As the Eastern Michigan University football, soccer and volleyball seasons draw to a close, other sports are opening their competitive season and getting ready for the spotlight, such as the EMU men’s wrestling team.
Last season the Eagles took third place at the Mid-American Conference Championships and finished their season with a winning overall (14-6) and MAC record (3-2). This is the first winning MAC season record for the team since 1991.
The EMU wrestling season was intensified when four wrestlers became national qualifiers and three more became Academic All-MAC honorees. Two members of the squad were also named to the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Academic Team.
Although graduation swiped six wrestlers from their roster, head coach Derek DelPorto is confident in his current team.
“[The senior wrestlers] were a tremendous part of this team and the progression it has made over the past five years, but the show must go on,” DelPorto said.
The seniors are replaced with what DelPorto feels is the most talented freshmen class that has been part of the wrestling team. They have been successful in the past and DelPorto expects that to carry on to the collegiate level. He expects them to wrestle maturely and not back down to anyone, especially older wrestlers.
These high expectations are also enforced throughout the rest of the team.
DelPorto stresses to his wrestler to focus less on winning or losing and more on scoring as many points as possible.
“I expect my guys to compete as hard as they can from the first whistle to the last,” DelPorto said.
For some of his more advanced and nationally ranked wrestlers, DelPorto raises those expectations even more.
“We expect them to think MAC Champion and NCAA Champion. Period,” DelPorto said.
The schedule consists of seven home events, and the Eagles will compete against six teams that placed in the Top 30 of last year’s NCAA Championships.
EMU is currently picked to finish fifth in the MAC conference, with top-four seeds in three weight classes. Redshirt senior Aaron Sulzer tied for first at 157 pounds and redshirt juniors Jared Germaine (125 pounds) and Nick Whitenburg (197 pounds) were both selected for third in their weight classes.“Our conference has become a tougher conference with the addition of Missouri, Old Dominion and Northern Iowa, so it is going to be interesting,” DelPorto said.
The Eagles will follow tradition and hold their season opener at the 21st Annual EMU Open Saturday, Nov. 3 at 9 a.m. at Bowen Field House.
There will be two divisions: freshman and sophomore and an open division. No team scores will be kept and the tournament will be a double elimination.
Be on the lookout for the Eagles at the Michigan State Dual Nov. 16, the Indiana Dual on Dec.16 and the Iowa State Dual Feb. 17. All these events will be held at Bowen Field House.
“I’m excited and anxious to get things started,” DelPorto said. “If we win the big duals, we have to stay grounded, and if we lose we must stay motivated throughout the year.”
EMU will also compete in the Midlands Championship Dec. 29-30. It is one of the most highly competitive tournaments in the country.
The Eagles will end their season with the MAC Championships March 10 in Buffalo, N.Y. and the NCAA Championships March 21-24 in Des Moines, Iowa.
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