Dec. 4, 1997

Boilers Set For Exciting Season

by Elliot Bloom

Peterson Photo
Senior Davion Peterson (right) went 16-10 overall last season. (File photo)

Expectations are sky high for the Purdue wrestling team as the 1997-98 campaign gets underway. The Boilers, who return six NCAA qualifiers from last season, head into the season ranked 26th in the country and boast five wrestlers in the top 20 in their respective weight classes. The Boilers have their work cut out for them again, especially in the Big Ten where eight of the top 20 ranked teams are from the conference.

Sixth-year head coach Jessie Reyes and assistant coach Scott Hinkel are excited about the 1998 season.

"We have a great combination of freshmen and experienced wrestlers," Reyes said. "A lot of our younger guys last year gained valuable experience, which should make us thatmuch stonger this season. We had a lot of athletes work out over the summer to improve their strength, and we can only benefit from that."

"The older guys have been together for a few years, so they understand what it takes to win," Hinkel said. "If they pass that knowledge on to the younger guys, there is no telling how good we can be. This should be a fun year."

Wrestling at the 118-pound spot for the Boilers will be fifth-year senior Tim Dernlan. Dernlan, ranked 7th in the preseason polls, has held down his spot in this weight class for the past three years. Building off a year in which he missed All-American status by two points, he should be a force to be reckoned with. In the first competition of the season, Dernlan won the 118-pound division in the St. Louis Open, earning the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler Award.

"Tim is the guy that sets the tone for the team on and off the mat," Reyes said. "We expect him to have an excellent season and, by proximity, influence the others on the team."

Junior Jason Hayes will start at 126 pounds for Purdue in '98. He finished the '97 season with an even 11-11 record and qualified for the NCAA's.

Junior Willie Wineberg moves up to 142 pounds this season after posting an impressive 23-7 record at 134 a year ago. Wineberg, ranked 13th in the nation, led the Boilers with 109 takedowns in '97.

Senior Mickey Griffin is ranked 12th at 150 pounds. He had a career year in 1997, posting a 24-9 record. Sophomore James Leavell, 10-5 in as a freshman, should also see some time in this weight class.

"Both Mickey and James were solid for us last season," Reyes said. "Mickey should be even better as a senior, while James has a very promising career ahead of him."

Eric Douglas, Purdue's highest ranked wrestler at No. 6, has secured the 158-pound starting spot. Douglas, last season's team MVP as a junior, eyes a return trip to Nationals where he went 4-2 a year ago. He tied Dernlan for the team lead in wins with 29.

"Eric has paid his dues and is ready to cash in," Hinkel said. "He will be a dominant force not only in the Big Ten, but in the nation as well."

At 167 pounds, junior James Crnich returns after a redshirt season in '97. A two-year starter prior to last season, Crnich was named Co-Most Improved in 1996 for the adjustments he made on the mat.

"The redshirt year not only helped James physically, but also mentally," Reyes said. "He has really matured and is primed for a great year."

Senior Davion Peterson worked extremely hard over the summer and has earned the starting spot at 177 pounds. Peterson went 16-10 overall last season, but 14 of his wins came at 167 pounds, helping him qualify for nationals.

At 190 pounds, sophomores Mark Colegrove and Jason Salley will compete for mat time. Colegrove went 13-18 last season at 177, while Salley went 0-2 in limited action.

Sophomore David Pierce has emerged as the man to beat at heavyweight. Pierce was an NCAA qualifier last season and posted a 19-14 overall record. Challenging him will be Chad Hedges who went 9-4 with four pins in '97.

"This is a strong weight class for us," Hinkel said. "(Assistant coach Tom) Erikson has been a big help in molding Chad and David into great competitors. David has the mobility and toughness to be an All-American this season."

The Boilermakers will compete in the Las Vegas Invitational in Las Vegas, Nev. on Dec. 5-6.