Oct. 30, 2000
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
With a diverse lineup of a few solid veterans and mostly talentednewcomers, the 2000-2001 season promises to be an exciting one for theWyoming wrestling team.
Wyoming returns four starters off of last year's 8-8 squad, meaningthat there will be new faces in six of the ten weightclasses for thePokes. This would be cause for concern for most, but Wyoming head coachSteven Suder is anxious to start the season. "Anytime that you start aseason after losing six senior starters off of your team it's a littleworrisome," said Suder. "With that, we feel real comfortable with ourfirst tier of guys who will step in and replace them. But ascomfortable as we are with them, we realize that a lot of them are realyoung and really untested."
The Pokes will rely heavily upon five returning lettermen in CraigRumsey, Steven Schenk, Mark Hamrick, Brad Steele and Kelly McConville.Those five will be looked to for wins and guidance as the Cowboys breakin their new starters.
Leading the way for Wyoming will be Rumsey and Schenk. "Guys arealready looking to those two for leadership," said Suder. Rumsey andSchenk are the only seniors on the Cowboy roster this season, and eachis very capable of having an outstanding year.
Rumsey had a record of 23-13 last season, including five pins and a10-6 dual match record. The native of Norfolk, Neb., has won 59 matchesas a Cowboy and will look to return to the NCAA Championships, where hequalified in 1998-99. Rumsey will again man the 197 pound spot, wherehe has been solid for two years.
Schenk will return to the 174 pound weight class, where he went 10-6last year. Schenk had five pins and two technical falls in his tenvictories. During the 1998-99 season, Schenk went 22-12 and qualifiedfor the NCAA Championships with a second-place finish at the WACChampionships. With his experience and talent, Schenk could be in linefor a great finish to his Cowboy career. "Steven worked his tail offall summer long," said Suder. "He knows he has one year to make it allhappen, and that has been very encouraging."
Hamrick enters his third season as a starter after improving by leapsand bounds his sophomore year. The Wheatland, Wyo., native will againbe the man at 149 pounds, the class he has held down for two years. "Ifelt like he made lots of progress last year and he's come back with thesame attitude," said Suder. Hamrick won 17 matches last year and willbe counted on to help lead the Cowboys as a junior.
At heavyweight the Pokes will again look to Brad Steele. Steele, asophomore from St. James, Minn., gained lots of valuable experienceduring the 1999-2000 season. Steele went 19-16 as a freshman, includingfive pins and three major decisions. With a year of experience underhis belt, Steele could mature into one of the better heavyweights inrecent memory at Wyoming.
McConville will likely step in at 133 pounds, a class that was astrength last year with standout Corey Hamrick. "Those are some toughshoes to fill for anyone," said Suder. "Yet we feel good with Kelly inthere and two or three talented guys behind him." A junior from Osseo,Minn., McConville had a record of 7-6 last season in the 141 poundweight class. As a freshman, McConville won 14 matches for the Pokes,showing steady improvement.
The remainder of the lineup will be filled with a number of veryexciting newcomers. Among these newcomers are Levi Prevost, MattWestenfelder, Kevin Kessner, Steve Cordova, Richie Cordova, E.K.Waldhaus and Justin Salas.
Prevost, Westenfelder and Kessner are all redshirt freshman who willexpected to step into astarting spot. The three are a very talented group that willundoubtedly be exciting to watch. Each one could do some great thingsin the Wyoming school colors.
Prevost, at 157 pounds, and Westenfelder, at 165 pounds, should moveinto the lineup as freshman. "These are two redshirt freshman who aretalented and hungry," said Suder. Prevost and Westenfelder will teamwith junior Justin Christenson in giving the Pokes three promisingperformers in these two weights.
Kessner, a native of Rock Springs, Wyo., will likely be the starter forWyoming at 184 pounds. Kessner was impressive in open tournament actionlast year, and was named "Rookie of the Year" in the Cowboy program."It will be an adjustment year for him, but he'll welcome thatchallenge," said Suder.
Richie Cordova, Waldhaus and Salas are all true freshman who could seesome mat time for the Pokes. Richie Cordova comes to Wyoming as atwo-time Utah state champion at 130 pounds, and he is projected towrestle at 133 or 141 for Wyoming. Waldhaus is a two-time Coloradostate champion, including a 36-0 record his senior year, and willwrestle in the 174 pound class this season. Salas comes to UW fromGreen River, Wyo., where he won two state championships. Salas willcompete at 165 pounds.
Steve Cordova, Richie's older brother, is a transfer from NorthwesternUniversity. Steve was a starter for the Wildcats during his freshmanseason at 125 pounds. In high school, Cordova was a three-time Utahstate champion and earned three state MVP awards. Due to his transferstatus, Cordova will not be eligible until January and is a redshirtpossibility.
The only real question marks heading into the season are at 125 and141. In the 141 pound weight class the Cowboys have three guys whocould step up in Thad Trujillo, Paul Turco and Chad Plummer. "We don'tknow who will rise to the top at 141, but we know enough about each ofthem to feel good about however it shakes out," said Suder.
At 125, Wyoming could go a couple of different routes. Steve Cordovacould step in mid-season when he becomes eligible or it could likely bea battle between junior John Faczak and true freshmen Reynold Candelariaand J.W. Lazzari for the spot.
Although there are a couple of positions that are unsettled headinginto the season, Suder, who enters his twelfth year as Cowboy headcoach, is pleased with the direction of his program. "In six of our tenweight classes we are two deep with guys we feel very good about. Wehaven't been to that point for quite a while."
The last two recruiting classes appear to have been real coupes forthe Pokes. The addition of a number of outstanding talents to analready strong core of veterans have the Wyoming wrestling program onthe brink of something special. "It's possible that the talent we havein the wrestling room this year might be a notch or two above where it'sever been," said Suder.
In front of the Cowboys is a schedule as challenging as any in thecountry. Wyoming will face the likes of Nebraska, Boise State,Oklahoma, Northern Iowa and Fresno State in dual action. Also on theschedule is area rival Air Force and the always tough Las VegasInvitational. "The schedule was designed with our team in mind," saidSuder. "The way to give our younger guys some confidence isn't to bringin teams where we're going to win every time. We need to wrestle teamslike Oklahoma, Nebraska and Fresno State. I think it's a great scheduleand one where our guys will really grow."
Kicking the season off is the Cowboy Open on Nov. 12 in Laramie. UWwill host a number of Division I, Division II and junior college teamsin War Memorial Fieldhouse in one of the top early season tournaments."It's a good first competition in that there will be a diverse group ofathletes there," said Suder.
UW and Laramie will also serve as host to the West Regional on March3. This is the NCAA qualifying tournament for Wyoming and five otherteams, Air Force, Fresno State, Eastern Illinois, Marquette and NorthernIowa. "We'll be in front of the home crowd which will be exciting forour guys," said Suder. "The best thing about it is that it will be afirst-class, well-run tournament, that's the way things are aroundhere."