Longtime wrestling assistant coach and Athletics Hall of Famer Dave Auble, who helped coach the Bombers to the program’s only three national championships, will return this season as a volunteer assistant coach. He said he thinks this year’s team has the capability of doing something the program hasn’t done since 1994.
“The reason I came back this year as a coach was because I thought this team had a really good shot at winning a national championship,” Auble said.
The Bombers had an excellent 2014–15 season, finishing with an 11–2 record, obtaining a national ranking of 12th in Division III and capturing Empire 8 glory and finishing first in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships. Much of the success came from Alex Gomez ’15 and Kevin Collins ’15, both of whom were All-American selections and placed fourth and sixth, respectively, at the National Championships.
Despite losing two All-Americans last year, junior captain Jimmy Kaishian, who finished with a 29–9 record last season, said the team is in good spirits this season.
“I think this year there is a new level of focus,” Kaishian said. “We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to accomplish last year, and this year we are laser-focused.”
Senior captain Eamonn Gaffney said he thinks only losing two starters from last year’s lineup will play a huge part in the team’s success this year.
“We’ve only gotten better since last year,” he said.
Kaishian said he hopes the mix of younger talent and experience will pay off for the Bombers.
“We have some good freshmen coming in, some new kids that are going to step up into holes in the lineup,” Kaishian said. “I feel like we are going to have a much stronger team this year.”
Senior Dan Pak said he also agrees with his teammates that the youthful team has something special to offer this year.
“Our team is looking tough,” Pak said. “I think we have a national title team this year.”
Pak said the toughness of the new wrestlers is something that is not typical.
Head coach Marty Nichols, who was named the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference Coach of the Year last season, said the youth of the squad and
the loss of the All-Americans will not be as big of a factor as it may seem.
Nichols also said the team is able to bounce back pretty quickly after the All-Americans move on, estimating that many athletes on his team are capable of achieving All-American status this season.
“We potentially have 10 guys that could be All-Americans, maybe more than that,” Nichols said.
With the large influx of young and raw talent, Nichols said there is a need to slightly alter tactics.
“You definitely have a different focus with a younger group,” Nichols said. “A lot of the drills and the strategies and stuff they may not be familiar with.”
Senior Dan Glinko said the talent displayed by the younger wrestlers has made him excited, and he hopes the early season matches will help them gain confidence and familiarity with his teammates.
Nichols said sophomores Nick Velez and Jaison White are two potential standouts based on how they performed as freshmen last year.
Velez compiled a 33–12 record at 165 pounds, while White was 22–10 at 174 pounds.
If the younger wrestlers are indeed able to find their rhythm, Nichols said the team has a chance to be better overall dual meet–wise.
The preseason rankings place the Bombers fifth in the Empire 8 conference, while their rival, SUNY Cortland, sits at second. The Bombers defeated Cortland on Feb. 18, 2015, last year by a score of 18–15. They will face Cortland on Feb. 17, 2016 in its last meet of the regular season.
The squad captured its first win of the year on Nov. 6 and 7 in the Ithaca Invitational. It will compete next in the John Reese Duals at 10 a.m. Nov.14 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.