Dec. 15, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. — There still is one early-season tournament remaining on the schedule, the Southern Scuffle on Jan. 1-2, but NC State will wrestle its first dual match of the season on Saturday at The Citadel. The match is scheduled for 2 p.m.
With a host of young wrestlers vying for spots in the lineup this season, Wolfpack head coach Carter Jordan opted to get his wrestlers as much early experience as possible. To that end, he cut back on the November and December dual matches and entered his team in five tournaments instead.
An individual can wrestle as many as six or seven matches in a single tournament, and those additional matches allowed Jordan and his staff an extended look at the Wolfpack heading into the dual-match portion of the season.
“For the most part we’ve wrestled really well through these first four tournaments,” Jordan said. “More importantly, we’ve wrestled better in each tournament than in the one before it. We’ve shown improvement from week to week, and that’s the biggest thing. We’re certainly not where we want to be at this point, especially with all the youngsters in the lineup, but we’re ready to start our dual season.”
Jordan’s starting lineup Saturday will be dominated by youth and veternas. Seniors Darrius Little (14-8 at 141 pounds), Colton Palmer (9-4 at 157) and Quinton Godley (17-5 at 174) give the Wolfpack experience and leadership. With 76 career victories, Little is 17th in NC State history for career wins. After opening the season by finishing sixth at the Hokie Open, Godley won the Wolfpack Open and Pembroke Classic, then finished seventh at the Nittany Lion Open, where he had a 12-match winning streak broken. He has won 14 of his last 16 bouts. Palmer took first place at the Wolfpack Open. Little, Godley and Palmer combined have 182 career wins and 338 career matches between them.
Junior 197-pounder KaRonne Jones (12-7) and sophomores Nijel Jones (14-7 at 165) and Matt Nereim (9-6 at 149) also give the Wolfpack experience. Nereim overcame a slow start to the season to take an impressive seventh-place finish at the Nittany Lion Open at Penn State on Dec. 4, winning four of five matches after losing in the second round. Nijel Jones won the individual championship at the Pembroke Classic on Nov. 19, then finished eighth at the Nittany Lion Open two weeks later. KaRonne Jones finished fifth at the Pembroke Classic.
After that, however, the remainder of the lineup will be newcomers.
At 125 pounds, Coltin Fought has wrestled like a veteran. He owns a pair of second-place finishes and a third-place finish in three tournaments, good for a 12-3 record with five pins. He is halfway to Darrion Caldwell’s school record of 10 pins by a freshman. The school record of 29 total victories by a freshman, set by Mike Koob in 1977 and matched by Matt Reiss in 1980, is at least within hailing distance. His loss in the finals at Penn State snapped a nine-match winning streak.
Robert O’Neill brings an 8-7 record at 184 pounds, including a fourth-place finish at the Wolfpack Open on Nov. 13 and a fifth-place finish a week later at the Pembroke Classic. Either Adam Matthews (1-2) or Ben Elliott (0-6) will get the start at 133 pounds.
The Wolfpack lineup absorbed a blow when junior heavyweight Eloheim Palma went down with a right-knee injury, suffered at the Nittany Lion Open. Palma (6-4) will undergo season-ending surgery once the swelling has subsided.
“I feel awful for Eloheim,” Jordan said. “He was starting to wrestle really well when he got hurt. Assuming everything goes according to plan with his surgery and rehab, he should be good to go next fall and will still have two years of eligibility remaining.”
With Palma out of the lineup, freshman Josh Davis moves in at heavyweight. Davis has competed unattached in four early-season tournaments and more than held his own, finishing fourth at the Pembroke Classic and compiling an overall record of 8-7.
“Josh is a tough kid and he competes,” Jordan said. “We certainly hadn’t planned on him wrestling with the varsity this season, but events dictate otherwise. He’s our starter now and we know he’ll give us everything he has.”
Jordan did not enter the season planning to start four freshmen, but with this year’s crop of newcomers, which was ranked nationally in the top 5, he is not afraid to put his freshmen on the mat.
“This is a really good freshman class,” Jordan said. “Coltin Fought has stood out so far, but the entire group has us very excited as a staff. They’re all very talented and capable of helping us right away. Because we have some strong upperclass leadership, we’re not afraid to put these young guys out there and turn them loose.”
The Citadel comes into the match with an 0-3 record in dual matches, but against top-flight competition. The Bulldogs’ losses were to Cleveland State, Lock Haven and ninth-ranked Illinois. Twelfth-ranked Turtogtukh Luvsandorj is 9-4 at 174 pounds, including a 6-2 victory over Godley in the Nittany Lion Open. Kelby Smith is 14-4 at 197, with a win and a loss against KaRonne Jones at Penn State.
“The Citadel has a good program and will present us with a challenge,” Jordan said. “We’re excited about wrestling our first dual match.”
Following are the probable starting lineups for Saturday’s match.
NC State (0-0) at The Citadel (0-3)
125 — Coltin Fought (12-3) vs. Richard Alarcon (8-8)
133 — Adam Matthews (1-2) or Ben Elliott (0-6) vs. Kyle Casaletto (9-5)
141 — Darrius Little (14-8) vs. Jordan Dix (9-9)
149 — Matt Nereim (9-6) vs. David Ivashchenko (3-7)
157 — Colton Palmer (9-4) vs. Pierre Frazile (9-8)
165 — Nijel Jones (14-7) vs. Mike Harper (1-7)
174 — Quinton Godley (17-5) vs. #12 Turtogtukh Luvsandorj (9-4)
184 — Robert O’Neill (8-7) vs. Jack Duane (4-6)
197 — KaRonne Jones (12-7) vs. Kelby Smith (14-4)
285 — Josh Davis (9-8) vs. Odie Delaney (0-0)