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With a strong recruiting class of 12 wrestlers and three returning regional place winners, the Lakeland College wrestling team has high expectations for this season.
"Our goal is to do something nationally this year, and we have guys who should be able to get it done," said head coach Pete Rogers.
Among those expected to have successful seasons are senior Paul Hartt (Port Charlotte, Fla./Charlotte) and junior David Copp (Oostburg/Oostburg).
Hartt had a phenomenal junior year, winning the Northern Wrestling Association 184-pound division title match, 12-0. The co-captain also finished fourth at regionals and led the Muskies in just about every statistical category, including takedowns (76), wins (33) and win percentage (.846). He was named conference Wrestler of the Year.
Copp took the NWA 125-pound title with by a 7-2 victory in the final. He also competed in the regional championships, finishing fourth. The junior compiled a solid 24-12 record in 2006-07, and was second on the team in total points (120) and takedowns (70).
"The sky for the limit for Paul and David," said Rogers. "They both have the potential to do a lot. They both went on a national team to Turkey and Bulgaria this summer, and worked extremely hard in the off-season."
The Muskies also welcome back a number of other familiar faces. Junior Kory Theil (Crystal Lake, Ill./Cary-Grove) snagged the conference title at 141 as the No. 2 seed last season, finishing with an improved 18-16 overall record. Junior Jonas Flok (Egg Harbor/Sevastopol) will also be in the mix at 157. Sophomore Adam Sutter (Escanaba, Mich./Escanaba) finished with an impressive 15-4 overall record, and was second in the conference meet at 285.
"Adam has so much talent that I really think he can do some damage," Rogers said.
Senior Matt Benson (Random Lake/Random Lake) returns to the Muskies after serving time with the National Guard in Iraq last season. In 2005-06, he finished with an even 10-10 record. He will be competing for the heavyweight spot on the team with Sutter.
Sophomore Jake Frias (Oak Lawn, Ill./H.L. Richards) is expected to be another strong contender for the Muskies in the 141/157 division. Last season, he took second place as the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament at 149.
"He had a great freshman year," Rogers said. "He has done the right things in off season. He put on some weight and put on some muscle. I expect him to do really well."
Senior Calvin O'neal (Pontiac, Mich./Pontiac Central) also returns to the Muskies' line-up at 174 after a solid 7-2 showing in 2006-07.
"I expect a lot of things out of him because he's done the right things during the summer," Rogers said.
The Muskies' recruiting class, 12 strong, will fill-in the rest of the holes. One of those expected to make an impact is Ben Chapman (Plymouth/Plymouth), a junior transfer from UW-Madison at 149. At 141, Tyge Benson (Iron River, Mich./West Iron County) is also poised for a solid start as he is a two-time Upper Peninsula State Champion. The Muskies also have a number of Wisconsin state meet place winners, including Jake Montie (Oconto Falls/ Oconto Falls) at 141, who is a two-time state place winner, and Gary Pieper (Adell/Random Lake) at 184/197. Sophomore Tom Mann (Two Rivers/Kiel) is also a welcome addition at 184 after attending UW-Manitowoc and Lakeshore Technical College. He was second and third at state in high school and was a 2002 junior national all-American.
"There are a lot of guys on our team that have the potential to do well in the conference, but also have the potential to do well at the next level," Rogers said.
The Muskies will have to make it through a tough regular season schedule, and the challenge starts right from the beginning at their own Lakeland Duals, and will continue with competition from several teams in Wisconsin's state league.
"We're wrestling some ranked teams at our Lakeland Duals, the first match of the year," Rogers said. "It should be a good test to tell us where we are at. I think we'll be able to compete with them and do pretty well. We also wrestle a lot of nationally-ranked teams, including UW-Stevens Point, St. Johns, UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh.
"We may not end up with the greatest dual meet record, but if we have a decent one, we will be a high-ranked team because we wrestle so many ranked schools. We won't get blown out by any of those teams."