D2 poll ranks wrestling 15th

Lauren Abbott, Opinion editor

Heading into the 2017-18 season, Mercyhurst wrestling was ranked 15th in the National Collegiate Athletic Association DII Coaches Association Top 25 preseason rankings.  The Lakers, who earned 27 points, had three nationally ranked individuals highlighted.  McKendree University topped the poll with 85 points.  Last year, the Lakers were ranked fourth in the preseason and finished 10th overall.

Having graduated seven seniors last year, the team is full of new wrestlers that are eager to get out on the mat.  “There are a lot of new faces that I think will make a name for themselves pretty quick,” said head coach Mike Wehler.  Wehler is in his 11th season as the coach for the wrestling team.  The expected lineup for the Lakers will feature one previous All-American, Dakota DesLauriers, two national qualifiers, Wes Phipps and Logan Grass, and two regional placers, Kevin Kinyua and Cole Gavin.  The remaining six spots are new to the starting line up.  “With a younger team, there’s potential,” said graduate assistant Kody Young. “There’s a lot of kids that are willing to come put in the work … and put in the extra work to get to that next level.”  Grass, a redshirt sophomore is one of the two returning team national qualifiers.

Grass was the youngest Laker to qualify for nationals last season and is ranked fourth in the 149 pound weight class this year.  “It’ll be nice to get back out on the mat and wrestle again for Mercyhurst,” said Grass. “I feel like we’re going to be a pretty talented team this year.”  Grass’ most anticipated meet is against rival Gannon University. Gannon was ranked fifth overall in the poll with 63 points.  “It’s a cross-town rival and we ended up losing that one last year,” said Grass. “We’re looking for redemption this year.”

Second-year graduate student and a returning national qualifier Phipps is most excited for the team’s trip to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, AZ.  Phipps is ranked eighth in the 197 pound weight class.  “We have a big road trip out to Arizona this year,” Phipps said. “I think it will be fun for all the guys to be out as a team together.”  The Nov. 17-18 tournament is followed by two home meets for the Lakers.  The season kicks off Nov. 12 in Cleveland at the Ohio Collegiate Open.