After finishing up the 2018-2019 season with six wrestlers being sent to the NCAA Mideast Regional, and captain Gennaro Cerminara ‘19 closing out his career with a bang, the Mules are looking forward to the 2019-2020 season. They are eager to build off of their success when they start their season Nov. 9 with the Ned McGinley Invitational hosted by King’s College. The team has a lot of experience coming into this year with nine seniors, four of which made the NCAA regional last year.
Coach Jason McLean ‘01 has been getting the wrestlers in a positive mindset before their season gets going. “They deserve success. They deserve to go out on top if they are seniors,” said McLean. “As this program blossoms, they will always stand as the group that unselfishly put the program and Muhlenberg first.”
While wrestling can be seen as an individual sport, McLean knows how important teamwork is to this sport, and the success of a team can often depend on the chemistry of the group.
With the guidance of McLean and his staff, the Mules have developed a great approach as they head into opening day. “We are preparing for the season by taking [it] one day at a time and keeping the energy at the same level each day. Everytime we step into the wrestling room or the weight room we have the same attitude and that is to get better each session,” said wrestler Scott Schaeffer ‘20.
“When we improve little by little throughout the preseason, we will be prepared to take on anything when the season comes,” Schaeffer stated.
The squad is coming into this year looking to improve upon their 18-7 record, a school record set last year. However, this time around, they are determined to go for more than a better record. “We are looking to blaze new trails, as we have strengthened the schedule even more than last year,” said McLean. “We set the tone and bar as high as possible, permanently,” he added.
Though the bar might be set higher than ever, the expectations the Mules hope to achieve are very much within their reach. The seniors have the most experience and are using their knowledge to improve not only themselves, but the entire team in ways that they know best. Schaeffer and his team are bringing that same attitude with them into the season and strongly wish to improve upon their performance from the previous year.
“This year, we plan on winning the conference and, most importantly, getting guys to nationals. Last year we should have had at least two of us get to nationals, but things did not fall the way we needed it to in those matches,” Schaeffer continued. “That killed us at the end of the year last year, but we are hungry and willing to do whatever it takes to get there. With winning the conference, we took third last year at the tournament and we were away. This year we are at home and plan on winning the whole thing in front of our fans and family.”
Like every year, the team has lost key contributors to graduation while adding a bunch of new faces as well. Luckily, McLean has been able to fit them right into the current team and the system in place.
“The freshmen are falling right in. They are in a different place than those before them, and hopefully they are learning to value everything that Muhlenberg College wrestling is about,” said McLean. “They are getting a unique opportunity in learning from a strong group that have been the cornerstones of the rebuild,” McLean made clear. This will be key to the team, as they are looking to develop the future of the program and to make it a successful season for the upperclassmen this year as well.
Schaeffer has very similar feelings about the vital role of the freshman members. “We only lost one guy from last year, but he was a huge part of our team,” Schaeffer said. “With the incoming group of freshmen in the room to help prepare the upperclassmen and push us to be the best, it will create a great team dynamic…We should be unstoppable this year and have the best group of guys to get it done,” he continued. This is a great mindset the team has going into the season which will no doubt carry over to those who are just beginning their careers at the collegiate level.
In order for the Mules to be successful this year, they must use both their experience and their camaraderie to push each other to get better each and every time they hit the mats. With the freshmen around to motivate the upperclassmen, it will lead to a victorious season for this squad that hopes to utterly dominate the competition.