The McKendree University men’s wrestling team opens up the 2016-17 campaign on Wednesday as they welcome University of Central Oklahoma to the Statham Center at 7 p.m. for the first dual of the season.
The Bearcats enter the season ranked number eight nationally in NCAA Division II Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Last season, the Bearcats finished in eighth place in the final team standings of the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships with 42.5 points. The Bearcats have finished in the top 10 at the event for three consecutive seasons.
The 2016-17 season marks the first season that the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) will sponsor men’s wrestling. The Bearcats were ranked second in the GLVC preseason poll, behind Maryville University.
Men’s head wrestling coach James Kisgen has high expectations for his team this season. “We placed in the top 10 of the NCAA Tournament last season so expectations are to build on that,” said Kisgen. “We have the major pieces we need to make a run for the top five and be in contention at end of year.”
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Weight Class Preview
At 125 pounds, redshirt freshman Weston Basler will move down weight classes from 133 to 125 pounds to wrestle this year. “Weston’s an extremely talented and very dangerous wrestler,” said Kisgen. “He’ll score a lot of team points and is a major player in the lineup.”
Redshirt freshman Jarrett Reisenbichler will join Basler in the 125-pound weight class. “Jarrett’s a tough Missouri kid,” said Kisgen. “He’ll be another major player for us this season.”
At 133 pounds, redshirt junior NaQuan Hardy enters the season ranked sixth nationally for the Bearcats. Hardy finished the 2015-16 season with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships and a record of 21-8. “NaQuan’s a returning All-American, his experience will play a pivotal role for the team this season,” said Kisgen.
Redshirt freshman Charles McNeal will also weigh in at 133 pounds for McKendree. “Charles is a transfer from Williams Baptist College who will get some time in the lineup this season,” said Kisgen.
At 141 pounds, redshirt junior Darren Wynn the defending NCAA Division II national champion at 141 pounds, enters the season ranked first in his weight class. Wynn posted an overall record of 37-10 en route to winning his first NCAA national title. “Darren’s a pinner and point scorer who will be the main catalyst of the team,” said Kisgen.
Redshirt freshman Nate Smalling (Belleville West) will join Wynn in the 141 pound ranks. “Nate’s a talented kid who will get mat time and serve a reserve role for us this season,” said Kisgen.
At 149 pounds, sophomore Isaiah Kemper will come down from 157 to 149 pounds to wrestle this season. Freshman Ruben Garcia (Selma, CA/Selma)will also weigh in at 149 pounds. “Isaiah and Ruben are two talented young kids,” Said Kisgen. “They will be fighting it out for the starting spot in the lineup this season.”
At 157 pounds, Ryan Strope who redshirted last year will look to make an impact for the Bearcats this season. “Ryan weighed 133 pounds two years ago,” said Kisgen. “We beefed him up to 157 and he’s been looking sharp in practice.”
Qian’te Wagner (Alton) will drop down from 165 pounds where he was the starter for McKendree last season to wrestle at 157 pounds. “Qian’te’s an extremely competitive kid,” said Kisgen. “He was one match short of qualify for nationals last season. One of these two will be big for us in the lineup.”
At 165/174 pounds, fifth year senior Austin Geerlings from Eastern Michigan University joins the Bearcats as a graduate student with one year of eligibility left. Geerlings will be medically cleared to wrestle in December.
Freshman Nick Foster (Belleville) will also be joining Geerlings at 165/174 pounds. “Nick’s a very talented kid who is also a member of the McKendree football team,” said Kisgen.
At 174 pounds, redshirt junior J.J. Filipek grabs the number eight spot in the national rankings. Filipek posted an overall record of 33-15 for McKendree last season. This season Kisgen will have J.J. in the lineup at 184 pounds. “J.J. was a national qualifier, he was one match short of being an All-American, so his leadership and experience will be valuable to the team” said Kisgen.
At 197 pounds, sophomore Luke Diener who started as a freshman for the Bearcats last season will look to improve during this year’s campaign.
Redshirt freshman Chance Cooper will join Diener at 197 pounds. “Chance was a highly touted high school All-American,” said Kisgen. Cooper will look to build his resume this season.
At 285 pounds, senior captain Coltyn Pease ( will hold down the ranks in the heavyweight division. “Coltyn is looking to have a big year as he fell a match short of qualifying for the national championship last season,” said Kisgen.
Christian Boyles will also see time in the heavyweight ranks.
“We have a young team led by All-Americans so there’s experience,” said Kisgen. “Wynn Hardy, Pease, and J.J. will provide leadership, as we are a talented but youthful squad.”
The Bearcats open up the 2016 campaign at home on Wednesday at 7 p.m. as they welcome University of Central Oklahoma to the Statham Center.