Navy Wrestling Blue/Gold Wrestle-offs
With the official start of the 2007-08 wrestling season just a week away, Navy's fans will get their first glance at the Midshipmen when they compete in the annual Blue-Gold Challenge Matches Friday at Halsey Field House beginning at 7:00 pm. "We have a great blend of experienced leaders and talented youngsters who are challenging one another day in and day out," said eighth-year Navy head coach Bruce Burnett, who has amassed a 77-32 record at the Academy. "Friday night's competition will be the first opportunity our guys will have to put what they've learned and worked on in practice into motion. We practice hard each day to prepare for our next competition and that competition is upon us. This will be a good gauge to see where each one of our guys is at in this stage of the game and what needs to be improved upon."
Five starters return off last year's team that produced an 11-4 dual meet record en route to a second-place finish at the EIWA Championship. Additionally, three of Navy's six NCAA Tournament qualifiers return after leading the Mids to an 18th-place finish at the national meet, the program's highest since 1990. Four of the five starters are on tap to wrestle Friday, two representing each team.
The following is a quick look at each bout beginning with the 125-pound weight class.
125 - Joey Boone vs. Allan Stein
• A 2007 graduate of Poway High School, Joey Boone (Poway, Calif.) garnered All-State (Calif.), All-America and Academic All-America recognition as a senior. He was also named a Junior All-American and Academic All-American as a junior. A four-time state qualifier, he placed second in 2005, third in 2006 and was crowned the state champion in 2007. Poway finished third in the state in 2004 before winning the team title in 2005. In 2006, Poway produced an undefeated record en route to winning the state title and was the runner-up in '07.
• Allan Stein (Portland, Maine) led Deering High School to three straight region and state wrestling titles between 2004 and '06 behind a combined 133-16 record. He received All-State (Maine) honors his senior year.
133 - Joey Breen vs. Matt Pagan
• Newcomer Joey Breen (Pasadena, Md.) earned All-State (Md.), all-city and all-county kudos in his final two seasons at McDonogh school in Owings Mills, Md. He captured the individual state title in 2005 and '06 and led McDonogh to the state title in 2006.
• Matt Pagan (Carteret, N.J.) wrestled the first two months of his freshman season at 125 pounds where he placed fourth at the Navy Classic, as well as the West Virginia Open. He ended the season at 133 pounds where he replaced an injured Joe Baker at the All-Academy Championship and finished third. Pagan concluded his rookie season with a 14-7 record.
141 - Glenn Shober vs. Caleb Levee
• After spending his rookie season wrestling at 149 pounds, Glenn Shober (Reading, Pa.) will drop to the 141-pound weight class. As a freshman, he turned in an 18-10 record that included wins in eight of his first 10 matches. Shober was exposed to some of the top competition in the country last year wrestling at the Eastern Michigan Open, as well as the Southern Scuffle, while posting a seventh-place finish at the Nittany Lion Open.
• Junior Caleb Levee (Mandeville, La.) produced a 4-6 record in his second season with the Midshipmen after opening up his career with a 14-10 mark as a rookie. Levee placed third at the Central New Jersey Open last year and won four of his six matches at the Nittany Lion Open.
149 - Spencer Manley vs. Joel Ahern
• Senior Spencer Manley (Chattanooga, Tenn.) is a proven wrestler who spent his first two years wrestling at 141 pounds before making the push to 157 pounds a year ago. Two years ago, he represented the Midshipmen at the EIWA Championship. He owns a 33-30 career record.
• Junior Joel Ahern (Herkimer, N.Y.) has patiently awaited his time to shine, though some might say he did just that a year ago with a 21-8 record as John Cox's backup. Ahern took second at the West Virginia Open by winning four of his five matches to start the season and went on to finish third at the Navy Classic, sixth at the Nittany Lion Open. Additionally, he placed second at the All-Academy Championship, subbing in for Cox who was injured. Ahern saw action in five duals where he produced a 3-2 record and included wins over NC State, East Stroudsburg and Brown. Heading into the season, he owns a 34-17 career mark.
157 - Joe Butcher vs. Robby Neill
• Joe Butcher (Westwood, N.J.) heads into his senior campaign with a 14-12 career record, seeing all of his competition at 149 pounds. He will make the move up this season and has already caught the eyes of Navy's coaching staff.
• A 2006 graduate of The Peddie School, freshman Robby Neill (Brick, N.J.) spent last year attending the Naval Academy Prep School in Rhode Island. He garnered four letters while leading The Peddie School to a fourth-place finish at the 2004-05 prep nationals. He is one of two freshmen who are projected starters this season.
165 - Jason Coyne vs. Justin Jacobs
• Jason Coyne (Trafford, Pa.) was off to a good start before suffering a foot injury in early December that kept him off the mat for the remainder of the season. He produced an 8-5 record that included a fourth-place finish at the Navy Classic.
• Justin Jacobs (LeRoy, Mich.) began the 2006-07 season as John Jarred's backup at 157 pounds, but was called upon to move up to 165 pounds at the beginning of the calendar year. Jacobs finished his junior campaign with a 14-17 record that featured a 4-2 record and a fourth-place finish at the Eastern Michigan Open. Making the weight change heading into the Lone Star Duals, Jacobs struggled against the national competition, but eventually settled into his role by early February. The highlights of his season included a second-place finish at the All-Academy Classic and an 8-3 victory over Lehigh's Manuel Schubert in the annual dual competition.
174 - Matt Stolpinski vs. Ben Nichols
• After making his way onto the podium last spring, team captain Matt Stolpinski (Westfield, Mass.) returns for his senior campaign and what he hopes to be his third consecutive NCAA Championship appearance. Ranked No. 2 in three preseason polls, there is only one wrestler who stands in his way of being the top-ranked 174-pounder in the country, Pitt senior Keith Gavin, who dropped an 8-2 decision in last year's championship match against Ben Askren. Gavin and Stolpinski will have the opportunity to square off on the mat at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational scheduled for Nov. 30-Dec. 1. Stolpinski turned in a 44-7 record a year ago, tying the program's wins record. Additionally, he pushed his career wins mark to 99, needing just one win to become only the ninth wrestler in school history to reach 100 victories. Last year, he won three tournament titles - EIWA Championship, All-Academy Championship, Navy Classic - while finishing as the runner up in an additional three tourneys. He opened the season by winning 18 of his first 19 matches, his lone loss was to Michigan's Steve Luke at the Eastern Michigan Tournament. He closed out the year by winning 20 of the last 22 matches, dropping an overtime decision to Northwestern's Nick Hayes in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament and a 3-2 decision in the third-place match against Iowa's Eric Luedke.
• Entering his senior campaign, Ben Nichols (Ellicott City, Md.) owns a 5-10 record. Seeing his first varsity action a year ago, he placed fourth at the Central New Jersey Open and won a pair of matches at the West Virginia Open.
184 - Casey Caldwell vs. Matt Parsons
• Now in his third season as a member of the Navy wrestling program, junior Casey Caldwell (Liberty, Ind.) is looking to improve upon his 3-7 career record.
• Senior Matt Parsons (Dunkirk, Md.) wrestled the better part of the season at 184 pounds before moving up to 197 in the final month of competition. He turned in an 18-9 record, including a 2-2 mark in dual meet action. Parsons took third place at the West Virginia Open and placed third at the Navy Classic. After pushing up a weight class, he put together back-to-back wins to win the All-Academy Championship title, before earning a 5-2 decision over Conor Sanders of Army. He went on to post a 4-2 record at the EIWA Championship to finish fifth.
197 - Tyler Moyer vs. Robert Johnston
• After turning in a 13-7 mark as a rookie, Tyler Moyer (Bremerton, Wash.) stepped into the starting position at 197 pounds. His start to the season was a rocky one, dropping four consecutive matches before claiming a major decision over Rutgers' Mike Elshamy en route to a fourth-place finish at the Navy Classic. Moyer struggled throughout December and January, unable to find the consistency he needed to help the Mids and was eventually replaced by Matt Parsons who will move back to 184 pounds this season. He finished the 2006-07 campaign with a 15-16 record, including 4-8 in dual meet action.
• Senior Robert Johnston (Satellite Beach, Fla.) is up two weight classes after posting an 11-6 record a year ago at 165 pounds. Johnston opened up the 2006-07 campaign by finishing third at the West Virginia Open.
HWT - Scott Steele vs. Ed Prendergast
• Ranked among the top 10 in each of the preseason polls, including sixth by Amateur Wrestling News, Ed Prendergast (St. Louis, Mo.) returns for his senior campaign fresh off his first NCAA Championship appearance. Prendergast turned in a 37-7 record a year ago , including an 11-2 mark in dual meet action. He captured tournament titles at the Eastern Michigan Open, the Navy Classic, the Nittany Lion Open, the All-Academy Championship, as well as the EIWA Championship, qualifying him for the NCAA Championship. Seventeen of his 37 wins were by way of fall and were the most pins by a Navy wrestler since John Reich set the record in 1983 with 24. Meanwhile, his 37 wins are the ninth most in a Navy single season.
• Junior Scott Steele (Baltimore, Md.) could potentially give Prendergast fits for the starting job this season after Prendergast injured his knee last spring. Steele turned in a 23-9 record a year ago seeing action against nearly half of the top 12 wrestlers in the country. According to Burnett, "Scott has improved a great deal over the last year and could create an interesting scenario between he and Ed. They are both capable of finishing high on the podium and Scott has shown he can compete at a high level."