KUTZTOWN, Pa. – The Kutztown University wrestling team is coming off an historic season last year and returns a healthy lineup of youth and experience. With returning national qualifiers and All-Americans in the lineup, look for the Golden Bears to continued their long-storied tradition of success in the 2017-18 campaign.
Kutztown went 12-5 in dual meets last year, went undefeated at its inaugural KU Duals, but made its lasting mark in the postseason. Four Golden Bears qualified for nationals as part of a sixth-place finish at regionals for the Golden Bears, and a record-setting three of them went on to earn All-America honors – the first time in school history KU came home with three award winners.
Three of those national qualifiers return this season, with one redshirting to prepare for a national title
run in 2019. Kutztown will sport a younger lineup from top to bottom, but also features great experience with expectations of repeat success on the national stage.
Robert Fisher enters his 18th season as the head wrestling coach and 28th year with the program at Kutztown. He is the all-time winningest coach with 187 wins and a .671 winning percentage, while his wrestlers has garnered 19 All-America honors and four national titles.
“It was a really, really good year,” Fisher said. “Having three All-Americans for the first time ever last year was an awesome experience at nationals. Our team worked really hard all year to get to that point, and I think we can have similar success this year.”
Kutztown’s success last year earned it an invitation to the prestigious NWCA National Duals this January, KU’s fourth trip to the national dual meet in Indiana in the last six years.
“It’s an honor,” Fisher noted on his team’s invitation to the national duals. “It is something we take a lot of pride in. It has been a couple years since our last visit (2015), but we are looking forward to going back.”
KU’s strong returners have it ranked 23rd in the national preseason poll, with the two returning national qualifiers ranked in the top-seven of their respective classes.
The region will once again run through Notre Dame College (Ohio), the defending regional and national champions. This year’s regional tournament is at Pitt-Johnstown, where the top-four placewinners at each class will earn a berth to the national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Along with Notre Dame in the national poll (t-third), Gannon (fifth), Pitt-Johnstown (sixth), Mercyhurst (15th), Seton Hill (t-16th), Kutztown (t-23rd), LIU Post (t-23rd) and Wheeling Jesuit (t-23rd) round out the nationally-ranked teams in Super Region One.
Austin Petril led the Golden Bears with a fourth-place finish at nationals last year to become an All-American. He was one win away from contending for a national title and led the team with a 23-9 record at 125 pounds. Petril will redshirt this season. He will continue to train and help develop KU’s lightweight wrestlers, while shifting his career goal to competing for and winning a national title in his senior season of 2019.
In the meantime, Petril will give way to his twin brother, Anthony Petril, at 125 pounds. Anthony Petril redshirted last year while watching his brother compete, as the two will switch roles this year so they can both wrestle next season in their senior years. He went 6-8 in 2015-16 in his first year at KU and will elevate to KU’s starter this season.
Behind Petril, look for KU’s youth to continue to develop and contend for spot-starts at 125.
Lucas Miller stepped right in as a starter last year as a true freshman. He held a winning record of 15-9 despite battling injuries down the stretch. Miller will lead a young group at 133 as he looks to take the next step in his career of making a mark on the regional level.
Christopher Crane earned spot-starts last year at 133 and 141, and will continue to contend for time at both weight classes this year. He went 3-3 last year in his redshirt-freshman campaign. Nick Klinger redshirted last year and will compete at 133 and 141 pounds.
141 pounds will feature a young group all contending for starting time across multiple weight classes. Along with Crane and Klinger moving up to 141, Jake Jones and Austin Scrivani both redshirted last year as true freshmen, and have shown great promise heading into their first seasons on the mat.
Chad Haegele was off to a great start last season and put himself in position to vie for one of the four tickets to nationals at 149. A late injury, however, limited Haegele down the stretch and removed him from the regional lineup. He went 11-8 last year and returns at full strength for his redshirt-sophomore campaign. He is set to suit up right away, but expect the coaching staff to rest Haegele when possible to keep him healthy come the end of the year.
Mitchell Camp redshirted as a freshman last year and could see spot-starts at 149, along with Scrivani.
Mikey O’Brien surged at the end of last season, capped with a fifth-place finish at regionals at 141. Fisher touts O’Brien as a true ‘Iron Man’, having wrestled across three different weight classes last year from 141 to 157. He added muscle over the offseason and is prepped to wrestle full-time at 157. He went 10-8 as a true freshman last year and earned the team’s Coaches Award.
Ronald Palmer joins the program as a sophomore this year and will contend for spot-starts at 157.
Three experienced Golden Bears will contend for starting time at 165. Bill Manley saw extended time down the stretch at 157 and will move up one weight class to 165 this year. Connor Rogovich was strong in his six appearances on the mat, as redshirt-junior Cameron Scalio returns to the program after a year off to add great depth at 165.
James Meyer has wrestled in double-digit matches in each of his first two years at KU. He has moved up weight in his career and will do so again this year at 174. He has 12 career wins and will look to give KU consistent matches at 174.
Rogovich, Manley and Scalio could all bump up to 174 throughout the season for added depth.
Jeff Reimel turned in a terrific performance at regionals last year and shocked the field by punching his ticket to nationals at 197. He went 12-8 in the second-half of the year and will move down to 184 this season. He has taken on leadership with the program this year as Fisher commends him for being a ‘true warrior on the mat’.
One of the newcomers expected to make an immediate impact this year is freshman Dominic Mainiero. He is a New Jersey native and is expected to challenge for starting time.
James Potts wrestled one match as a true freshman last year and will see time at both 184 and 197.
Kutztown welcomes graduate student Evan Kauffman to the program at 197 pounds. Kauffman was a four-year linebacker at Division I Lehigh University, and was a talented wrestler in high school at Freedom as a two-time District XI runner-up and a state medalist. He hasn’t wrestled since high school, but brings a strong build into his one year with the Golden Bears.
Jacob Maile redshirted last year and will compete for time at 197, as well Mainiero and Potts.
Ryan Appleby became an All-American last year in his second trip to nationals. He won a career-high 20 matches and enters his senior season with a 43-34 record. The biggest growth this year – 20 lbs. of solid muscle. Fisher is excited about the potential for Appleby this year, having added such great strength without losing a step of speed.
Tommy Killoran redshirted as a freshman last year, will backup Appleby this year, but is the clear future for KU at heavyweight. He was a state runner-up in high school in PA two years ago, and will get some spot-starts this year before likely earning the starting spot next season.