While fall sports are winding down, winter sports teams are bursting onto the scene to begin their seasons. Among these teams is the Ursinus wrestling team. After finishing their last season with a solid dual meet record of 15 wins and just three losses, the Bears are set to come roaring back even stronger.
The Centennial Conference poll for the upcoming season picked the Bears to finish second in the conference behind the two-time reigning conference champion Stevens University of Technology.
The Bears finished third last year in the NCAA East Regional Championships. After not making the trip to the conference championship in 2016 due to the norovirus that sickened over 180 students, the team is setting their sights higher and aiming for a Centennial Conference championship.
The Bears have some impactful performers returning to their squad this year. Leading the group this season is a handful of hungry seniors including Derek Arnold, Victor Hernadez, Corey Markovitch, Alexander Kramer, Matan Peleg and Robert Rein.
Arnold is the only returning all-American out of the group. In 2015, he placed fourth in the nation at 149 pounds. Arnold in particular is returning to the team as an NCAA tournament qualifier from the previous year. Last year he finished with a personal record of 32-1 at 149 pounds. Junior Christopher Tan is also an NCAA tournament qualifier from the 2015-16 season. Tan finished last year with a personal record of 27-6 at 125 pounds.
Coming into the 2016 season, both Peleg and Arnold are listed as preseason all-Americans by intermatwrestle.com.
There is also a solid group of new faces joining the team. The incoming freshman class is highlighted by high school all-American Freddy Coradotti, Trey Harkness, Brandon Miller, Pat O’Toole, and Maryland state-placer Tom Boldosser.
After last year’s season ended with two wrestlers qualifying for the NCAA tournament, this year the team hopes there will be more men participating in the tournament. With this year’s powerful lineup of new and returning wrestlers, their goal is definitely obtainable.
This season could be especially meaningful for head coach Bill Racich. This year marks the 37th year Racich has been coaching at Ursinus. Racich has a career record of 514-114-8 along with 11 Centennial Conference championships. Racich is already the most winningest coach in a single men’s sport in Ursinus history. If the team has another successful season, Racich could be the winningest active coach in Division III wrestling.
Currently Racich is fourth on the all-time winningest coaches in Division III—one win behind retired Wilkes University coach John Reese. Racich is chasing the record of 569 wins set by Olivet College coach Jare Klein. Klein retired as head coach in 2001.
However, Racich considers this record as not his personal achievement but as something accomplished by all of his teams.
“Whatever records set are those of the Ursinus College wrestling program, not Bill Racich,” he said. “The long history of success we’ve seen in the wrestling program is a direct result of the hard working, self-motivated student-athletes.”
As for his thoughts on the upcoming season, Racich and his coaching staff are feeling confident in the team moving forward.
“Excitement is always in the air and we will focus on keeping a positive attitude each day. Ursinus College wrestling has a nice blend of experienced wrestlers and quite a few new guys we can’t wait to turn loose,” said Racich.
Racich also commented on the beginning of the season and what he expects from his team.
“The beginning of each year brings a new set of challenges; getting [the team] into a winning routine is critical,” said Racich. “I’ve found that if the beginning is established correctly regarding academics, social life, and training, good things will happen later in the year.”
The Bears opened their season this past Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Messiah Invitational, where senior Alex Kramer and first- year James Harkness both placed second in their respective weight classes. Kramer wreslted in the 149 weight class and Harkness competed in the 133 bracket. Their next competition will be the Fall Brawl tournament at home on Nov. 12.