Nov. 1, 2012
WATCH: Tom Minkel Interview
WATCH: 2012-13 Season Preview
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State wrestling team boasts a roster loaded with young talent and potential coming into the 2012-13 season. The Spartans lost four NCAA Qualifiers from last season but will rely on a blend of young and veteran wrestlers to compete in the Big Ten Conference.
"We've had a pretty significant turnover in our team," head coach Tom Minkel said. "We had six or seven seniors on our team and most of them were in the lineup for a couple of years before that. When they graduated it opened up a lot of spots in the starting lineup and we have a large freshmen class this year. Fortunately, that freshmen class has brought a lot of talent and work ethic.
"Everyone in the program, the staff, coaches and the wrestlers are optimistic about this year. We are really looking forward to it."
Senior David Cheza was named captain for the 2012-13 season and brings a wealth of experience to the Spartan lineup and is slated to start at 157 pounds. Cheza was granted an additional year of eligibility before this season, due to having two seasons cut short due to injury. He has qualified for the NCAA Championships in two different weight classes (149, 165).
Here is a breakdown of the 2012-13 projected Spartan lineup and a look at each weight class. The Michigan State wrestling season kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the Eastern Michigan Open.
Michigan State will have to replace departed senior Eric Olanowski from a year ago and will look to do so with a crop of young athletes. Junior Brenan Lyon is joined by freshmen Garth Yenter and Hermilo Esquivel and sophomore transfer Josh Heinzer competing for the starting nod.
Heinzer is eligible immediately after transferring from Iowa Central Community College and has three years of eligibility remaining. Minkel is high on the skills that Heinzer brings to the mat, most notably his intensity that helped him place second in the junior college national championships in 2011.
"Josh is a pretty accomplished wrestler," head coach Tom Minkel said. "He goes hard and has a huge motor. He wrestles wide open and really that is what we are looking for, not only from him but for our team in general. He will be a great way to start our duals if we are starting at 125 because he certainly gets after it.
"Brenan is right there as well," Minkel said. "He is a little older and has worked really hard here. Brenan won't give up that spot easily, it will be a good and healthy competition and we'll certainly use them both in the early stages of the season."
Sophomore Terry Turner should return to the staring lineup after seeing time as a true freshman last season. Turner went 9-6 last season and was 1-3 in dual meets. Junior Chris Lyon and sophomore Charlie Joseph, a transfer from Iowa, will push Turner for the starting position.
"Terry Turner is a pretty talented and gifted young man," Minkel said. "He is also pretty young having only been in college two years. I wouldn't be surprised if one of our 125 pounders moved up to challenge him at 133. Right now, he is our guy at 133 and there is no question he can have a great season."
Another sophomore in Brandon Fifield should see ample time in the starters' role at 141 pounds after going 12-18 last season. Freshman Nick Trimble, a Sparta, Mich., native, won the 2011 Division 2 state title at 130 pounds and could make a run to unseat Fifield.
"He was in our lineup as a freshman and gained some very good experience," Minkel said of Fifield. "He is more battle tested than I think he expected to be at this stage in his career. He is a tough kid and really goes hard; no doubt he will compete this year."
Freshman Nick Trimble did beat Fifield in a close match in the wrestle-offs, stirring the competition early.
"Nick is a true freshman but is really one of the strongest kids in our recruiting class," Minkel said. "We will see how they both do both at Eastern Michigan and at our tournament and we will see whether it is best to redshirt Nick or let him compete."
Dan Osterman leads MSU at 149 pounds and is one of only two seniors on the Michigan State roster. Osterman qualified for the NCAAs a season ago but will be challenged by redshirt freshman Roger Wildmo for the starting nod. Wildmo went 28-6 last season in open competition and paced MSU with 15 falls.
"This is a good weight class," Minkel said. "Danny has started for us for three years and has gotten progressively better for us each year. He has a redshirt year available to him but at this point, I think he prefers to compete.
"Roger was one of the best young wrestlers in our recruiting class last year and was one of the most successful high school wrestlers to ever come out of the state of Michigan. He is a hard working kid and we will have a better idea of where we stand in the next couple weeks and they are both very strong at 149."
Michigan State is grateful that senior David Cheza was granted an addition year of eligibility by the NCAA after having multiple seasons cut short due to injury. Cheza was named captain for the 2012-13 season and is slated to start at 157 pounds. He qualified for his second NCAA Championships last season but it was at 165 pounds. Now, he returns to his natural weight class for the upcoming season.
Cheza will be pushed by sophomore Ryan Watts for time in the lineup. Watts went 18-8 last season and placed second at the Edinboro Open.
"David has matured so much, not only as a wrestler but as a young man," Minkel said. "He is a marvelous guy and really brings some stability to this team just because he is so experienced and so tested. There is no question he is going to have a heck of a year.
"Ryan Watts is right there with David. He is one of the hardest working, most committed young men I've ever had in the program. He is quite remarkable and is very dedicated and committed and he will be right there in the mix. We plan to use him a lot as well."
Troy Lamson, a sophomore, should get his shot to compete for the starting job at 165 pounds after going 11-6 last season in open competition. Lamson will have to fend off sophomore Robert Nash and freshman Travis Curley for the starting spot.
"Troy will probably be our starter at 165 pounds and he is our veteran guy even though he hasn't been a starter prior to this," Minkel said. "He has grown a lot. He is much stronger, technically much better than he has been and has worked to get better. I expect him to be solid in the lineup."
The Spartans look to replace Curran Jacobs, a two-time NCAA Qualifier, at 174 pounds and will look at a combination of Nick Kaczanowski, Kevin Nash, Nick Proctor and Jordan Wholfert to fill the void.
"We've got very good depth at 174 with Kevin Nash and Nick Kaczanowski," Minkel said. "Kaczanowski has wrestled for us in the starting lineup in and out and wrestled in the Big Ten Championships. He has solid experience and is in his fourth year.
"Kevin Nash has developed really well, worked very hard. Nick Proctor won the wrestle off, not by a lot and he has moved up from 165 pounds and in the past he has cut a lot of weight. He is now in a position to work on his skills and his conditioning and a little less on his weight cutting. I think we will have a really strong class at 174."
John Rizqallah is penciled in to start at 184 pounds but Eric Ford is also in consideration for time in the lineup. Rizqallah, a sophomore, went 12-7 last season and was 0-2 in duals filling in for departed senior Ian Hinton.
"He seems to be the main guy right now," Minkel said of Rizqallah. "Eric Ford is in the mix there as well. John is a little unconventional and is pretty crafty and had a good season last year as the backup. I think he will develop into a pretty sound wrestler. He is very motivated and a good working kid. He will likely be the starter and we are optimistic that he will have a strong year."
Sophomore Nick McDiarmid was thrust into the starting lineup last season after Tyler Dickenson suffered a season-ending knee injury. McDiarmid looks to build on last season in which he went 20-14 overall and 5-6 in dual matches.
Junior Michael McClure leads MSU at the heavyweight position and comes into the season ranked No. 16 nationally according to InterMat. McClure went 16-10 last season and will be pushed by Chris Nash and Forrest Wooden. Chris, along with brothers Kevin and Robert, completes a trio of brothers on the Spartans' roster, a first for head coach Tom Minkel.
"We've fortunately have been very strong at heavyweight and had a lot of depth there the last few years, and Mike has got valuable experience there," Minkel said. "Now he is clearly is the number one guy. His strength is clearly his strength. He is a powerful young man but his challenge now will be to channel that power into effective wrestling and he has worked hard at that.
"We've never had three before, it is almost impossible," Minkel said of the Nash brothers from Roseville, Mich. "Bobby, Kevin and Chris all bring different things to the team. One thing they all have is a great work ethic and it is nice having them on the squad, they do a good job."
Competing in the Big Ten Conference, the Spartans are familiar with the grind of facing top competition, often ranked in the top 25. Eight conference opponents the season ranked in the USA Today/NWCA/AWN Division I Coaches Poll, including six squads in the top 10, giving the Big Ten the most ranked teams of any conference in the country.
"We tried to diversify the schedule a bit, especially in the beginning," Minkel said. "We are going back out to the Reno Tournament which gives us a look at some different teams that we don't normally get to see. We certainly have some tough teams with Penn State, Iowa and Minnesota; they were the top three in the NCAAs last year. It doesn't get any tougher than that."
Michigan State opens the 2012-13 season at the Eastern Michigan Open on Nov. 3, then hosts the MSU Open on Nov. 11. The Spartans begin the dual season back at Eastern Michigan on Nov. 16 and then return home to host Edinboro on Nov. 30.
MSU travels to Wisconsin to open the conference dual season on Dec. 7 and will face Northern Illinois on Dec. 8. The Spartans close out 2012 with a trip to Reno, Nev., to compete in the Reno Tournament of Champions for the second straight season.
To open 2013, MSU hosts Purdue on Jan. 4 and both Bucknell and Lindsey Wilson on Jan. 6. Michigan State then travels to Calrion, Pa., for duals against North Carolina and Clarion. The Spartans travel to take on Penn State on Jan. 13, will host Iowa on Jan. 20 and Northwestern on Nov. 25.
Michigan State begins a stretch of three straight road matches with Ohio on Jan. 27 and then will face Nebraska on Feb. 1 and Minnesota on Feb. 3. The Spartans close out the dual season at home, hosting Michigan on Feb. 10, Iowa State on Feb. 15 and Central Michigan on Feb. 22 on senior night.
Illinois is hosting the Big Ten Championships on March 9-10 and the NCAA Championships are March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.