The Oswego State wrestling team is looking to bounce back from an injury-riddled season and compete in the 2013-2014 season.
The team enters the season coming off of a 3-11 overall team record, but had some individual success on the mat.
The Lakers saw their first national qualifier since 2009 when Blake Fisher placed second in the 157-pound weight class at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. Fisher would later go 1-2 at nationals, but was a strength of the often-overlooked Oswego State team.
This season sees many of the younger members of the team stepping up into bigger roles.
Maxx Stratton, Scott Bova and Branden Jones will return this season as captains and will be joined by returning captain Kyle Sheridan, who received a medical hardship after being injured last season.
The four captains are excited for the season, for themselves and for their teammates. The three new captains are also excited to be stepping into a new role on the team.
Stratton is entering his fourth season with the Lakers and will be in the 157-pound weight class. The senior has an overall record of 16-25, but he placed sixth at the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference Championships last season.
Stratton knew at the end of the last season that he would need to step up to be a leader on the team.
“When the season ended last year, we felt we were going to have two seniors this coming year, but one of them wasn’t going be back to school, so I knew coming in that I was going to be the only senior on the team this year,” Stratton said. “I knew we were going to need kind of an attitude adjustment on the team and we’re working toward that everyday. I knew I kind of needed to be a good role model for the younger kids on the team, trying to show them the ropes, give them the right idea about this program so we can continue to build over the years.”
Stratton has had some minor injuries in the past that have affected his seasons, but has remained healthy thus far this season.
Being a captain has added pressure on athletes and Stratton recognizes that and even embraces it.
“I’m really excited,” Stratton said. “Obviously there’s a lot more pressure on you because there’s a lot more expected out of you, but it’s exciting and it just gives me more motivation. I have to make sure that I’m doing everything right and that way nobody else can make excuses.”
Stratton is in the 157-pound weight class that Fisher left after last year. There is some depth in the middle weight classes, with 10 members of the team listed from the 149 to 165 pound weight classes.
“It’s fortunate, because that way, during practice, we always gotta get going and get some good wrestling going on,” Stratton said. “It just shows you that you gotta work that much harder because now you got two or three kids… and it just gives me that much more reason to work harder.”
As far as the season goes, Stratton is looking forward to what is in store for himself and his team.
“I have really, really high expectations this year, assuming that we don’t have some of the injury problems we had for the past couple of years,” Stratton said. “But as long as we can keep it together, I don’t see why we can’t have a couple kids going to the national tournament and hopefully get All-American too. That’s the goal right now.”
Bova is also returning after an injury set him back last season. The junior will be wrestling in the 184-pound weight class this season after wrestling to an overall record of 9-19 in his previous two seasons.
Bova’s season ended abruptly after he pulled his LCL.
“It was more toward the end of the season and by the time I would’ve been ready to jump back into it, it would’ve been too late,” Bova said. “I injured it around Jan. 4 and then came back into full-swing toward the end of March.”
Bova said he plans on leading the team by example rather than being the vocal leader.
“Max (Stratton) is the senior captain and he’s doing most of the speeches and stuff and I’m just here to set the example and raise the bar a little bit,” Bova said.
“That goes for losing weight; we talk a lot about nutrition, pointers about what to eat and what not to eat…. Stuff like that; really making sure that we’re pushing the team.”
Bova is running the study hall sessions for the team this semester. He goes to the library and makes sure his teammates are focused on their schoolwork.
He also is joining his fellow captains in helping the younger members of the team make the adjustment to collegiate wrestling.
“We have a history of not preparing the freshmen for the upcoming season, so this year we really tried to have captain’s practices early, and make them tough,” Bova said. “Stability fitness, they really helped us. They incorporated a lot of lifting and cardio workouts, so this year, I think, coming into the season, the freshmen were ready to go. They knew what to do and they were fit.”
Bova expects this year’s team to improve upon last season.
“I’m really expecting a winning season. We really have some solid guys in there and, with stability’s help, we hope not to have any injuries at all,” Bova said.
As for his personal ambitions for the season, Bova said, “I’m going for nationals. There’s nothing less.”
Jones comes into the season with a record of 7-22. Jones made the transition from the 285-pound weight class to the 184-weight class last season and has now bulked up to be in the 197-pound weight class.
Jones said that he is mainly focusing on being a leader to his teammates and making sure no one falls behind.
“We have a lot of new guys this year as always, but we’re trying to keep as many people as we can, so we have to integrate and make sure everyone together and everyone is on top of things,” Jones said. “If anyone falls out of the loop, then that’s one less guy we have.”
Jones said that one of the team’s main philosophies is comparing themselves to a chain.
“Without one of those loops, we’re not as strong as we would be with everyone,” Jones said.
Jones thinks that with the group they have going into this season, they have the ability to be stronger than ever before.
“I’m hoping to go to regionals and hopefully nationals,” Jones said.
A big return to the Lakers is Sheridan, who has a record of 39-47 going into his senior season with Oswego State.
He received a medical hardship and eligibility for the upcoming season. He finished second at the RIT Invitational and shortly after his season ended due to an injury.
While Sheridan was not sure what to expect going into this semester, he will be returning in the 285-pound weight class. Sheridan placed 5th at the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference Championships in 2012 and 6th in 2010.
Sheridan is looking forward to coming back for one last season.
“As long as I can remain healthy and keep getting my strength up, I think I can do very well,” Sheridan said. “I wrestled half a season and did very well last year, so I think if I keep improving, I can go very far.”
His fellow captains spoke highly of Sheridan and showed their eagerness for his return.
“Bringing Kyle Sheridan back will be huge,” Bova said. “First of all, we get a heavyweight and having him there as a captain really pushing those who could really use a push.”
Sheridan had nice words for his fellow captains as well.
“They’re good additions to the captains,” Sheridan said. “They’re all motivated, they all work hard; I think they’re going to be a good addition to the captains and if everything moves slowly, we’ll have a good team.”
Sheridan also has a positive outlook on the season for his team.
“From what I can see, we have a lot of young guys,” Sheridan said, “but we have a lot of good talent, also. I think we can do pretty good.”
The Lakers will head to Ithaca on Monday to take on their first competition of the season with the Ithaca Invitational.
Oswego State has two home meets during the season, coming on Jan. 22 against The College at Brockport and on Feb. 8 against SUNY Cortland.