Duke 157 lber Wade Unger (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
The Blue Devils will be Finesilver-less for the first time in what feels like a decade. Coach Lanham and crew will be looking to build around a core of young talent, several of whom have experience in the starting lineup. Duke has a dual-heavy schedule again this year--I think this will be beneficial as the team grows together and finds the best combination of starters throughout the lineup.
Wade Unger was 12-18 last year but was starting to put it together at the end of the season. He wrestled a difficult schedule and had close matches with some top-tier talent. Ungar was 1-4 in the ACC with a win over Connor Brady and decision losses to O'Connor, Keating and Cleary; he lost to Ed Scott by tech fall. He showed a lot of growth last year and has looked solid in the preseason. I'd expect him to continue that momentum into this year.
Jonah Niesenbaum displayed tremendous improvement last year and was on the cusp of qualifying for the NCAA tournament. He was 16-11 last year after a combined 4-26 record his first two years in Durham. Niesenbaum was fun to watch last year and had some big wins to clinch duals for the Blue Devils. I think we'll see continued improvement and more success from Niesenbaum throughout the year.
It is hard to state how much of an impact the Finesilver family has made on Duke Wrestling. Since older twins Mitch and Zach arrived on campus in 2015, the brothers have played a large part in the success of the Blue Devils. With younger twins Matt and Josh Finesilver completing their time in Durham last year, we see the end of an era; unless there are some long-lost cousins on a mat somewhere in Coloradoâ€¦
Josh graduated from Duke with a final record of 93-55; he was a four-time NCAA qualifier and made the bloodround in 2021.
Matt graduated from Duke and chose to take his final year of eligibility in grad school at Michigan and will compete for the Wolverines at 184 this year. He left Durham with a final record of 83-36; even with losing a season due to injury, he was a three-time NCAA qualifier and finished in the round of 16 last season. I'm looking forward to watching him wrestle for another year, but it's going to be weird seeing him in anything but a Duke singlet.
Jared Papscy travels across the hypotenuse from Raleigh to Durham to join the Blue Devils as a grad transfer. He was a spot starter at NC State with an above .500 record and high praise for his work ethic and leadership in the room from coach Popolizio and crew. I'm very interested to see what he can do as a full-time starter.
WRESTLER TO WATCH
I was big on Jonah Neisenbaum last season. He showed incredible growth from his first two years and glimpses of potential to land on the podium in March. I'm buying more stock in him today; I think he can be the next Blue Devil to make the jump to All-American status.
125: Logan Agin (10-12)
133: Drake Doolittle (4-22)
141: Jared Papscy (8-7)
149: Logan Ferrero (8-3)
157: Wade Unger (12-18)
165: Gabe Dinette (7-15)
174: Conor Decker (3-5)
184: Vince Baker (10-20)
197: Luke Chakonis (5-7)
285: Jonah Niesenbaum (16-11)