experience," Minkel said. "He's been to the NCAA's, he's done well at Big Ten's, he's a leader on the team and he's a very good athlete. We expect him to compete for everything. The same with (David) Cheza.".
Adding depth to the lineup is red-shirt freshman Ryan Watts. Last season Watts finished with a 9-3 record competing in open tournaments.
Depending on if Jones or Cheza wrestles at 157, the other will start at 165. Minkel said having both in the lineup gives the Spartans their best chance this season.
Before losing the year to injury last season, Cheza went 6-4 overall at 157 pounds and beat two ranked wrestlers: No. 19 Bryan Deutsch of Northern Illinois and No. 3 Justin Lister of Binghamton. During the 2009-10 season, Cheza won 25 matches as a 149-pounder and qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Minkel said he feels confident at both 157 and 165 pounds, knowing that he will have a senior at both positions.
The Spartans return another NCAA qualifier at 174 pounds in senior Curran Jacobs. Jacobs placed seventh at Big Ten Championships last season and finished with 25 wins last season, tied for the team lead. Jacobs enters the season ranked No. 14 by InterMat.
"Curran is a wide open wrestler," Minkel said. "He just goes so hard. He's a little bit unconventional, but he's hard to deal with. I think there's no question that he's going to have a great year. I expect big things out of Curran."
Sophomore Nick Kaczanowski wrestled in the Big Ten's last season at 165 pounds and will challenge Jacobs at 174 this season. Kaczanowski finished last season with a 23-9 overall record and notched a team-high seven falls.
"He's a very tough kid, a very solid wrestler," Minkel said of Kaczanowski.
Ian Hinton, a senior, will start at 184 pounds for the Spartans heading into the 2011-12 season. Hinton competed at the Big Ten Championships last season and finished 18-10 overall.
"Ian has been in the lineup since he was a freshman," Minkel said. "I think Ian is very hungry; I know he wants to finish his senior year in a big way. He's just a very solid wrestler, and there's no question he will have a good year."
Two red-shirt freshmen back up Hinton at 184 pounds. John Rizqallah and Luke Jones both had impressive seasons competing in open tournaments last season. Rizqallah finished 16-6 and Jones went 18-9 overall.
Michigan State will have a senior starter at 197 as well, the fifth consecutive senior in the lineup starting for MSU.
"Tyler has worked exceptionally hard; I don't think there's anyone in our program that has worked harder."
Coach Minkel said of senior Tyler Dickenson
"He's made it very clear that he plans on winning a national title, period," Minkel said. "I know that's exactly what he's focused on. Tyler has worked exceptionally hard; I don't think there's anyone in our program that has worked harder."
Behind Dickenson is one of the more talented young wrestlers in the Spartan lineup, red-shirt freshman Nick McDiarmid. He went 17-7 last season in open tournaments.
Michigan State is loaded at heavyweight with all three wrestlers returning from last season. Juniors Steve Andrus and Joe Rizqallah, along with sophomore Michael McClure, round out the highly competitive heavyweight class.
"Three of the best heavyweights in the country, and they're all in the same program," Minkel said. "Seriously, these guys are great wrestlers, but they have really helped make each other great. They all have different styles and they're all big."
Andrus went 8-7 overall last season and has had success in international competition as well. He was selected this past summer to compete in the Pan American Championships for Greco-Roman wrestling, but an injury a week prior to the tournament hindered Andrus from competing. He's widely regarded as one of the top Greco-Roman wrestlers in the country.
"Steve Andrus is maybe the best conditioned heavyweight in the country," Minkel said. "He just does not get tired. He has a bottomless gas tank, and he can go extremely hard."
McClure finished last season with a 22-5 record and was 7-1 in duals last season, including a victory over 15th-ranked Blake Resing of Iowa. McClure is known for his strength as his key attribute.
"McClure is maybe the strongest heavyweight in the country," Minkel said. "He is very, very strong and is a hard-nosed tough guy."
Rizqallah, who took over the starting position midway through last season, claimed fourth place at the Big Ten Championships and qualified for the NCAA Championships. He was 22-14 overall last season and enters 2011-12 ranked No. 17 by InterMat.
"Joe Rizqallah is the funkiest heavyweight in the country - he's unorthodox, flexible, unconventional, and very hard to deal with," stated Minkel.
Minkel has options at heavyweight and the versatile group will allow him to decide who will strive in different situations.
"All three of them bring different skills to the table," Minkel said. "They're all big, all in great shape, and they all work really hard. They all want to be the guy. We will let them sort it out on the mat and in competition. We will see how it goes, but one thing is for sure - we will win an awful lot of matches at heavyweight."
Competing in the top wrestling conference in the nation, the Spartans' schedule is always a challenge, each and every year. Of the 14 dual matches this season, eight come against teams that ended last season ranked in the NWCA/USA Today Top 25.
"The Big Ten is head and shoulders the best conference in the country," Minkel said. "First of all, the entire conference has wrestling and with Nebraska coming in, they finished in the top 10 in the NCAA's, so that's no small addition. The Big Ten is one heck of a conference, you don't have to look far to find a great Big Ten team."
Michigan State opens the 2011-12 season at the Eastern Michigan Open Nov. 5, then hosts the annual MSU Open at Jenison Field House Nov. 12. The first home dual of the season is against Eastern Michigan on Friday, Nov. 18 at IM West at 7:30 p.m.
The Spartans then travel to Pennsylvania for a doubleheader on Dec. 3 against Lock Haven at 12 p.m. and Bucknell at 7 p.m.
The Big Ten season opens at Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind., on Friday, Dec. 9. Michigan State travels west to the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 18 before breaking for the end of the semester.
The Green and White take on defending national champion Penn State on Jan. 8 to kick off the New Year. The matchup will be at the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, Mich., at 2 p.m.
Michigan State hosts West Virginia and Indiana on Jan. 13 and Jan. 15, respectively. Friday's match against West Virginia will air on btn.com and the Indiana match will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
The following weekend the Spartans travel to Illinois to face off against Northwestern and Illinois. The matchup with the Wildcats is on Jan. 20 and the Illini host MSU on Jan. 22.
The Spartans welcome Nebraska into the Big Ten on Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. at Jenison Field House. MSU will then travel to Ann Arbor for a Sunday afternoon matchup with rival Michigan on Jan. 29 at 2 p.m.
Ohio State concludes the Big Ten season for the Spartans when the Buckeyes come to East Lansing for a dual on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.
Michigan State will wrestle against Edinboro on Feb. 10 and then will compete in the Edinboro Open on Feb. 11. The dual season concludes at Central Michigan on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.
Purdue will host the Big Ten Championships on March 3-4, while the NCAA Championships will be held in St. Louis, Mo., on March 15-17.