Incoming recruits strengthen Flames' national title hopes
June 27, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
After its second-place team finish at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships, Liberty University's club wrestling team is gearing up for another successful season.
With 15 actively recruited athletes and a handful of walk-ons joining the Flames' already-solid roster of returning wrestlers this fall, the team has high expectations for the upcoming athletic year.
"I'm really excited about the depth that we're adding to our program with this incoming class," Liberty Head Coach Jesse Castro said. "Losing two All-Americans in Aaron Thompson and Royal Brettrager puts some huge holes [to fill] for us, of course; but we shouldn't miss a beat, quite honestly."
Castro mentioned three of the newcomers, in particular, as standout prospects.
Former Liberty NCAA Division I wrestler Josh Pelletier, who graduated in 2011 but returns as a graduate student with a fifth year of eligibility at the Club Sports level, will offer the Flames valuable heavyweight experience. David Abbadusky has placed at multiple national tournaments, qualified for Pennsylvania's high school state tournament, and is expected to make an immediate impact at Liberty; and 235-pound Millersville University transfer Evan Canady brings two years of NCAA DII experience to the table.
While their talents put them at the top of their incoming class, Castro was quick to follow up his individual praises for Pelletier, Abbadusky and Canady by expressing his pleasure in the group as a whole.
"I would say [this class is] pretty balanced in terms of experience," he said. "There are no superstars necessarily, but they're super solid wrestlers. I've got several state place winners, a couple of state champions and guys that have placed at some major tournaments. I think it's a good class, and a pretty good-sized class, and I'm excited."
In addition to developing new athletes, the Flames will rely heavily on those returning to the wrestling program. Sophomore NCWA National Champion Ryan Diehl will be back on the mat for the Flames, and Castro plans to bump sophomore All-American Matt Reynolds and senior two-time All-American Keyshaun Ward to 197 and 185 pounds, respectively.
With the success of the past season still fresh in their minds and such a strong combination of old and new talent, the Flames are heading into the 2014-15 wrestling season with confidence.
"I think we're going to be vying for a top three spot in the country again," Castro said.