2009-10 Wrestling Season Preview: Rogers, Muskies look to keep building national contender
Athletics - posted on 11/5/2009
Each year, the bar is pushed higher and higher for the Lakeland wrestling program. As a result, expectations are lofty for the 2009-10 team.
One year after placing 21st at the NCAA Division III National Championships and sending two national qualifiers to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, ninth-year coach Pete Rogers is looking for his team to continue to increase the standard of success at Lakeland.
"I think this team is really close-knit right now, and has high goals in mind," Rogers said. "I feel like we should be taking another step in the right direction. No one in our program is satisfied with being 21st in the nation. Being content with a top-30 finish is not where we want to go."
One way to set a higher standard is to compete against the best. The Muskies, who were 9-7 in dual meets last season and are the two-time defending Northern Wrestling Association (NWA) champions, will face five opponents in the Brute-Adidas National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division III Preseason rankings.
Lakeland will take on No. 8 Concordia Moorhead (Minn.) and No. 10 North Central (Ill.) at the Lakeland Duals this Saturday.
"In the first semester, we wrestle a lot of highly-ranked teams, so we'll see where we end up," Rogers said. "We're not going to have everybody in place, and I realize that going into this year. We're going to be a better team at the end of the year than we are at the beginning, which is fine by me."
Depth will be another key to the Muskies' push this year. Rogers believes he has extremely capable back-ups who can step in for an injured starter at any moment.
Health will also be critical, as Rogers cited the number of injuries and sicknesses among team members early in the preseason.
"We've had a couple glitches with injuries and sickness, but I think it seems like everybody's going through it right now," Rogers said. "It hasn't been what you'd like closing in on the first meet of the year, but I'm very happy with the guys and their level of intensity."
From a leadership standpoint, the team will call on its three seniors - Ben Chapman, Jake Frias and Adam Sutter - to show younger wrestlers the way.
"Jake Frias is definitely our captain and is a great leader both on and off the mat," Rogers said. "He keeps guys doing the right things as much as humanly possible.
"Adam is a leader by being a super-talented wrestler. He's improved immensely on work ethic, and he doesn't want to leave any regrets after this season. Ben Chapman has always done the right things his whole career."
Here's a weight-by-weight breakdown of the 2009-10 Muskies:
Freshman Cory Hildebrandt projects to take over at 125 this season. The Granger, Ind., native was an all-conference performer at Penn High School. According to Rogers, Hildebrandt has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the preseason.
"Cory's a tough kid and the sky's the limit for him," Rogers said. "He's coming in as a freshman and is going to be expected to start, but I expect him to come in and be a real competitive wrestler for us. He's definitely got the tools."
Sophomore Rob Frias (Oak Lawn, Ill.), Jake Frias' younger brother, returns to the line-up after joining the Muskies midway through the 2008-09 campaign. Frias finished 13-9 last season and won the Northern Wrestling Association title at 133.
"Robby's done a lot of work over the summer," Rogers said. "He's mentally and physically tough. He starts off the heart of our line-up, and I expect huge things from him."
Others to watch: David May (Jr., Oak Lawn, Ill.)
Sophomore Jake Montie, entering his third year with the program, went 16-8 last year as a back-up after sitting out the 2007-08 season with a back injury. The Oconto Falls, Ill., native looks to stay healthy as a starter this season.
"Jake is another one that did what it took over the summer, and he looks like a different person," Rogers said. "He's 100 percent again, and is someone who we're going to depend on a lot. He's also a great leader."
Others to watch: Josh Gauthier (Fr., Kingsford, Mich.); Nathan Campbell (Fr., Wauwatosa, Wis.); Cody Gust (Fr., Townsend, Wis.); Ricardo Rosas (Fr., Sheboygan, Wis.)
Junior Isaac Roberson (Chicago, Ill.) looks to break through as a standout wrestler for the Muskies. Last season, Roberson finished second on the team with 123 takedowns and placed sixth at the NCAA Division III Great Lakes Regional.
"Isaac Roberson is a hammer," Rogers said. "He's gotten way better as well. He was always talented, but now he's doing the right things every single day. He's a guy who improves every single match."
Others to watch: Dalton Buckmaster (Fr., Osseo, Wis.)
Chapman (Plymouth, Wis.), a two-time NWA champion, won't return to this spot until the second semester, as he only has one semester of eligibility remaining. In the mean time, sophomore transfer Nick Kusta (Chicago Ridge, Ill.) and freshman Ryan Renon (De Pere, Wis.), who missed last season due to National Guard basic training, will battle for the starting slot.
"Nick is wrestling again after a successful high school career and he's starting to get it back," Rogers said. "Ryan is one of the toughest guys I've ever been around. I don't ever recall coaching anybody who's as mentally tough as he is."
Jake Frias, an Oak Park, Ill., native, started to peak in the middle of last season before coming down with an illness prior to the Great Lakes Regional. He was a runner-up at the Cornell Matman Invite and the NWA Tournament, and finished third on the team in takedowns and fifth in team points.
"Jake's just a good role model for everybody," Rogers said. "He works hard and he's come a super-long way as far as a competitor in wrestling. Coming in, he was not a state qualifier, and where he is right now, I think he's got the ability to get it done at the end of the year."
Others to watch: Derek Flok (So., Egg Harbor, Wis.); Martin Alvarez (Fr., Sheboygan, Wis.)
The starting spot at 174 is sophomore Josh DeLuca's to lose, but Rogers sees Flok also competing for the position. DeLuca (Ingleside, Ill.) posted 11 victories and four pins last season. Flok is the younger brother of Jonas Flok, a national qualifier at 157 pounds as a senior last season for Lakeland.
"As long as Josh's mental edge comes back, he's going to be a competitive wrestler for us," Rogers said. "Derek Flok wrestled with us one year and took a year off. He's a tough kid, very dependable and has a hard work ethic."
Others to watch: Andrew Aronstam (Jr., Waverly, N.Y.); Chris Collins (Fr., Waterford, Wis.)
Freshman Chris Weber, who is in his second year at Lakeland and first with the wrestling program, projects to start at 184 pounds.
"Chris kind of showed up at my office one day," Rogers said. "He really had an outstanding high school career, so he's one of the best surprises I could have gotten. He should be very competitive this year."
Others to watch: Aronstam; Gary Pieper (Jr., Adell, Wis.)
Sophomore Rob Forgette (Menominee, Mich.) and freshman T.J. Kinjerski (Mishicot, Wis.), a three-time Wisconsin high school state placer, will compete for the starting spot. Forgette recorded three victories, all by pin, last season as a back-up.
"Rob did a total transformation from last year to this year," Rogers said. "He put on about 20 pounds of muscle, and he's wrestling like a hammer right now. He's looking tough as nails."
Others to watch: Brad LeClair (Fr., Two Rivers, Wis.)
Sutter, who will be inactive for the season-opening Lakeland Duals, became the program's second-ever All-American last year, placing sixth at the NCAA Championships. He also finished as the team leader in pins and team points. The Gladstone, Mich., native is ranked No. 4 in the nation in the d3wrestle.com Preseason Individual Rankings and fifth in the Brute-Adidas NWCA Division III Preseason Individual Rankings.
"Adam has really stepped it up a notch and is a totally different person from last year to this year," Rogers said. "I'm excited about his attitude. He was always talented, but now he's getting the other things to go along with it."
Others to watch: Bill Wood (Jr., Manistique, Mich.)
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