NC State Wrestling Opens 2006-07 Season Wednesday
RALEIGH, N.C. In two seasons as head wrestling coach at NC State, Carter Jordan has strived to build the program back to the levels it enjoyed as a national power back in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The Wolfpack will open the 2006-07 season on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Reynolds Coliseum with a doubleheader against Campbell and Liberty. NC State will kick off the evening vs. Campbell. Following that match, at approximately 7:30, Campbell and Liberty will wrestle a dual match. The Wolfpack and the Flames will wrap up the evening against one another. That match will probably begin at around 9 o’clock.
The improvement in the NC State program under Jordan is tangible. Jordan’s first team went 8-8 in dual matches, 11-5-1 a year ago. His first team sent two wrestlers, both seniors, to the NCAA Championships. His second team sent four, two freshmen and two sophomores.
All 10 starters return from a year ago. Between them the 10 returning starters have wrestled 483 college matches, winning 262 for a .542 winning percentage. Eight of the 10 have wrestled 430 college matches, compiling a .567 winning percentage and averaging 30.5 career wins per man.
Heading into the 2005-06 season, Jordan had seven returning starters, one of whom was injured and did not wrestle again. The seven returnees had wrestled 269 combined matches with a .502 winning percentage. They averaged 19.3 wins per man.
Jordan’s first two teams had no returning ACC champions in the lineup. This year’s team has three. This year’s lineup will feature four experienced seniors, four NCAA Tournament qualifiers from a year ago and five overall, plus the three defending ACC individual champions. It is not out of the realm of possibility that as many as eight NC State wrestlers will draw consideration for berths in the 2007 NCAA Championships.
“We feel real comfortable with the young men we have in our lineup,” Jordan says. “We’ve got some senior leadership, which is incredibly important, and we’re very excited about the core group of guys we have, the returning conference champions we have, the NCAA qualifiers we have.”
For the first two months of the season, NC State will line up just two returning conference champions in juniors Kody Hamrah (157 pounds) and Jeremy Colbert (184). Hamrah was the 2005 ACC Rookie of the Year and won the conference title a year ago despite missing much of the year with injuries. He went 11-4 and has a career record of 28-14. Four of his 11 wins last season were by pin, three by major decision.
Colbert, who begins the season ranked No. 18 nationally, won eight of his last 10 matches a year ago en route to a 20-12 overall record and the conference championship. Colbert had four pins, two technical falls and five major decisions.
The third ACC champion, sophomore Ryan Goodman (197), is a backup safety on the Wolfpack football team and will return to the wrestling team in late December or early January. In Goodman’s absence, sophomore Mark Jahad will fill in at 197. Jahad went 1-3 a year ago.
Goodman, the 2006 ACC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, missed part of the season with a knee injury, but still rolled to a 22-6 overall record. Goodman had three pins, one technical fall and five major decisions. He is ranked 11th nationally to start 2006-07.
“Ryan is kind of the heartbeat of our team,” Jordan says. “Ryan is a very dynamic personality. He’s an incredibly gifted competitor in terms of the way he goes out there and his presence on the mat. His enthusiasm kind of saturates the whole team. We’ll miss him, but Mark Jahad has made some marked improvement since last year, and we think that he’ll fit in nicely until Ryan gets back.”
The Wolfpack’s fourth NCAA qualifier a year ago was 149-pounder Joe Caramanica, now a sophomore. Caramanica went 25-9 in 2006, the third-most victories ever by an NC State freshman. He earned an NCAA at-large bid despite a third-place finish in the ACC Championships, thanks largely to a 7-2 record against conference opponents. Caramanica got his career off to a terrific start, winning 11 of his first 12 bouts. He lost back-to-back matches just twice all season. Caramanica also scored points for the Wolfpack. He had four pins and led the team with four technical falls and with six major decisions.
The Wolfpack’s senior quartet of Jeremy Hartrum (125), Garrett Cummings (133), Rick Brownlee (174) and Jainor Palma (heavyweight) did not make the NCAA Tournament last year, but is an impressive and experienced group, nonetheless, with 142 collegiate victories and 268 total matches between them.
“We’ll start one true freshman and that’s it, whereas in the past that has not been the case,” Jordan says. “The seniors give us experience, stability and leadership, and we feel real good about that, the fact that everybody in almost every weight class has had national-level experience, whether that’s the NCAA Tournament or some very high-caliber open tournaments they’ve seen the best competition from around the country. They know what to expect.”
Palma is set to begin his fourth season as a starter and with a 51-41 career record has the most career victories of anyone in the program. Palma went 23-11 in 2006, but the conference was loaded with quality heavyweights and he finished fourth in the conference tournament. Palma had two falls, one technical fall and three major decisions a year ago. Palma begins the 2006-07 campaign ranked No. 20 in one of the national polls.
Hartrum Cummings begin their second year as co-captainas together and give the Wolfpack experience in the lighter weight classifications. Hartrum, an NCAA qualifier in 2005, went 19-11 in 2006 and brings a 33-28 career mark into his senior season. He led the team with five pins last year, the first five of his collegiate career, and had three major decisions as well. Cummings, who is a co-captain for the third year in a row, is natural 125-pounder who moved up a weight last season to fill a void in the lineup. He went 7-6 at 133, 14-9 overall, and finished the season strong, winning five of his last seven regular-season bouts.
Rick Brownlee, the fourth senior, moved back into the starting lineup last season and was a starter for most of his freshman campaign. He was a backup as a sophomore two years ago. Brownlee went 12-15 last season with three pins and three major decisions.
Sophomore 165-pounder Obie Simpson rounds out the returning starters. Simpson went 12-13 as a true freshman a year ago, including a 9-13 mark at 165. He also saw time at 157 while Kody Hamrah was injured. Simpson experienced an up-and-down season for the Pack last year, marked by several highlights, such as a victory over then-20th-ranked Garrett Atkinson of North Carolina and a 3-1 mark in the ACC Championships to rally to a third-place finish.
Only one freshman cracked the starting lineup, but his emergence was not unexpected. Darrion Caldwell won his third consecutive New Jersey state championship last spring with an eye-opening performance, then earned All-America honors at the national championship tournament. Caldwell lost just one match his last three seasons at Rahway high School and had a career record of 146-4.
“Darrion is a very gifted athlete,” Jordan says. “Darrion is just special. There are very few guys who can walk into a college room on their first day and be competitive. He was. He’s everything as advertised. We’re excited for him this year. We think he can do some pretty big things for us, even as a freshman.”
The season will present the Wolfpack with many challenges. The ACC should be stronger than it has been in years, and the Pack also will wrestle dual matches with No. 4 Iowa and No. 10 Northwestern, plus matches vs. Big Ten powers Purdue and Wisconsin, and a trip to No. 7 Penn State for the always-loaded Penn State Open.
The difficult schedule should help prepare NC State for its ultimate goal of the season, which is its first top 25 finish at the NCAA Championships since 1993. The national tournament is an intimidating environment, especially for younger wrestlers. Hamrah, Caramanica, Goodman and Colbert made their first trips to the NCAA Tournament as freshmen and sophomores and struggled. Their experience from 2006 should further season a veteran team with proven performers up and down the lineup.
“The NCAA Championships, it’s a double-edged sword,” Jordan says. “When you get out there as a freshman or sophomore, it’s a pretty daunting task. At the same time, that’s a whole lot better than getting out there as a senior for the first time. These kids know what to expect, they know how hard they have to work to get back there, but to get back there and reach some of their goals, which is to be All-American.”