Brown wrestling at the Pizzitola Sports Center (photo courtesy of Brown athletics)
On May 5th, Todd Beckerman stepped down from his position as the Marvin Wilenzik '56 Head Coaching Chair of Wrestling for Brown Wrestling, in order to transition to another role within the athletic department. With very little movement on the head coaching front, the Brown job became the most attractive opening in the nation. Shortly after this was announced, InterMat put together a list of viable candidates for the vacancy.
Now we're back talking Brown wrestling again to look at everything the new head coach will have to work with while in Providence. Basically, what does the opening have in its favor and what will the new staff have to improve.
Coincidentally, we also have looked at Brown in our "10 years of," feature, so this illustrates the production of the program, on the mat, during the last decade.
With all of that out of the way, here's the Brown wrestling program:
The EIWA via the Ivy League. A decade ago, competing in the Ivy League may not have had the same cache, at least from a wrestling standpoint. Since the early-2000's, Cornell has proven themselves to be a national power. However, after Cornell, there was a significant drop-off. Cornell took the reins from Penn, which had been a national factor before Rob Koll turned Ivy recruiting on its head.
Now, fast forward to 2022 and there's no reason why you can't be nationally competitive on the recruiting scene and on the mat in the Ivy League. Cornell continues to have the best national-level results with a seventh-place finish at the 2022 NCAA Championships. But, you can't just pencil the Big Red into the top of the Ivy standings like most of the last two decades. Princeton knocked Cornell off in 2019-20 to take another step in their run as the "best turnaround in college athletics." This year, the Tiger put a pair of wrestlers in the NCAA finals. It marked their first finalist since 2002 and the only time in school history more than one wrestler made it to the NCAA Championship bout. Both finalists will return next season. Beyond Cornell and Princeton, Penn showed the fruits of their coaching staff recruiting efforts with the first All-American of head coach Roger Reina's second tenure, when CJ Composto made the podium at 141 lbs. Penn nabbed the #18 overall recruiting class this year, after bringing in #23 in 2021. They'll be formidable and more experienced in 2022-23. Also, hitting the recruiting trail hard has been Columbia. The Lions received honorable mention honors for this year's class after snagging a #25 group in 2021.
As competition ramps up in the Ivy League, the rest of the EIWA can be tough, as well. Traditional power Lehigh was ranked in InterMat's dual rankings for most of the year, but was done in by injuries and one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. Both service academies, Army West Point and Navy, have recruited well and have proven to be difficult in dual competition. That should only increase in the future.
The EIWA was certainly hurt by the Ivy League sitting out the 2020-21 campaign and only was able to pick up two All-Americans at the national tournament in 2021. That figure improved to seven in 2022, six of which came from the Ivy League.
In the 2022 US News rankings of "Best National Universities," Brown University came in at #14. Excellent, huh? In general, that's a fantastic ranking. The only issue is that Princeton (#1), Columbia (#2-tie), Harvard (#2-tie), and Penn (#8) are Ivy rivals that rank ahead of Brown. There's no disputing that you can receive an excellent education in Providence; however, you can bet those other Ivy League schools are aware of their placement in the rankings. Additionally, Stanford (#6) and Northwestern (#9), are both schools with DI wrestling teams that are likely to recruit against Brown and sit above them in this list. Of course, Brown is above Cornell, but the Big Red can point to two decades of wrestling excellence which will be enough to offset any academic advantage for Brown.
Brown is coming off two consecutive years without a national qualifier sandwiched around the 2021 season, in which the Ivy League did not participate. Suffice to say, the next head coach will have his work cut out for him, trying to get the Bears competitive with the big four in the Ivy League and in the upper have of the EIWA.
That being said, the cupboard isn't necessarily bare. Coach Beckerman and his staff brought in five top-300 recruits in 2021 and have three more on the way with this incoming freshman class. The highest-ranked from the Class of 2022 is Ohio state champion Antwaun Burns, who was #112 on the Big Board.
As far as the existing roster goes, Brown sent a lineup to the 2022 EIWA Championships that featured only two seniors. As of now, it's unclear whether either is slated to return. One of them, Reese Fry (125) was one of two Brown wrestlers to place at the tournament. Nicky Cabanillas (133) was the other. Both were eighth in their respective weight classes.
Freshman Timothy Levine (141) and Jack Bokina (157) were the only Bear wrestlers that competed in the postseason and finished the year with winning records.
While the new head coach will have to increase the output on the recruiting front, there is some talent in-house ripe for development.
The Bears practice and compete in the Pizzitola Sports Center. The facility opened over 30 years ago and has undergone a few renovations in the time since. The competition area is about on par with many of the schools in the EIWA, yet behind a few of its Ivy League brethren. Their wrestling room is similar to many in the conference, as well.
Since Brown is a private institution actual salary figures do not have to be released. That being said, we've done some research and figured out a pay range for the head coaching position. On the job posting, it is listed as "Grade 11." Using the Fiscal Year Salary Range table posted by the school's human resources department, the salary range is 70k as a minimum, 94k as the midpoint, and 118k as the maximum. Depending on an offer from the athletic department, the school should be pretty competitive for most candidates.
The athletic department is led by M. Grace Calhoun, a Brown alum, who has been on the job for just over a year. Prior to her arrival, Calhoun held the position of Director of Athletics and Recreation at the University of Pennsylvania since 2014. That link led us to believe that Calhoun may offer the job to the talented young assistant from Penn, Bryan Pearsall. Since that time, Pearsall's name has not surfaced as a candidate for the Brown vacancy.
While originally a track athlete herself, Calhoun seems to value a diverse athletic environment. During her tenure at Penn, the Quakers captured 27 Ivy or conference titles in 16 different sports. That is just under half of the offerings (33) at Penn.
Additionally, Penn set records for fundraising under her leadership. Calhoun has also chaired NCAA national committees and has worked closely with NIL implementation for the NCAA.
Stability in the athletic department is crucial for Brown since they have endured a tumultuous two-plus year. Amid the Covid pandemic, 11 sports were relegated to club status, lawsuits were filed against the school, and five were reinstated.
People close to the team confirm that there is a strong alumni base that wants to win and is willing to "put their money where their mouth is." That could bode well for a program with new leadership atop the athletic department and a history of success on the field and raising money.
The Recruiting Base
Ivy League schools generally operate on a national level when it comes to recruiting. Their association with the conference is strong enough to get attention from any student-athlete that puts a heavy emphasis on the "student" half of the label.
Brown recruits this way, to an extent. From their 2021-22 roster, only five of the 26 team members came from outside of the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Now the Mid-Atlantic includes New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, so having a lineup full of wrestlers from those states is definitely a good strategy. It would probably be best if the new staff continues this strategy, while picking a few studs from out of that radius. The current roster doesn't have anyone from Blair Academy, Malvern Prep, or Wyoming Seminary, three of the top schools in the nation, all from this area, which regularly churn out top-level DI prospects with Ivy-like grades.
Brown does have some local flavor on the roster with three wrestlers from New England. That's probably about right. Maybe more for a local fanbase, but there isn't enough talent from the region to fully support a strong DI roster. The area is slowly improving, so it wouldn't be a bad idea for a new coach to develop some connections in the area.