2020 NCAA qualifier Charles Small (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
"We have a nice combination of leadership from our upperclassmen and some younger guys with experience that really rounds off our team. We added some newcomers as well that fit in really well, and have made gains. We are excited about every guy on our roster, and even though some rankings have 6-7 guys ranked for us, we think they are underappreciated. Some guys will redshirt as we have some log jams, but we are thrilled about everyone that will represent us in our singlets this year." - Head Coach Dennis Papadatos
Coming off a year where seven Pride wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships, Hofstra will return six of those wrestlers, to form a strong nucleus in 2021-22. Greg Gaxiola (149/157), Holden Heller (157/165), Ricky Stamm (165), Charles Small (184), Trey Rogers (197), and Zack Knighton-Ward (285) all competed in St. Louis and gained valuable national experience.
Small registered the biggest win of the tournament for Hofstra when he knocked off #10 Tate Samuelson (Wyoming) in the opening round.
There are still some moving parts regarding the Pride lineup, but if all goes expected, the other two Heller brothers, Holden and Reece, may redshirt 2021-22.
The only national qualifier that isn't returning for Papadatos' team is Vinny Vespa, the 141 lber who has since graduated. 133 lber Garrett Lambert, who also got the nod for the Pride three times at the EIWA Championships, will not return either.
The most unexpected loss is 174 lber Sage Heller. After a 22-9 campaign in 2019-20, Heller earned a spot in InterMat's preseason rankings this year. Unfortunately, he was forced to cut short his career due to a recurring injury. Sliding into the starting role at 174 lbs is Ross McFarland, who went into the EIWA Championships with a 4-1 record, but had an "off" tournament and didn't qualify for nationals. Papadatos expects a breakout campaign from McFarland.
There's a chance that Hofstra could start true freshmen at both 125 and 133 lbs. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as they were two of the team's top recruits from the Class of 2021. Ohio state placewinner Jacob Moon is slated to handle the starting role at 125 lbs. He was a two-time placer at the Ironman and has plenty of national-level experience.
While the Pride has veteran Matt Templeton at 133, true freshman Joel Mylin could get the call. Mylin was a third-place finisher in Missouri.
A pair of freshmen from Pennsylvania, Tyler Cymmerman and Nick Miller, are likely redshirts.
WRESTLER TO WATCH
We mentioned McFarland above. He is said to be looking even better in the early going this year. Also, 141 lber Justin Hoyle. Hoyle went 19-9 two years ago and 3-2 while competing in "extra" matches last year. Papadatos calls both Hoyle and McFarland "leaders" despite their youth.
125: Jacob Moon
133: Joel Mylin/Matt Templeton
141: Justin Hoyle
149: Mike Leandrou
157: Greg Gaxiola/Joe McGinty
165: Ricky Stamm
174: Ross McFarland
184: Charles Small
197: Trey Rogers
285: Zachary Knighton-Ward