Oct. 26, 1999
Usually when a coach enters the season with only one senior starter on the roster, he might not have high expectations for the year. When you throw in the fact that four NCAA qualifiers were lost to graduation, things might even look more bleak. However, even though these obstacles lie in front of Purdue head wrestling coach Jessie Reyes, the seventh-year Purdue mentor has enough high-caliber athletes returning to again make an impact in the Big Ten and on the national scene.
?I am really looking forward to this season,? Reyes says. ?We might only have one senior starter on the team, but overall we have five starters returning. There are a lot of quality guys back to push us into the new millenium.?
Although the Boilermakers lost five NCAA qualifers to graduation, five wrestlers return with winning records. All-American sophomore Jason Silverstein (125) and senior Mark Colegrove (184) will anchor the Boilermakers corps this year. Most of the squad which guided the Boilermakers to a 15-6-1 record last season return and are looking to push the Old Gold and Black to a top-five Big Ten finish.
?We have what I like to call an ?experienced youth? this season,? Reyes says. ?Only one senior starter returns, but that?s not as bad as it sounds because so many of our younger wrestlers have had some type of big meet competition in the past. It will just be a matter of us gelling as a team and having the pieces fall in the right spot. Losing the seniors that we did last year is certainly a blow, but not as big as some people may think because of the young, but experienced, talent returning. We should still be a very competitive team on the Big Ten and national level.?
All-American Silverstein and Colegrove will be Purdue?s leaders on the mat. Silverstein placed eighth at nationals at 125 despite blowing out his knee at Penn State during NCAA?s. Colegrove was in and out of the lineup last year, but has really rededicated himself and big things are expected out of this fifth-year senior.
?Mark is one of our strongest guys on the team,? Reyes says. ?He had a good junior year, battling senior Phil Holmgren for the spot in the lineup. I look for even better things out of Mark this year, and he should contend for a Big Ten title. He is a very talented athlete who works extremely hard and improves each time he steps out on the mat. Now that the pressure is off to be in the line-up each dual match, he can bear down and concentrate on winning a Big Ten title.?
The three other returning wrestlers that amassed winning records last year also should contend for places in this year?s Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. Junior Carlos Blanco will compete at 141 after finishing last year at 17-12, narrowly missing a spot in the national tournament. Junior Evan Robinson will be a solid contributor at 133 after posting 17 wins last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury versus Minnesota. Sophomore Jacob Vercelli had a terrific season in 1998-99 filling in for the injured David Pierce and is working to improve on last year?s 17-7 record.
Once again, a highly-skilled group of redshirt freshmen will battle to crack the starting lineup and reach the NCAA Championships. Among those expected to make an impact are Jimmy Hawthorne at 149, Oscar Santiago at 157 and Kirk Moore at 165. All three posted winning records during open meets last season. In addition, thirteen true freshmen are expected to join the Boilermakers this season. Three of these newcomers, Brad Harper, Ryan Lange and Randy Pursely, were crowned state champions during their storied high school careers.
?Once again we feel good about the quality of athletes that we have brought into this program,? Reyes says. ?The group is almost exclusively made up of kids from the state of Indiana which we determined to continue the process of moving the Boilermakers up in the Big Ten and the NCAA ranks.? The Boilermakers will again be tested by a tough schedule. This season, Purdue will tangle with 11 teams in the preseason top 25, including preseason No. 2 Iowa, No. 3 Illinois, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 10 Pennsylvania to name just a few. The 2000 Big Ten Tournament will return to West Lafayette for the first time since 1989 in the first weekend in March.
HERE?S A LOOK AT THE 1999-2000 BOILERMAKERS BY WEIGHT CLASS:
Sophomore All-American Jason Silverstein looks to anchor the starting spot at 125 and the Boilermakers? squad as a whole. Last year, Silverstein became Purdue's ninth All-American of the 1990?s and 42nd overall when he placed eighth at 125-pounds in the 69th-annual NCAA Division I championship. Last year?s team MVP, Silverstein finished the season with a 34-10 record and an 11-5 mark in the Big Ten while capturing fifth place at the Big Ten Championships. His 68 points scored in dual matches last season led the Boilers and he was tops on the squad with 11 Big Ten wins, 102 takedowns and 15 three-point near falls. This season, Silverstein is shooting for nothing less than a return to the podium at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in his sophomore campaign.
?Jason is one of our leaders and is no doubt looking for a return to the championships,? Reyes says. ?He has had a good pre-season, and there is every reason to believe he will have an outstanding year.? Freshman Robert Maddox will add depth at this weight.
Junior Evan Robinson has a tight hold on his starting spot from a year ago. After an impressive redshirt sophomore year that ended early because of a knee injury, the Punta Gorda, Fla., native still managed a 17-7 overall mark and an 8-4 record in dual meets, and has his sights set on a trip to St. Louis. ?This year we are ready for Evan to have a big season,? Reyes says. ?He was on the verge of that last year before a knee-injury cut his year short. He has worked hard to recover from his injury, and I think he will be a major factor in the success of this team.?
The 141-pound weight class will be an important one for the Boilermakers, with the starting nod going to junior Carlos Blanco. The San Bernardino, Calif., native posted a 17-12 overall record, with three pins and finished 9-4 in dual meets, 4-6 in Big Ten. The talented wrestler who was named the No. 2 wrestler in the nation at 130-pounds by Amateur Wrestling News as a senior in high school won state titles as a junior and senior, recording a 100-0 record over those two seasons and was named outstanding wrestler at the state tourament in 1997.
?Carlos could be the guy for us at 141-pounds,? Reyes says. ?What he needs to do better this year than last year is control his weight better and work a little harder in the wrestling room. If he does that, with all the skills and talent he possesses, he will be a force to be reckoned with.?
Redshirt freshman Jimmy Hawthorne leads the charge at 149- pounds after sitting out the 1998-99 season. Wrestling unattached at the St. Louis Open last year, he placed third at 149 pounds in the freshman/sophomore bracket. Last spring, the Highland Springs, Va., native, placed seventh at the University Nationals April 10-11 at Northwestern University, ending the two-day tournament with a 5-2 record in the 78-man field. In the tournament, he pinned NCAA qualifier Joe Carr of West Virginia in the second period to advance on in the tournament. As a prepster, Hawthorne won prep nationals as a senior and led his team to a No. 1 national finish in 1997. ?Jimmy came into this year with the right attitude,? Reyes says.
?He worked hard this summer in the weight room to increase his strength and he is a physical wrestler to begin with. If he continues to put the time in, he will be hard to bump from the 149-pound slot.? Junior Scott Hines will challenge Hawthorne. Hines has seen limited action in his first two years, registering a 5-4 overall record. ?Moving up from 141-pounds, Scott is a strong and quick competitor,? Reyes says. ?He is still young in the sense that he has spent limited time in the lineup. If he wants to crack the lineup at 149, he needs to get more experience and the confidence that he is the man for the Boilermakers. If that happens, he could take that spot.?
Redshirt freshman Oscar Santiago will probably face senior James Leavell, who posted an 11-7 mark last season, before the start of the season for the starting job at 157-pounds. ?Oscar is a redshirt who is a smart wrestler,? Reyes says. ?This summer he worked hard on his finishes and the results are starting to show. He is a kid who was a winner in high school, and now he needs to get experience at the collegiate level and gain that same level of confidence to be as successful as I think he can be this year and in the years to come.? ?Leavell is a kid who came to Purdue with unlimited potential,? Reyes says. ?Since he has been here, he has had an up-and-down career. There is no doubt that James can have a tremendous year. It just matters now that he gets the correct mind set, works hard and dedicates himself to the sport.?
When talking about the next NCAA-title contender for the Boilermakers, you might not have to look any further than Kirk Moore. The redshirt freshman from Bakersfield, Calif., is a very skilled wrestler who placed third at 157-pounds in the freshman/sophomore bracket of the St. Louis Open last season. He finished his senior year with a perfect 57-0 record, placing first at the Reno, Hollister and Canyon tournaments and was voted outstanding wrestler at Foothill High School all four years. Moore also placed fifth at high school nationals two years ago.
?Kirk Moore is the clear-cut choice at 165 pounds,? Reyes says. ?He is very capable of becoming a true leader on this team, despite being a redshirt freshman. Kirk has worked hard since coming to West Lafayette and we expect big things out of him this year and in the years to follow.?
Jared Williams is a returning starter after wrestling at 197 a year ago. The sophomore learned a lot from last year when he finished with a record of 13-14 overall. ?Jared is a great worker who has steadily improved since last season,? Reyes says. ?I expect him to make a big jump this year wrestling at more of a natural weight and become a real star for this team.?
There is another Boiler looking to crack into the lineup at this weight as well. Redshirt sophomore Jon Fitch was in and out of the lineup last year and looks to push Williams for the starting nod. ?Plain and simple, Jon Fitch is a worker,? Reyes says. ?This summer he made some unbelievable strides in technique and skill.?
The coaching staff hopes this year will be the year for senior Mark Colegrove. The fifth-year senior is an aggressive wrestler who finished with 15 overall wins and seven dual meet victories in 1998-99. The St. Peter?s, Mo., native, is healthy this year and ready to compete in his senior campaign for the Old Gold and Black. ?Mark is a hardworker who spent a lot of time in the wrestling room this summer fine-tuning his skills,? Reyes says. ?He definitely has the ability to become a great asset to this team, but he needs to work on his confidence and believe more in himself.?
Purdue will again be relying on a newcomer at 197, but junior Jon Bush is certainly one of the top young wrestlers in the nation. A transfer from the Colorado School of Mines, Bush spent most of last year ranked in the top 5 of Division II. At St. Charles High School in Palmer, Alaska, he was the undefeated state champion in the 171- pound class his senior year, and led his team to the state championship. Bush finished in the top five in the state all four years at St. Charles and was the Missouri AAA Wrestler-of-the-Year as a senior.
?We are looking for Jon to step in at 197 and make an immediate impact,? Reyes says. ?In my seven years here at Purdue, Jon is the first true 197-pounder I have ever had. He is a great athlete with the right mind set and a real competitor. We are looking for him to make some noise on the national level.?
Sophomore Jacob Vercelli is back as the starter this season. A part- time starter last year for departed senior David Pierce, Vercelli posted a 17-7 mark, including a team-leading five wins via fall and two wins over NCAA qualifiers. Freshman Ryan Lee will be a real standout waiting in the wings behind Vercelli.
?Jake is the man at heavyweight,? Reyes says. ?Last year,
when he substituted for David Pierce when he was injured, he beat
six guys that qualified for nationals. We think he gained a lot of
good experience last year and that can only help this year. This
summer he worked really hard and is now a good 15-pounds
heavier and we expect huge things from him.?