In the realm of collegiate wrestling, anticipation ran high as the Centennial Conference unveiled its much-anticipated preseason rankings for the upcoming season. These rankings, shaped by an annual poll among conference head coaches, provide an exciting preview of the battles to come on the wrestling mat. Amidst this exhilarating backdrop, the Muhlenberg men’s wrestling team has emerged as the preseason favorite, proudly securing the coveted number-one position in the rankings.
With their impressive track record and a legacy of success, the Mules clinched two first-place votes, amassing a total of 22 points in the preseason poll. This dominant performance placed them ahead of the pack, setting a thrilling stage for the battles to come. Notable among their rivals is the defending champion, Ursinus, who secured 19 points along with two first-place votes, marking them as formidable competitors. Merchant Marine also joins the fray with 17 points and one first-place vote, standing shoulder to shoulder with McDaniel, who tallied 16 points and claimed one first-place vote. The roster is completed by Johns Hopkins with 9 points and Gettysburg with seven points, promising a season filled with intense competition.
The Muhlenberg men’s wrestling team wasted no time in bringing their wrestling prowess to the mat. They kicked off the season with an impressive performance at Alvernia’s Tonee Ellis Memorial Tournament, securing a notable third-place finish. This event marked a strong start to their campaign, featuring 17 determined Mules who were eager to showcase their tenacity and talent.
Among the standout performances at the tournament was the remarkable debut of Evan Mendez ‘27, who etched his name in the annals of collegiate wrestling. Mendez displayed his exceptional skills by securing victory in all five of his bouts, an impressive feat considering three of those wins came by way of falls. Notably, Mendez took control of the 149-pound bracket, claiming the title as his own. This outstanding performance heralds a promising start to his collegiate wrestling journey and solidifies him as a talent to watch.
Mendez expressed positivity in future endeavors saying, “This upcoming season I am looking forward to seeing what competition is like at a new level. As well to see how our team does all together, and hopefully shock some people on our uprising.” Mendez has been putting in the extra work and plans to carry out a winning record and qualify for the national tournament.
The Mules weren’t done there. The competition also revealed the potential for another championship within their grasp, particularly in the 125-pound weight class. Brian McCaw ‘25 and CJ Horvath ‘27 both demonstrated their prowess throughout the tournament. McCaw’s journey to the final included three notable victories, featuring a pin and a technical fall. Unfortunately, fate dictated that they did not meet on the mat, depriving the audience of a thrilling showdown between two remarkable athletes.
Nonetheless, McCaw is eager to prove himself this upcoming season. With an emphasis on competition and team, he states, “The goal I’ve set is to compete at the highest level I can for everything. With an all-American in front of me in the lineup, some of the toughest matches I’ll have will be in our practice room and I look forward to competing at every forefront.” The Muhlenberg wrestling team has pushed each other to the limits and its payoff is obvious.
The Muhlenberg squad boasted more than a few standouts. Ben Krauss ‘26, a dominant force on the mat, pinned his way to third place in the 285-pound category. His four pins showcased his strength and precision, earning him a well-deserved place on the podium. Meanwhile, Ryan Fairchild ‘26 put on a display at 184 pounds, securing fourth place. Fairchild’s journey was marked by two pins and a technical fall, demonstrating his command of the mat.
At 165 pounds, the tournament provided some captivating moments, with Riley McHale ‘24 and Nick Stump ‘27 both advancing to the consolation final. Yet, perhaps what adds a dash of intrigue is the fact that they did not face each other in a matchup that could have been nothing short of electric. Notably, Stump’s road to the consolation final included a sweet taste of revenge as he secured a victory over a regionally ranked opponent from Western New England who had bested him earlier in the day.
In the 133-pound weight class, Ricky Caamano ‘24 demonstrated extraordinary resilience, recording three consecutive pins. One of these pins stood out as particularly thrilling, with Caamano executing it while trailing 12-9 in the final 15 seconds, a testament to his unyielding spirit. Another star performer in the 141-pound category was David Rosenfarb ‘26, who secured three consecutive victories, two of them by first-period pins, showcasing his command over his opponents.
In terms of team scores, the Mules secured a commendable third place with 83.5 points, displaying their collective strength and determination. Alvernia took the top spot with 117.5 points, followed closely by Delaware Valley with 116.5. Amid this highly competitive field, the Muhlenberg men’s wrestling team’s impressive performance was undeniable.
The Tonee Ellis Memorial Tournament heralded an exciting beginning to the season for the Muhlenberg men’s wrestling team, with a depth that includes a great team culture of welcoming talented newcomers and role models to pave the way.