On Feb. 9, the Muhlenberg wrestling team traveled to the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., where they won two out of three matches and placed fourth in the Centennial Conference Championships. This comes on the heels of a historic year for the Mules as the team broke the school’s single-season wins record. While there are many factors that contributed to the team’s success, there were several notable catalysts, including strong performances by several members of the team and the leadership of second-year coach Jason Mclean ‘01.
“Coach McLean is a fighter. He’s all about overcoming adversity and making every match a dogfight no matter who we’re up against,” said team captain Austin Sherman ‘20. Sherman also noted that McLean’s devotion to maintaining a positive spirit around the team makes him unique. “The one thing I believe that really separates McLean from the many of the coaches I’ve spent time with in the past is his ability to always maintain a positive attitude and put a positive spin on everything that happens in a day of competition.” The veteran added that his coach’s own calmness enabled him to maintain his own composure, as he still is nervous before matches despite his seniority with the team. “I knew I had a tough kid in the third or fourth place match. McLean kept me calm and focused and told me to only focus on scoring and giving 100 percent of myself every second of the match.”
“Energy, enthusiasm, effort,” McLean said. “If we want people to believe in us, we have to believe first. Believe that we belong among the best in the Centennial and compete. We turned a few corners but needed to turn another.” This season was particularly sweet for the team’s leader, as the wins record was set in his senior year at Muhlenberg 18 years ago, which he described as “the beginning of a great run for Muhlenberg wrestling.”
Captain Scott Schaeffer ‘20, who has been on the team for the entirety of its turnaround, never had any qualms about this particular team’s ability to succeed, even in spite of season ending injuries to wrestlers such as Gregory Baum ‘22 and Angelo Mahaffey ‘22. “This year at the Conference Championships the team was much more experienced and bought into the program itself. This year, eight of the guys that competed at conferences were upperclassmen. We have been around this program and have given it everything we can in order to make it succeed. When we were freshman this wrestling team was thought of as an afterthought around the conference.”
Schaeffer also felt a certain sense of camaraderie on this year’s team in particular, and it seems as though one of the best parts of the season was how they accomplished so much in spite of the fact that they were viewed as underdogs heading into the year. “We have known what we were capable of and have just been waiting to show everybody else how good we really are. Another area that helped us this year is the bond we all share. Whenever one of our guys was wrestling, there was an entire team in the corner cheering them on and showing them that we had their back win or lose. That allows each and every wrestler to be able to give their all out there on the mat for not only themselves but for their team as well.”
In addition to the masterful performances by upperclassmen, including Jimmy Fratantoni ‘19, who could not compete in last year’s competition due to injury, won his first tournament in the 174 lb class, Dylan Schwartz ‘20, who came up short last year, surely did not disappoint in the 165 lb class this year, and Gennaro Cerminara ‘19. Cerminara, who competed at the 197 class, won his second consecutive title, becoming the first since Matt Loesch to win multiple CC titles.
The team’s younger stars also rose to the occasion, particularly Matthew Ferrante ‘22, who competed at the 125 lb class.
The wrestling team will grapple in the Northeast/Mideast Futures Tournament on Sunday, Feb. 17 before finishing their season on Feb. 23 and 24 at the NCAA Mideast Regional in Brockport, N.Y.