Muhlenberg College

Allentown, Pa.
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Thursday, November 13, 2003
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Wrestling Season Opens on Saturday

The last three years, the Muhlenberg wrestling program graduated its only two All-Americans, a four-time conference champion and three of the top four all-time winners in school history.

What’s left for the 2003-04 season, which begins Saturday at the Monarch Invitational at King’s, is one of the least experienced squads the Mules have fielded. For the first time since 1999, they return no NCAA qualifiers or Centennial Conference champions.

That doesn’t seem to bother heavyweight Josh Carter, one of three seniors on a 16-man roster that is half freshmen.

Josh Carter

Carter was fifth at the Monarch Invitational last year.

“We’re going to be pretty well off,” he said. “All the weight classes are full and we’ll have no weak links. The incoming freshmen are stepping up tremendously.”

Heading the list of returning wrestlers is sophomore 149-pounder Dale Mills, who had a record of 28-7 last season but missed the CC Championships due to injury. He led Muhlenberg in wins, major decisions (eight), takedowns (90), near-falls (31) and reversals (28) and tied for team lead in pins (seven).

Carter and fellow senior William Cummins are the team’s lone returning CC placewinners, both finishing third last year. Carter has an outstanding career record of 33-15 and leads all active wrestlers with 12 career pins. Cummins is the most experienced Mule wrestler, with 72 career bouts at 184 and 197.

Junior co-captain Jeremy Hart is the winningest active Muhlenberg wrestler, going 37-32 the last two years at 133. He will move up to 141 pounds this season.

The Mules’ two other returning starters are junior Frank Pepe, who saw action at a variety of middle- to-upper weight classes last year, and sophomore Chris Gibson, who competed at 157 and 165. Senior David Brown (133) will look to break into the starting lineup after two seasons as a reserve.

Freshmen will fill out the rest of the lineup, but after a good preseason it’s hard to tell who the newcomers are. “This has been the hardest working team we’ve had in the preseason in my four years,” commented Carter. “We’re a lot further on than we’ve been in the past, and everyone seems to be working well together.”

The team will get opportunities to bond further on its many road trips early in the season. The Mules open CC dual-meet action next Wednesday at McDaniel and don’t have their first home match until Jan. 17.

Chance to Qualify for Nationals

Muhlenberg College already has two soccer teams in the NCAA Championships, and three other teams will get a “chance to dance” on Saturday: Football needs help from Johns Hopkins (see tomorrow’s MSD for a preview), but the cross country teams control their own destiny when they run in the NCAA Mideast Regional qualifier meet at Dickinson.

Neither team is expected to qualify, but several Mules have the chance to earn at-large berths to the NCAA Championships, which will be held next Saturday at Hanover College. For the men, the top two teams and the top six individuals not on those teams qualify, and for the women it is three teams and five individuals.

The Muhlenberg men’s squad has qualified individuals each of the last two seasons, and last year the team missed qualifying by just five points. Senior Rob Uniszkiewicz was one of the Mules’ NCAA representatives last year, finishing 15th to earn all-region honors for the second straight season. He and sophomore Alexander Hotz, who was fourth at the Centennial Conference Championships two weeks ago and 32nd in the region last year, are the team’s leading contenders to qualify for NCAAs.

“I think we’ve got a chance,” said Hotz. “We’re not going to go out too hard, but we’ll try to hang with the front-runners and see what happens.”

In contrast to the CC Championships, which were run on a hilly DeSales course in unseasonable
Diana Garretto
Garretto was 22nd at the CC Championships.
70-degree weather, the elements Saturday will be more to Hotz’ liking. “DeSales was one of the hardest courses I’ve run on,” he noted. “Dickinson is not easy, but it has more flats, which I’m better on. And it’s supposed to be dry and a little cold but not too cold – pretty much ideal conditions to run. I’m looking forward to it.”

The women are looking forward to their first NCAA qualifier ever, and are also looking to return to the top 10 in the region after slipping from 10th place in 2001 to 16th place last year.

“If we get in the top 10, that would be a good day for us,” said senior Diana Garretto.

A top-10 finish would represent a measure of redemption for the Mules, who finished only sixth at the CC Championships after some of their top runners went out too fast. “I definitely think we learned from that, and now we know what pace we want to go out at,” Garretto commented.

Muhlenberg also will benefit from having four seniors potentially running their final collegiate race. “Anybody who is not a senior, I would look out,” said Garretto. “There is a special type of running you do when it’s your last race.”

The Mules are led by junior Jenna Belisonzi, who was 14th at the CC Championships, sophomore Karen Mount, an all-region runner as a freshman after finishing 25th at the qualifier meet last year, and Garretto.

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Last updated November 13, 2003