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BLOG: ...And We're Off !

By Jason Valek, Head Wrestling Coach

I found the title of this article to be fitting as we have hit the ground running and are motoring at full speed.

The preseason prognosticators see us as the seventh best team in the country and predict for us to repeat as East Region Champs. With six nationally ranked wrestlers on our squad, seven returning national qualifiers and three All-Americans, I feel good about what we have built in the last three years. I further feel that the tides have turned as we have went from the hunter in the East Region, to becoming the hunted. It will be an interesting role reversal as we shift our focus and mentality towards lofty goals in 2008-2009.

Halloween night introduced this year's installment of Newberry Wrestling to our home fans. After several rounds of "Wrestle Offs" and a some pleasant suprises, the right mix of wrestlers was found and our quest towards repeating as Region Champions and working towards National Championship aspirations has begun.

As the title of this blog suggests, we are on the move in early November traversing the countryside looking for the best possible competition and trying to better ourselves with every outing. We got things kicked off November 8th in Chattanooga as we squared off against Southern Conference and Division I foes, Davidson and UTC. With nerves and tensions high we settled in for our first match of the season against Davidson. The kids really responded and it was over before it started, a 39-4 deficit was handed down and our first victory of the season in hand, albeit over Division I competition, The next match was the one we had been gunning for as UTC features a true legend in the world of wrestling, Chris Bono and nationally ranked team to boot. We had some weight issues and I asked the kids to shift weight classes up. They responded by hanging tough with a top quality opponent, falling 24-16. We took some valuable lessons home with us and put them to use in gearing up for our next big matches.

November 15 brought two Top 15 Division II and fellow East Region members, Mercyhurst and Limestone as we traveled to Gaffney to square off on the campus of Limestone College. We faced No. 12 Mercyhurst in our first match of the day. The Lakers are picked 2nd in our region and would love nothing more than dethrone us in early season competion. After watching Mercyhurst take a hard fought victory 24-17 over Limestone in the opening stanza, we took to the mat and garnered an impressive 30-6 win over Mercyhurst taking 8 of the 10 bouts. In our second match, No. 15 Limestone was our opponent and the lights were dimmed and the spotlight was on the mat. We have a bit of a rivalry between us and we always get the Saints' best. The match was close as always and had some turns and twists but our kids were resilient as ever and won 7 of ten bouts and won 29-15.

The road doesn't get any easier as we have No. 19 Spartanburg Methodist on November 18 on the road, followed by Division I N.C State University and Seton Hill on November 29 at home. On December 17, we round out the fall schedule with our Duals Tournament, hosting 10 teams from all over the country. We will face four Top 20 Division II teams with Ashland and Findlay Universities of Ohio, the University of Central Missouri and the University of Indianapolis.

Please join us for some wrestling this season and support these young men in the greatest sport in the world. If you would like more insight or comments on any particular topic please feel free to email me (jason.valek@newberry.edu) . I look forward to seeing you all this season and thanks for your continued support.

Yours In Wrestling,

Jason Valek

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