Black Knights Open Season This Weekend

Jordan Thome

Jordan Thome

Nov. 3, 2011

WEST POINT, N.Y. - The Army wrestling team lifts the lid on its 2011-12 campaign on Sunday, Nov. 6, when the Black Knights travel to Boston, Mass., to face Iowa State and Boston University in a pair of dual matches.

Both of Army's duals on Sunday will be video streamed live on Boston University's official web site ( via Terrier TV. Subscription fees apply. Live Twitter updates will also be offered (@BUGameDay).

Army, which hosted its annual Black-Gold intrasquad scrimmage two weeks ago, is set to embark upon its second season under head coach Joe Heskett.

Army is 5-4 all-time versus Boston University, while the Black Knights show a 0-3 all-time mark opposite Iowa State.

Following Sunday's action, the Army wrestling team opens its home slate on Tuesday, Nov. 8, with a dual match versus Rider. The dual will be contested at West Point's Christl Arena beginning at 7 p.m.

For more information on the 2011-12 Black Knights, a detailed season outlook follows:

Second year Army wrestling head coach Joe Heskett's eyes light up when he talks about the 2011-12 Black Knights. The second-year mentor, who began teaching the techniques and fundamentals of the sport last season, is starting to see some encouraging progress from his squad.

"We have significantly improved from where we were one year ago," said Heskett. "We have strengths up and down the lineup. We are stronger in the light to middle weights, but everyone has a job to do when it becomes game time. If everyone does the job, we're going to have a very successful year."

"We are still a developing program, but we are a team of fighters. These guys are sponges when it comes to the knowledge that this coaching staff is giving to them. They want to learn, and that makes for a very fun environment to coach in."

Army returns nine starters from last year's team that posted a 7-9 overall record in dual matches and placed ninth at the EIWA Championships.

Junior Jordan Thome, who qualified for the NCAA Championships last season, is Army's lone returning national qualifier. It is a goal of Heskett's to take multiple wrestlers to this season's NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo.

"The bar is higher than it was last year," added Heskett. "We have the potential to take at least four or five guys to the NCAA Tournament. Those are the benchmarks that we have to continue to look at and raise every single year."

A look at the Black Knights by weight class


Sophomore David White, who emerged as Army's starter at 125 pounds near the middle of last season, has been penciled in as the Black Knights' starter in that weight class once again this year.

White ranked sixth on the team in wins last season as a freshman, compiling a 20-19 overall record. He also listed among Army's leaders with four major decisions and seven bonus-point victories. The Athens, Pa., native capped his steady plebe campaign by placing sixth at the EIWA Championships. He added a fourth-place showing at the New York State Championships and a runner-up effort at the Shorty Hitchcock Invitational.

"David is what we like to call a `mat rat'," said Heskett. "He really lives and breathes the sport of wrestling. Because of that, he's a lot of fun to have in the room. He soaks up the techniques and is really a tireless worker when it comes to preparing himself. He was a round away from qualifying for the national tournament last year, and we expect big things from him this season."

White will be pushed all season long by senior co-captain Travis Coffey, who authored a 17-12 overall mark last winter.

"Travis is very athletic, and has done a tremendous amount to help build this team's culture of the past year," said Heskett. "We can't count him out whatsoever."


Junior Jordan Thome, who posted a 27-19 record with nine pins last season en route to an appearance in the NCAA Championships, is Army's unquestioned starter at 133 pounds.

Thome tied for the team lead last season in wins (27) and ranked second on the squad in dual wins (nine), pins (nine) and bonus-point victories (12). He placed fourth at the EIWA Championships to earn his way into the national tournament. He also posted a third-place finish at the Body Bar Invitational and a fourth-place showing at the Oklahoma-Gold Classic.

"Jordan has done an excellent job for us," said Heskett. "He has really matured as a solid team leader this year, and that's very important because he's one of the more accomplished wrestlers on our team. Now you're taking his athletic ability with his leadership skills, and it's been a lot of fun to watch him advance through the preseason."

Sophomore Charlie Costanzo, who dropped a 1-0 decision to Thome in the Black-Gold scrimmage, will continue to push Thome in the wrestling room all season long.

"Charlie is the consummate worker," said Heskett. "He's a guy you want on your side. He'll do anything for his team."


Army will need to replace Casey Thome at 141 pounds. Thome, who qualified for the NCAA Championships after placing runner-up at the EIWAs, graduated last spring as one of the Black Knights' most prolific wrestlers.

Junior Connor Hanafee has emerged from a three-way race and enters the season as Army's starter in the weight class. Hanafee compiled a 12-9 overall record last season at 133 pounds. His best showing of the year came at the All-Academy Championships, where he placed third in the 133-pound bracket.

Sophomore John Belanger and junior walk-on Casey Smith have been pushing Hanafee throughout the preseason and figure to continue to do so.

Belanger finished with a 10-8 overall record last season. His strongest showing came at the New York State Championships, where he went 4-0 to capture the title in the "B" flight.

"All three of these guys bring something different to the table, and they're all very solid," said Heskett. "Connor has been doing a great job getting extra workouts in, and it's been paying off. His confidence and consistency on the wrestling mat has shone through.

"John brings a variety of skills to the mat," said Heskett. "He's a very dangerous wrestler in a lot of ways.

"Casey is probably going to be one of the taller 141-pounders in the country," stated Heskett. "He just got back from a Mormon mission, so he's still brushing up his skills, but he'll be right in the mix. Because of his length and his ability to roll around, he does present a lot of problems for people. It'll be exciting to watch him grow over the next couple of years."


After bursting onto the scene with a 27-win season last year, junior Daniel Young returns as Army's starter at 149 pounds. Young went 27-17 overall as a sophomore, tying Jordan Thome for second on the team in wins. The third-year grappler also led the squad with five technical falls and ranked third on the club with 10 bonus-point victories.

"Daniel has matured tremendously, and is a real threat at 149," said Heskett. "I expect him to go out there and do some great things."

Sophomore Ryan Bilyeu, who has recommitted himself to the sport of wrestling this season, will provide Army with quality depth at this weight class. As a freshman last year, Bilyeu authored a 12-7 overall record with three major decisions. He wrestled to a runner-up showing at the New York State Championships, compiling a 3-1 mark in the "B" flight.

"Ryan is going to be fun to watch as we move along this season," said Heskett. "He's worked extremely hard during the preseason, he's done a great job with his weight management and he's very focused. That being said, I think it's going to be a very good year for him."


Senior co-captain Jimmy Rafferty returns as Army's starter at 157 pounds. One of the best natural leaders that Heskett has ever been around, Rafferty will anchor this weight class for the second straight season.

Last year, Rafferty forged a 21-19 overall record. He led the team with five major decisions and listed tied for fourth on the team with 21 wins. One of Rafferty's top showings last season came at the All-Academy Championships, where he finished second.

"We have a neat situation at 157," said Heskett. "Jimmy brings a tremendous amount of pride to this team, and he's going to give us everything he has for seven minutes out on that mat.

Sophomore Paul Hancock and freshman Chandler Smith will add depth to this weight class for the Black Knights.

Hancock competed in just three tournaments last season as a freshman, but he was highly successful in each of those events. The second-year wrestler, who finished the year with a 13-3 overall record, placed third at the East Stroudsburg Open and finished second at both the Shorty Hitchcock Invitational and the New York State Championships "B" flight.

"Paul is another guy who has a very big gas tank, and he's very versatile in his positions and his attacks," added Heskett. "He'll be interesting to watch grow up as well.

Smith is an athletic, powerful wrestler with tremendous potential.

"I feel Chandler has as much potential as anyone on the team," said Heskett. "His athleticism, power and gas tank are all going to be developed. He's definitely somebody to keep an eye on."


After moving from 149 pounds to 165 pounds midway through last season, sophomore Alex Smith will begin the 2011-12 campaign as Army's clear-cut starter in this weight class.

Smith put together an outstanding freshman campaign, posting a 21-16 overall record with three pins and a total of five bonus-point victories. He began the season at 149 pounds, but excelled most at the 165-pound weight class in the second semester.

"Alex has grown into his body and has become stronger," said Heskett. "He has a lot of natural wrestling ability, so it's really going to be fun to watch him get better as the year goes on."

Junior Patrick Marchetti, who moved up from 157 pounds, and freshman Cole Gracey will add depth to the 165-pound weight class.

Marchetti authored a 7-6 mark last season competing exclusively at 157 pounds. His best finish came at the New York State Championships, where he went 3-0 to win the title in the "B" flight.

Gracey is an unorthodox wrestler who is extremely competitive and very tough on top, according to Heskett.

"Cole knows how to use his style very well," said Heskett. "I feel very good about our depth at 165 pounds."


Junior Collin Wittmeyer, who returned to the team as one of the most improved wrestlers in the program, will be penciled in as Army's starter at 174 pounds.

After bursting onto the scene as a freshman, Wittmeyer toiled through an up and down sophomore campaign. His 16-15 overall record featured a runner-up showing at the New York State Championships, a fourth-place finish at the Oklahoma-Gold Classic and an eighth-place effort at the EIWA Championships.

"If we gave out a Most Improved award coming into the season, it would go to Collin Wittmeyer, pretty much hands down," said Heskett. "The strides that he's made both mentally and technically have been extremely impressive. It's going to be very fun to watch him compete and rise to the occasion."

Sophomore Ryan Tompkins, who split time between 165 and 174 pounds last season as a freshman, will serve as Wittmeyer's understudy. Tompkins posted a 13-12 mark as a plebe, but his five pins were third-most on the team. His best tournament finish came at the All-Academy Championships, where he placed third.

Junior Robert Doyle, who wrestled at both 174 and 184 pounds last year, will add depth to this weight class. He finished with a 14-18 overall mark in 2010-11 as a sophomore.


Senior Derek Stanley edged sophomore Wil Brown for the starting spot at 184 pounds coming out of the preseason. Stanley appeared in just five bouts last season, going 2-3 as a junior.

"Derek is a strong wrestler who has a good gas tank," said Heskett. "We're definitely looking forward to seeing him make a name for himself his senior year."

Brown, last year's starter in the 184-pound weight class, posted an 8-14 record as a freshman and listed tied for fourth on the team with four pins a year ago.

"Wil poses a lot of problems for his opponents because of his length and style," added Heskett.

Seniors Orion Ross and Michael Gorman will serve as capable reserves at 184 pounds. Ross authored a 2-4 overall record last season, while Gorman forged an 8-10 mark.


Senior Daniel Mills returns as Army's starter at 197 pounds after wrestling to a 10-23 overall mark last winter. Mills began the season by dropping his first 11 decisions, but went 10-12 down the stretch. He placed fourth at the All-Academy Championships and turned in a runner-up finish at the New York State Championships "B" flight.

"Daniel has continually gotten better since last year," said Heskett. "He's impressed me by his willingness to open up on his offense, and push the pace in the room so that he can be victorious on game day."

Freshman Phil Steinberg is expected to push Mills throughout the season and figures to see some time on the mat this year.


Freshman Stephen Snyder outdueled junior Christian Botero in the Black-Gold scrimmage to earn the starting nod at heavyweight.

"Stephen is a tough kid who is getting better each and every day," said Heskett. "We look forward to his growth."

Botero struggled to a 3-19 overall record, but two of his wins came via the pin.

"You can't count Christian Botero out," added Heskett. "He really embodies what this program is about from a work ethic and fight standpoint. He did a tremendous job for us last year standing in at heavyweight and fighting for Army."

Sophomore Curtis Garner, who successfully walked onto the team this season, will add depth to the heavyweight group.


Army will face a daunting schedule that features 14 dual matches and six tournaments in preparation for the EIWA and NCAA Championships.

"I'm very excited about our schedule for a couple of reasons," said Heskett. "We are a team that is willing to go out there and put it on the line. In order for us to know what the top level is, we have to wrestle it. You have to put yourself in front of the best teams in the country so that at the end of the year you believe that you belong in the top echelon of wrestlers. I feel that our schedule brings us that.

"We'll get great exposure to some of the best programs in the country through the tournaments. We'll see some of the best individuals in the country through the duals. Most importantly, we're going to find out a lot about ourselves."

Army opens the season on Sunday, Nov. 6, when the Black Knights travel to Boston to face Iowa State and Boston University in a pair of duals.

The Black Knights open their home slate the following Tuesday (Nov. 8), when they host Rider at Christl Arena.

Army begins its tournament slate by traveling to Brockport, N.Y., to compete in the Oklahoma-Gold Classic (Nov. 12). A trip to Ithaca, N.Y., and the Body Bar Invitational follows on Nov. 19.

The Black Knights return to dual match action on Nov. 26, when they travel to Troy, N.Y., for the Northeast Duals. Army is scheduled to face Arizona State, Sacred Heart and Binghamton in the event.

A trip to Las Vegas, Nev., for the Cliff Keen Invitational (Dec. 2) is followed by a home dual match versus Hofstra on Dec. 8.

Following a three-week break for final exams, Army returns to tournament competition on Jan. 1-2, when the Black Knights travel to Chattanooga, Tenn., to take part in the Southern Scuffle.

Dual matches with Rutgers (Jan. 8) and Columbia (Jan. 14) preps Army for the New York State Championships (Jan. 20-21). The Black Knights then face Drexel (Jan. 24), Brown (Jan. 28) and Harvard (Jan. 28) on the road.

The month of February gets under way with the All-Academy Championships (Feb. 4). The Black Knights wrap up their home schedule on Feb. 7, when they host Bucknell. Army then travels to Annapolis, Md., to face arch-rival Navy on Feb. 17.

The entire schedule is set up to have Army peaking in time for the EIWA Championships (March 3-4). The NCAA Championships will be contested March 16-18 in St. Louis, Mo.

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