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
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
“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
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
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
“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.”