NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Fresh off a trip to the NCAA National Championship last year, the team's first appearance since 2008, the Norwich University wrestling team looks to continue to raise the bar in the upcoming 2019-20 season. With a challenging schedule and a stronger, more experienced group consisting mostly of underclassmen wrestlers, the team is poised to continue its upward trajectory.
The Cadets went 3-7 in head-to-head matchups in 2018-19, with wins over American International, Plymouth State, and New England College. Prior to Nationals, Norwich finished its trip to the NCAA Regionals with a 13th place showing in the field of 17 teams compiling 38.0 team points.
The 2019-20 campaign will feature a sophomore-laden roster as over half of the wrestlers will go to battle in just their second year. However, many of those new to the team last year as freshmen have gained invaluable experience with plenty of action under their belt. Having only a few upperclassmen has not dissuaded the team from making lofty goals this season. Head Coach Alex Whitney acknowledged that the ultimate goal for his wrestlers this year is to become All-Americans whether that be for accomplishments on the mat or for success in the classroom.
The program has taken pride in developing high academic performers as witnessed by last year's top 10 ranking among NEWA All-Academic Teams with a team GPA of 3.627. The Cadets also boasted a pair of NEWA Division III All-Academic wrestlers in Dan Curran (Peterborough, N.H.) and Satchel Stauffer (Catasauqua, Pa.).
Last year's team also broke through with several wrestling accolades. Graduated senior Jacob Forsman (Voorhees, N.J.) was named the All-NEWA Second Team after qualifying for the National Championship. Curran and Stauffer each received All-NEWA Honorable Mention with Curran also picking up a spot on the NEWA All-Rookie Team.
Awareness of the steps to reach its goals for 2019-20 is crucial and the team is in the process of identifying how to raise its standards.
"We know we can't wait until the season is over and hope we were good enough to reach our goals," relates Coach Whitney. "We are keenly aware that we must act like All-Americans right from the start if that is what we hope to become. We have to sleep, eat, study, and train like All-Americans every day to reach our end goal."
Leading this charge will be team captain Ben Forsman (Voorhees, N.J.). The junior is a tough competitor who can score from a variety of positions.
"Similar to last year, we once again have a young core," Coach Whitney said, "but with the experience garnered last year, we feel as though this group is hungry to improve upon its performance."
The top returner for the Cadets aside from Forsman is Curran who led the team in individual victories last year as a freshman sporting a 21-12 overall record which included 9 decisions, six wins by fall, a major decision and a sudden victory. Also returning for his senior campaign is last year's team leader with eight fall victories, senior Michael Wagner (Tyngsborough, Mass.). Forsman was the team's leading man for technical fall victories last season registering two such wins.
The Cadets will host a trio of matches sprinkled amongst its 14 dates of competition in 2019-20. This year's All-Academy tournament scheduled for January 25th in Colorado will feature the Nation's five other service academies (United States Military Academy, Naval Academy, Coast Guard Academy, Merchant Marine Academy, and Air Force Academy) along with The Citadel and the Virginia Military Institute in a unique wrestling championship.
Coach Whitney is proud of where his program sits as it gets set to open the season this Friday and Saturday at the Ithaca invitational.
"With the way the schedule worked out this year we had less time to prepare than usual, but I am extremely excited about this group," relayed Whitney. "Our phenomenal strength and conditioning component with Coach Clodgo has the team stronger across the board compared to just a year ago. These guys have the right mindset for success. They have used their time efficiently and show marked development from where they were when they began at Norwich. That is a testament to how hard they work together as a team."
Norwich wrestling gets its season started this weekend when the Cadets travel to the two-day Ithaca Invitational. Their first home date will be November 20th when they host Castleton in the highly anticipated Battle for the Green Mountain Championship. The Cadets' other home dual matches come against Springfield on January 15th and Southern Maine on February 15th. Sites will be set on the NCAA Division III Northeast Regionals which will take place on February 29th and March 1st at Rhode Island College.