By Steve Maugeri
At the end of last season, Kutztown University’s wrestling team ended the year at its highest National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) ranking in school history, finishing 7th. Although the Golden Bears finished as one of the best teams in the country, they feel there is unfinished business. This season, they are ranked 12th nationally in the NWCA preseason poll and have nearly all their starters back.
With the numerous preseason accolades, head coach Rob Fisher is excited about the group’s potential. “This is my 14th year here and on paper, although you’re never sure how it will play out, this could be our best team ever,” said Fisher.
Fisher will have a talented and experienced group to work with, as he will return five national qualifiers in Evan Yenolevitch, Mitch Voelker, Giovanni Ortiz, Brandan Clark and Ziad Haddad. Yenolevitch and Haddad are ranked in the top ten nationally in their respective weight classes. KU will have seven returning wrestlers ranked in the top ten in the Super Region One poll rankings.
Haddad will be the team’s catalyst this season by his fourth place finish in nationals last season. The North Carolina transfer finished 27-5 in his first year in the maroon and gold and was the only KU wrestler to be conferred with an All American bid. Haddad will have the national spotlight encompassed around him this season by being named atop the preseason poll at the heavyweight class. Coach Fisher did not beat around the bush when asked about his star heavyweight. He made it clear that Haddad’s goal is to finish atop the mountain. “His goal is one goal only, and that is to be a national champion. He is not going to settle for anything less,” Fisher said.
The Golden bears will have a target on their back this season, but Senior Mitch Voelker says the team will shrug it off. “I don’t really mind; it’s just what other people think,” Voelker said. “We just have to stay confident and not read into it.” With such a mindset, success should permeate throughout the team.
KU started off the season by reeling off two wins in the Terrapin Duals at the University of Maryland the other weekend. With a strong group of upperclassmen to lead and a promising group of underclassmen in Tom Traxler, Arthur Walsh and Joe Esposito, KU Wrestling will be the team to watch this winter.