Oct. 13, 2010
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team is set to open its season on Saturday with the first practice of the season. The Boilermakers are set for their best season in recent history, returning seven NCAA Championship qualifiers and seeking their first top-10 national finish since 1991.
Leading the way for the Old Gold and Black is fourth-year head coach Scott Hinkel, who last year became the first coach in school history to post a winning dual record in each of his first three seasons at the helm. He guided the Boilermakers to their third straight top-30 team placement at the 2010 national championships and coached a Purdue wrestler to All-America status for the second straight year. With this year's strong senior class, Hinkel has his sights set on nothing but outstanding results.
"We have the talent, drive and work ethic to make this year something special," said Hinkel. "These guys have worked incredibly hard, on the mat, in the classroom and in the community, and we're all ready to see it pay off."
The Boilermakers have earned lots of national respect from potential opponents and the various national polls, including No. 13 rankings from WIN Magazine, TheOpenMat.com and Amateur Wrestling News, a No. 17 ranking from D1CollegeWrestling.net, a No. 20 ranking from WrestlingReport.com and an invitation to the NWCA National Duals.
Purdue officially starts its season Saturday, Oct. 16, with an open practice at 10 a.m. in the Blake Wrestling Center in Lambert Fieldhouse. The homecoming football crowd and general public are invited to join the Boilermakers for a meet and greet, and then hang out to watch the first practice of the year. "We're very excited about this season, and we want Purdue and the surrounding community to be excited too," said Hinkel.
The Boilermakers have an incredible luxury at 125 pounds with the return of 2010 All-American Cashé Quiroga to the lineup. Quiroga became just the third true freshman in school history to earn national honors, taking sixth place at the NCAA Championships, and finishing 28-15 on the year. He's also the first freshman at Purdue to crack the 100-takedown mark, racking up a team-best 124 takedowns, which is good for the sixth-highest single-season total in Boilermaker history. Quiroga is receiving a wealth of preseason attention from the various polls, including a No. 4 national ranking from WIN Magazine.
Quiroga will get a wealth of support and challenge for his spot in the lineup as redshirt freshman Camden Eppert is roaring to go after sitting out his first year at Purdue. Eppert was the 2009 Indiana State Champion at 119 pounds, knocking off heralded recruit Brandon Wright in the state finals, and was tabbed the nation's No. 63 recruit coming out of high school by InterMat. Also joining the ranks is Quiroga's former high school teammate, Brandon Nelsen, who comes to Purdue after winning the 2010 Indiana State Championship at 119 pounds. Nelsen was 187-27 in his high school career, including a 51-1 mark as a senior and 50-4 mark as a junior.
Purdue's 133-pound group is stocked with talent, highlighted by 2010 NCAA qualifier Akif Eren and junior Jake Fleckenstein. Eren set a series of career bests last year, including his 24-15 record and sixth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, while Fleckenstein looks to cut down from 141 pounds last season, where he was 15-6 before a season-ending injury. Fleckenstein racked up an impressive 91 takedowns in his 21 matches, including seven major decisions and a trio of technical falls. Eren has been named the nation's No. 27 wrestler at 133 pounds by WrestlingReport.com.
Bolstering the effort at 133 are juniors Matt Fields and Bill Putman, who have come on strong over the last year. Fields is 27-18 over the last two years, varying between 125 and 133 pounds. He's been a stud on top, sticking 10 opponents and rolling up 102 career back points. Putman was 14-11 last season in action at 133 and 141 pounds, including fifth-place efforts at the Cleveland State and Missouri Opens and a third-place finish at the Indianapolis Greyhound Open. Also certifying at 133 pounds is freshman Nick Lawrence, who was a two-time runner up at 125 pounds in Ohio before missing his senior year due to injury.
Senior Juan Archuleta represents another of the Boilermakers' returning national qualifiers, going 28-14 last season with a fourth-place effort at the Big Ten Championships and a 2-2 mark at the NCAA Championships. Ranked 13th in the country in a pair of preseason polls, Archuleta nearly cracked the 100-takedown mark, totaling 96 to tie for 20th on the Purdue single-season record list. He had several impressive matches and wins last season topping Big Ten Champion Mike Thorn of Minnesota, Missouri's Todd Schavrien, Elijah Nacita of Cal State Bakersfield and Ivan Lopouchanski of UNC Greensboro. With Archuleta scheduled to miss the first semester of competition, look for Eren or Fleckenstein to bump up and cover the 141 pounds slot until January.
Archuleta leads a very young, but talented weight class for Purdue, which features freshman standout Brock Norton, who was an unblemished 39-0 last season en route to the Indiana state title at 135 pounds.
The starting job at 149 pounds for the Boilermakers comes down to redshirt senior Sam Patacsil and redshirt sophomore Tommy Churchard. Patacsil is the front-runner after being granted a medical hardship and sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, and posting a 38-22 record over the last few seasons. With a wealth of varsity action at 149 and 157 pounds in 2009-10, Patacsil built an impressive 18-11 mark, including wins over nationally heralded James Fleming of Clarion and Collin Palmer of Ohio State. He amassed 79 back points on the year, good for the No. 12 single-season mark at Purdue, and built his career total to 141, which is tied for ninth in school history. Churchard is primed for the move to 149 after wrestling most of his freshman season at 141 pounds. His 7-5 record included a 4-0 championship performance at the Indianapolis Greyhound Open, which featured two pins and two major decisions.
Freshmen Frankie Porras, Josh Martin, Travis Rohde and Dustin Schultz support the ranks at 149, projecting to redshirt their initial season. Porras was one of the nation's best at 145 pounds last season, earning mention from InterMat and D1CollegeWrestling.net, after winning Indiana state titles in 2009 and 2010, while Martin is the younger brother of former Boilermaker Jason Martin and was an Indiana state championship qualifier in 2010. Rohde and Schultz both qualified for their respective state tournaments their senior years as well.
Senior Colton Salazar puts the Boilermakers' 157-pound slot in good hands, heading into the season with a trio of NCAA qualifications and Big Ten Championships placings under his belt. Salazar posted his first career 30-win season in 2009-10, finishing 30-13 on the year and rolling up a career- best 81 takedowns, and had his best-ever showing at the conference championships, taking second place. Salazar has already received some solid early-season attention, being tabbed No. 13 in the country by WIN Magazine and 15th in the nation by WrestlingReport.com.
Salazar has a parade of freshman lined up behind him at 157, featuring Austin Kunze, Pat Robinson, Ryan Stahl and Alex Surma. Each member of the group were state qualifiers their final years in high school, while Robinson, Stahl and Surma were state placewinners in Indiana as Robinson was third at 145 pounds, Stahl was fourth at 152 pounds and Surma was fourth at 145 pounds.
With the graduation of Jason Martin, the Boilermakers will see a fresh face at 165 pounds this season, and could be any one of four young grapplers. Freshmen Kyle Mosier, Ethan Smith, Patrick Kissel and Cameron Vlahos all have their hats in the ring, each boasting a set of solid credentials. Mosier is the lone redshirt of the group, sitting out last year and gaining valuable experience. He had 173 career high school wins, including 119 pins, and placed at the Indiana state championships three times.
Smith comes back to the Boilermakers after spending the last two years on a religious mission in Chile, signing with Purdue out of Wasatch High School in Utah, the same as current teammate Colton Salazar. A nationally-ranked recruit in 2008, Smith was a two-time state champion and took fourth-place at senior nationals in 2008 at 160 pounds.
Kissel hopes to follow in the footsteps his older brother, A.J., who had an outstanding rookie campaign for the Boilermakers in 2007-08 as a true freshman. Patrick Kissel won a pair of Wisconsin state high school titles at Oostburg High School, finishing with a 158-9 career record and more than 70 career pins.
Vlahos looks to be a hometown hero for the Boilermakers, hailing from Harrison High School in West Lafayette, where he was a two-time state championship qualifier. He took fourth place at the state meet last season at 160 pounds, and set several school records, including a season-best record of 56-4, 136 career wins and 69 career pins.
Senior Luke Manuel looks to finish off an outstanding career this season and is set to go down as one of the top wrestlers in school history. Manuel broke the Boilermakers' single-season win record in 2009-10, earning 41 victories, and his 96 career wins rank him 15th in school history as he will become the 15th wrestler in school history to crack the 100-win plateau. He's 38 wins shy of the Boilermakers' career record (136 by Ryan Lange, 2001-04), and his 76.2% career win percentage is 10th-best in school history. Manuel was also one of three Boilermakers to surpass 100 takedowns last season en route to 217 for his career, good for 15th all-time at Purdue.
Last season, Manuel made his third-straight trip to the NCAA Championships after a fifth-place showing at the conference tournament. His 41-6 mark was the 10th-best individual season in Purdue's history, while he relinquished just 14 takedowns in 47 matches. With preseason rankings as high as ninth in the country at 174, Manuel has his sights set on a Big Ten Championship and All-America honors in his final season.
Rookie Andy Wiseman looks to gain valuable experience this season under Manuel, joining the Boilermakers from Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., where he was a state qualifier last season.
Purdue and the rest of the wrestling world has anxiously awaited the return of fall maestro A.J. Kissel and after redshirting the 2009-10 season, he'll jump back into the Boilermaker lineup this year. In his first two seasons with the Boilermakers, Kissel tormented opponents, amassing 19 pins as a freshman and 17 as a sophomore, good for the top-two single-season totals in school history. His 36 falls are already good for third all-time at Purdue as he aims to take over the top spot from current Purdue head coach Scott Hinkel in 2010-11.
Kissel qualified for the national championships in each of his first two seasons at 184 pounds, nearly earning All-America status as a sophomore with a Round of 12 finish. He's slotted to be one of the top-two grapplers in the Big Ten Conference this season, earning preseason rankings as high as seventh in the country from the various polls.
Freshman standout Braden Atwood looks to cut his teeth under Kissel, coming to Purdue with exceptional high school credentials. Atwood is the most highly touted of the Boilermakers' freshman class, receiving national recognition from D1CollegeWrestling.net among other polls. The local product from Delphi High School was a three-time Indiana state championship placewinner, including a second-place effort last season, and won 182 career matches.
The top half of the Boilermakers' 2010-11 lineup seems to roll out one nationally-elite wrestler after another, and senior Logan Brown is no exception. Like Luke Manuel, Brown is closing in on the 100-career win mark, heading into the season with an 87-44 career mark, including a 33-13 record last season. His 240 career takedowns are good for 13th in school history as he matched Manuel with 101 last year, tying for the No. 15 single-season mark at Purdue.
Brown's junior season included his third-consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships, a fourth-place Big Ten Championship finish and placewinning efforts at the Midlands Championships, Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and a pair of open tournaments. He had nine wins over ranked opponents last season, and opens this year ranked as high as seventh in the national polls.
Brown will have support from veteran classmate David Pisarcik, who has had a solid Purdue career to date, competing from 184 pounds to heavyweight, including a few outstanding performances at heavyweight last season. His win at Illinois led the Boilermakers to their first win over the Fighting Illini in more than 10 years, while he displayed a very gutsy performance at the Big Ten Championships, despite giving up a considerable weight advantage to his opponents.
The Boilermakers are anxious for the return of senior Roger Vukobratovich to the tail end of the lineup as he assumes the Purdue heavyweight slot after missing 2009-10 with an injury. He had a promising start to last season, topping Michigan's Ben Apland (D 10-6) and nearly beating highly-ranked Chris Birchler of Edinboro (D 5-7) at the Eastern Michigan Open, but had to forgo the remainder of the year. Vukobratovich was very good in open competition in 2008-09, going 10-4 with five falls, and four years of work with Boilermaker assistant coach Tom Erikson should pay dividends as he aims to be the Boilermakers' first heavyweight NCAA qualifier since Israel Blevins in 2004.
A young supporting cast sits behind Vukobratovich, including sophomore Adam Walls and freshmen Alex White and Gage Boyd. Walls filled in for the injured Vukobratovich for most of last season, compiling an 11-24 mark with four falls, including a Big Ten win at Northwestern. White and Boyd both are hungry for their first taste of action, each with solid high school credentials.
The Boilermakers' preseason hype warranted a solid 2010-11 schedule, and the Purdue coaches stepped up to the challenge, filling this year's schedule with a list of worthy opponents and events. The coaching staff's main priority for the season was filling their schedule with quality instead of quantity as the Boilermakers' seven NCAA Championship qualifiers finished the season with an average of 43 matches per wrestler and felt worn out by the end of the season.
Purdue opens the season with a pair of dual matches at Edinboro University on Nov. 6, where the Boilermakers will face the host Fighting Scots as well as Hofstra Unviersity. Edinboro garnered preseason rankings as high as 24th in the country, while Hofstra was ranked as high as 16th. The Boilermakers will follow up with preparation stops at the Michigan State Open and a dual with Calumet College of St. Joseph before heading west for the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational for competition against some of the nation's best, including highly-ranked Cornell, Boise State and Oklahoma as well as Big Ten rivals Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
The competition doesn't slow down upon a return home from the desert as Purdue is scheduled to host perennial Big 12 power Missouri on Dec. 12 in the Boilermakers' home opener, followed by a Big Ten Dual opener at Illinois before the holiday break. The Old Gold and Black will forgo their trip to the Midlands Championships this season, but replace it with a prestigious trip to the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals on Jan. 8-9 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, marking their first return to the event since 1993.
The Big Ten Duals remain as tough as ever as the Boilermakers head to Michigan for their second conference bout, followed by a non-conference stop at the annual Wendy's Classic, where Purdue is scheduled to square off with Gardner-Webb, Kent State and host Ashland. The remainder of the conference schedule features road contests at Northwestern and Wisconsin, while the Boilermakers are set to play host to Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan State and archrival Indiana. Purdue's contest with the Hawkeyes will be held at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., while the regular-season finale against the Hoosiers will carry with it a point in the coveted Crimson and Gold Cup standings between Purdue and Indiana.
Originally scheduled to host the conference tournament this season, Purdue was forced to forgo its hosting responsibilities due to the construction project on Mackey Arena and the athletic facilities. The 2011 Big Ten Championships were therefore moved to Northwestern, where the Wildcats will host in Welsh-Ryan Arena. From there the Boilermakers look to take another strong contingent to the NCAA Championships, set for the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia.