Wrestling program looking for continued success

"For the last 49 years, one name has been synonymous with Oswego State wrestling: Howard.

"Mike Howard enters his 22nd season as the head coach of the team. Howard was an assistant with Oswego State for several seasons before the promotion, and preceding the promotion, Howard was a four-year varsity wrestler and a two-year captain. Howard’s father, Jim Howard, had coached the team for 27 years before handing the reigns over to his son.

""The 22 years have been fun and very enjoyable," Howard said. "I grew up here. I went to school here. I didn’t have to put any thought into the decision. My dad retired, sort of unexpectedly, and it just seemed like the thing to do."

"The Howard name is forever ingrained in the program. He has posted 129 dual meet wins in his 21 years and the program has ranked in the top 25 for Division III nine of the last 14 years.

"The Lakers have gone 9-19 in dual meets the last two seasons and are losing an impressive senior class. The class of 2009 included current assistant coach Eric Leusch, who was the team’s starting 285 pounder last year.

"Leusch placed third at the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference Championships (ECWC) for his weight class. His experience is something that Howard is looking forward in his assistant coach.

""He knows the system and he knows what we are looking for," said Howard. "Eric was a two time Academic All-American and has excellent leader skills."

"Oswego State placed fifth out of nine teams in last year’s ECWC Championships, the highest finish since 2007. The Lakers are captained by senior Marc Collins and junior Blake Fisher.

"Collins, who as of last year, wrestled in the 165 pound class, won fourth place at the ECWC Championships last season.

""He really picked it up a notch last season," Howard said. "Last year he was doing big things for us and he had a great summer. He finished second at empire over the summer."

"Fisher has been earning respect from his peers his whole career at Oswego State, including when he placed fourth in his weight class last year at the ECWC Championships.

""He came in a [freshman] and played great, continued that success as a sophomore, and has continued to be among the hardest workers on the team," Howard said. "He has great work ethic and he was a landslide pick for captain of the team."

"Oswego State travels to Ithaca this weekend for the annual Ithaca Invitational, where, according to Howard, the main goal will be to establish the probable starters for the 10 weight classes on the team.

""This is how we traditionally open our seasons, we’ve been doing this for the last 20 years," Howard said. "The kids love going to Ithaca and, as a coach, it’s fun to send them out there and see what we got."

"The Ithaca Invitational is an individual scoring competition, therefore every member of the team is guaranteed one match, as opposed to a dual match where the team has 10 weight classes and only 10 wrestlers per event. This is ideal for early season matches, so that each athlete can get a feel for where they are in their progression.

""This early in the season, the guys are still working on getting down to a certain weight class," Howard said. "They are balancing proper workouts, nutrition and hydration and trying to make weight. The key to it all is commitment and staying motivated."

"Howard could not be sure what the team should expect as far as wins and loses, but he said he wants to see his team continue to improve like they did last year. Key players on this year’s team will be sophomores Kyle Sheridan and Omar Santiago, who both placed at the EWCW Championships last year as freshmen.

""Our number one goal of the year is to get better everyday," Howard said. "If we can do that, come ECWC time, we will be a team to be reckoned with."

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