2017-2018 UW Parkside Preview | Nate Woelfel

TomM
By TomM November 6, 2017 17:54

2017-2018 UW Parkside Preview | Nate Woelfel

2017-2018 UW Parkside Preview | Nate Woelfel 

Monday, November 6, 2017

This offseason was an unfortunately eventful one for the UW-Parkside wrestling program.

Back in June, then-head coach Gregg Lewis stepped down after six seasons. Parkside was in the process of elevating its head wrestling coach from a part-time to full-time position and Lewis wanted to dedicate more time to his family.

In August, the entire athletic department was hit with sweeping sanctions from the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

The sanctions stemmed from an NCAA/GLVC investigation last spring which found Parkside guilty of “multiple secondary violations” involving student athletes competing in multiple years while ineligible. At least one of those violations involved a member of the wrestling team.

Though Parkside official maintained none of the violations were intentional, stiff penalties were handed down nonetheless.

As a result, all of Parkside’s athletic teams are banned from GLVC and NCAA Tournament competition for the 2017-18 season. In addition, the wrestling team was forced to vacate its 2016-17 GLVC Conference Championship. However, individual wrestlers are still eligible for postseason competition.

In the middle of all this, Corey VanGroll was tabbed as the Rangers new head wrestling coach. For some, the circumstances would be deflating. However, VanGroll and his squad are pushing ahead.

“Anytime there’s a new coach, there’s some culture change that must happen,” VanGroll said. “I’m trying to get to know the team that I’ve been gifted and they’re trying to get to know me. We’re just trying to mesh together.”

A Parkside graduate, VanGroll comes to the Rangers by way of NCAA Division III Concordia University Wisconsin where he was named Northern Wrestling Association Coach of the Year on three occasions. He led his CUW squads to three conference championships and coached the program’s first NCAA champion as well as its only three-time national qualifier.

“I haven’t had a chance to really sit back and see how cool of an opportunity I have,” VanGroll said. “But it is a really cool thing. To be able to be back at my alma mater and work with these high-level athletes is really a great honor.”

Given the new leader and sanctions, it would be reasonable to expect some roster turnover. But that’s not how things played out at Parkside.

“Usually when there’s a coaching change, the recruits go with it and the team kind of falls apart a little bit,” VanGroll said. “We didn’t lose one recruit. We didn’t lose one guy in this transition.”

There are certainly perks to keeping the band together, particularly when the roster features a great deal of potential.

“One thing that I’ve been gifted is a lot of talent,” VanGroll said. “We have the talent, now we have to hone in and keep things going in the right direction. We’re going to be really, really good.”

Just weeks into his tenure, VanGroll has a fairly firm grasp on how his first starting lineup will shake out.

“I’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s going to look like,” said VanGroll. “There are a couple of weights up in the air yet. 141 we’re not sure about and heavyweight we’re not sure about. At 125, there might be an ongoing wrestle-off throughout the year. But other than that, we’re pretty well set.”

That open spot at 125 comes after the graduation of Ronzel Darling, a three-time NCAA qualifier who placed fourth at the national tournament back in 2016.

Parkside will be without the services of two-time national champion Nick Becker (174) for the first semester.

The redshirt senior has two semesters of eligibility remaining. In an effort to maximize his opportunities for additional championships, Becker will only compete in the second semester of the next two seasons. He is currently training away from the team.

“He’s going around the area getting training partners in,” VanGroll said. “He gets his fix in. He’s definitely training. He’s not going to be coming right off the couch. He’s very accountable for that.”

This strategy complies with NCAA Division II rules so long as Becker is a full-time student while he’s competing and does not exceed a total of 10 semesters of competition. VanGroll believes this approach will suit Becker nicely.

“To shorten that season up, for him, is actually beneficial,” VanGroll said. “He is good enough, smart enough, old enough and experienced enough. He needs a month to get in shape, get his timing down and he’s going to be a beast. He doesn’t need all the training, the full grind, to get ready to go. He really doesn’t.”

Becker is 66-0 over the last two seasons and was named NCAA Division II Wrestler of the Year in 2017.

The Rangers lineup features three wrestlers who are currently ranked by InterMat, Becker will most certainly join them come second semester.

Redshirt sophomore Arik Furseth begins the season ranked No.8 at 133 pounds. He posted a 27-13 record a season ago and made his first appearance at the NCAA Tournament.

Both Pernevlon Sheppard (157) and James Lehman (197) are ranked No.10 at their respective weights.

Sheppard, a redshirt junior, qualified for the national tournament at 141 pounds back in 2016.

Lehman was 34-6 in his redshirt sophomore campaign.

VanGroll added that he expects Brett Scoles (165) to be ready to compete by second semester. The redshirt senior is currently recovering from knee surgery. He boasts a career record of 56-43, including a career-best 23-13 mark last year.

As VanGroll’s wrestlers look around the room, they see a lot of potential. That potential, coupled with a healthy dose of desire, has led to some high expectations.

“We don’t have a lot of accomplished wrestlers. We have a lot of hungry wrestlers that know how good each other are. Our team has a lot of energy right now,” VanGroll said. “I’m not kidding you, our team thinks we’re going to run away with a national title this year … they are that excited.”

However, sanctions dictate the Rangers are ineligible for any postseason team honors. But the new head coach and his team aren’t worried about the technicalities.

“If we have five in the finals, five national champions, we’re going to know who the team national champions are,” VanGroll said. “We’re going to count.”

This season, VanGroll is focused on getting the most out of his wrestlers, regardless of team accolades.

“If we do put out that product and we do end up being team champions or place top-three, I’m going to know. And we’re going to go home and we’re going to celebrate that. If they don’t want to let us bring the hardware home and we don’t have a trophy to show, that’s too bad. But we’re certainly going to celebrate,” VanGroll said. “I really don’t think the mindset or the energy of our team has changed.”

Nate Woelfel is a contributor to Wisconsin Wrestling Online. You can find him on Twitter at Nate_Woelfel.

UW Parkside Wrestling

TomM
By TomM November 6, 2017 17:54

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