As the season gets under way, the MSU wrestling team aims to find an identity with a young roster as it hosts the Michigan State Open this Sunday at Jenison Field House.
After graduating senior leadership in Curran Jacobs and Anthony Jones Jr., the 2012-13 squad is led by senior David Cheza and junior Michael McClure, who will anchor a roster featuring 17 freshmen, 13 of whom are true freshmen.
In the first event of the season, the Spartans placed 18 wrestlers, including 16 top-five finishes in the Eastern Michigan Open on Saturday in Ypsilanti, Mich.
For head coach Tom Minkel, the showing at the Eastern Michigan Open is a good springboard for what the team hopes to accomplish in the upcoming year.
“Eastern Michigan was a good starting point,” Minkel said. “Obviously our competition will get stiffer as the season goes, but it gave us a chance to get on the mat and compete. There were a lot of good things, but you always come back with a list of things that guys need to work on.”
Minkel said after the loss of a solid senior class last season, the team this year is younger and closer than in the past.
“I think we had six or seven seniors in the lineup last year, so the team has an entirely different look to it,” he said. “With that said, the team that we have is a really hardworking group and I think a closer knit group than I’ve had in a while. Their commitment and work ethic is outstanding.”
One person expected to step up this year is senior Dan Osterman, who finished with a 25-17 record a season ago. Osterman said although he came in third place in the 149 pounds weight class at the EMU Open, he still is trying to improve this weekend.
“I made some slight mistakes,” Osterman said. “I got out of position and that kind of cost me a match. I’m really just trying to focus on staying in position and creating pressure and going out there and having fun.”
Osterman has the talent to get on the podium this year, but he said his goals are aimed even higher.
“All-American is definitely my goal,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been shooting for the last few years, but this year, my last year, I have a lot of experience and a lot of confidence, and I definitely want to be an All-American this year.”
For McClure, his strong performance at the EMU Open spurs him on to do better in the tougher tournament this weekend.
“Finishing 4-0 at a tournament definitely helps you go into a tournament with motivation,” McClure said. “Normally there’s some tough schools coming in, tough Big Ten schools, and I should see some tough competition.”
When Osterman and the Spartans start playing the tougher Big Ten teams later in the season, he said they need to focus and take it one match at a time.
“For me, and this is the same for many of my teammates, you can’t look at it like this is Iowa or this is Penn State, you have to look at it like it’s just another match,” Osterman said. “Don’t make it bigger than it is, because that’s when you’re going to get in trouble. Wrestle hard; that’s all you can do.”