Four mules crack preseason rankings

Scott Schaeffer '20 holds down his opponent in 2018.

Prior to the season starting, the wrestling team has been shining bright. Four players on the Muhlenberg wrestling team have been honored during preseason meets: Jimmy Fratantoni ‘20, Austin Sherman ‘20, Dylan Schwartz ‘20 and Scott Schaeffer ‘20. 

The four men were able to break records and put their abilities on display for all ‘Berg wrestling fans to see. 

The team has proved early on that they are here to win by building up their momentum. Coming off of a hot junior year placing at the NCAA regional, Schaeffer was just one of the four players on the team recognized for his preseason effort.

“Being recognized in the preseason rankings is an honor,” stated Schaeffer. “It feels amazing that others finally are understanding the amount of hard work and dedication that our seniors have put forth into this program. Back when we got recruited by Muhlenberg and decided to come to school here, the talk about having anyone ranked on the team was out of the question. Now, the fact that we have four guys cracking the preseason rankings is just a huge compliment to how far this program has come along.”

Over the past few years, the wrestling team has drastically changed, going from not even being ranked to breaking preseason expectations and ranking high. 

Schaeffer and the other honorees felt proud of their success. “The guys in our room — including me, honestly — are honored for being in the rankings, but are not too concerned with it. We are not allowing ourselves to be typical and change our dedication to the main goal. Our goals are far beyond preseason rankings, and everything we will do this year will be towards getting on the podium in March. By getting better each day and striving to succeed in our goals, we will prevent the complacency that some programs reach after they established themselves. We will also help hold each other accountable because our room has a bond similar to a family, and this will create a dynamic to have us continue to get better throughout the season,” Schaeffer added. 

For Sherman, this ranking was irrelevant. “Rankings mean nothing to me. My confidence in our program, my teammates, and myself doesn’t come from having a number next to my name in October,” Sherman said. “It comes from knowing how many drops of blood, sweat and tears my Muhlenberg wrestling family has put in the last four years to develop this program to where we’re at. Looking around during matches and seeing these guys having each other’s backs through thick and thin is what makes it special here. This is a family beyond anything I’ve ever been a part of and having dedicated, talented guys like Scott Schaeffer, Dylan Schwartz [and] Jimmy Frantantoni in my corner reassures me of how capable and dangerous we are.”

Sherman credits the wrestling community for supporting him, cheering him on and working with him in order to put forth his best work. 

Just like Schaeffer, Sherman looks at the progression of the wrestling program as a positive factor. 

“Compared to where we were in 2016, four of us being recognized early on is somewhat of a big deal,” said Sherman. “I think a lot of people have a hard time remembering the ashes of a program we started with because it’s been so long since we walked into a tournament and got smoked. My freshman year, we would be the first team to leave any given competition. Now, we consistently walk out with multiple tournament champs and placers. We’re good enough. We believe it; our coaches believe it; I believe it, and so it doesn’t matter if anyone else believes it. We work harder than anyone out there and we’re going to smash the records we set last season and dominate throughout the country this year. Whatever it takes.”

With unconditional support from coaches, Sherman uses the foundation that the team has built in order to push himself further and have the best final season he could. 

Jimmy Fratantoni applauds his coaches, praising them for pushing him and making him wrestle to his full potential. “I plan to continue putting in the extra work in the practice room and embracing the grind,” said Fratantoni. “This program has experienced immense growth in the past four years I have been here, and I think Coach Mclean, Coach Drake, Coach Guiseppe and all the other interim coaches should get more credit. Muhlenberg wrestling made a statement last season, and our coaching staff is a huge proponent of that success.”

For the preseason record, Fratantoni felt privileged in being recognized. 

“I was pleased to see that I was placed in the 2019-2020 preseason rankings. After years of hard work and long practices, it is reassuring to see some recognition. However, these rankings show nothing but recognition for success” he stated.

The Muhlenberg wrestling team opens their season on Saturday, Nov. 9, traveling to King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to fight in the Ned McGinley Invitational.

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