After dropping its first Mid-American Conference meeting with Central Michigan 34-3, the Eastern Michigan University wrestling team is coming into the homestretch of its season.
With more than a week off until they face Buffalo and four matches left until the MAC Championship, the Eagles, (10-8-1, 0-1), and coach Derek DelPorto know they have the talent but aren’t sure how it’s going to turn out.
“We could win all four, we could lose all four, we could split it – everything is in the picture,” DelPorto said. “We don’t know. That’s the great thing about our sport. We have a chance to win all four, but we also have a chance to lose all four. We’ll take it one match at a time.”
Redshirt sophomore Frank Sade, who wrestles at 141 pounds, seems more confident in the team’s chances.
“We match up well against them,” he said. “If we wrestle good we should be able to beat the remaining teams. With the talent that we have, we should be able to beat almost anyone in the MAC. We just gotta put it together and do it as a team.”
The MAC this year is laden with quality opponents, specifically Central Michigan (10-2, 1-0) and Kent State (12-3).
In the most recent National Wrestling Coaches Associaton/USA Today Division I poll, CMU was ranked No. 11 with Kent State coming in at No. 17. DelPorto knows it’s not going to be easy the rest of the way with such stiff competition.
“It’s going to be a tough road for the rest of the year,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t understand about our sport is that, especially in our conference here, there’s only six teams in our conference – two of them being ranked near the top. That’s like Florida coming up here and playing us in football, and like Duke coming up and playing us in basketball.”
DelPorto acknowledges it would have been a tall order to beat CMU and fully understands Central’s prowess.
“That would have been a tough dual meet to win,” he said. “I would have liked to have come out of there with three or four matches going our way. I would have liked fight a little harder than we did. But, they have six seniors on their team. We can’t wait for them to graduate.”
“That was disappointing. We should have won at least three or four matches there, if not more. But we didn’t wrestle very good,” Sade said.
He is among the many young wrestlers who won’t be graduating any time soon.
“I’m hoping to be the permanent starter next year,” Sade said. “So, I’m working for that.”
There are plenty of others on the squad just like Sade – young, talented and competing for a spot.
“We’ve got a lot of guys competing with each other for the same spot,” DelPorto said. “And when you have that kind of situation a lot of practice room support isn’t there from each other. They’re trying to earn their spots.
“We have seven seniors this year, but we’re pretty young because there’s not a lot of those seniors that are making huge impacts for us. I consider that young.”
One senior who has more than cemented his spot on the team is Sean Clair.
Wrestling at 133, Clair won the MAC Wrestler of the Week award last week after he went 4-0. The weekend was highlighted by a pin of No. 17 ranked Bill Ashnault from Rutgers University at the Spartan Duals.
“Sean’s one of those guys, that if he’s on, he can beat anyone,” DelPorto said. “Now, it’s not going to be pretty, but he can beat anyone. He’s unbelievably strong for his size, and he’s just really hard to score on. Sean’s having a pretty good year right now – as expected.”
Coming up next for the Eagles is Buffalo (7-4-1) at 7 p.m. next Wednesday at Bowen Field House.
“It’s going to be a tough match,” DelPorto said. “I think right now on paper, they probably have us six matches to four. But, I see us going into that matchup five-to-five. And so, someone has got to step up to win.”
Now that the season is rapidly coming to a close and the team has some time off, DelPorto has been able to reflect on the season so far.
“It’s going OK,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going great, I don’t think it’s going terrible. I think we’re right in the middle. What we’re trying to do is get all of our guys on the same page at the same time. And sometimes that’s just tough to do.
“We’re healthy, which is huge. I think we are kind of refocused again, and we’re going to use this week to really help us out for next week. If I was to grade us so far – B.”