YORK, Pa. – High expectations. Following an impressive season a year ago, and with national recognition early this season, high expectations are exactly what the York College wrestling team has coming into the 2011-2012 campaign.
"We are looking for a special season," Spartan head coach Tom Kessler said as he enters his 20th campaign at the helm of the York program. "With the guys we have coming back combined with the great talent within our group of newcomers, there is no reason why we could not be one of the best teams in all of Division III. We are very excited to get this season started."
The Spartans embark on the year ranked tenth in the country according to the BRUTE-ADIDAS National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III preseason poll. A huge reason for their top-ten team ranking, the York squad sports a pair of top-five wrestlers as Alex Martocello and Chris Albright enter the season ranked among the best in their respective weight classes.
"It is great to be recognized prior to the season," Kessler noted. "It shows that we have the potential to reach the goals that we have set. Now we have to focus on getting it done during the season. It always nice to be ranked but honestly we are only worried about the rankings at the end of the season."
The Spartans certainly have tremendous talent to be there at the end of the season, highlighted by returning NCAA All-Americans Martocello and Albright. After finishing fourth overall at the NCAA Championship Tournament last season, the exceptionally hard-working Martocello enters his senior year as the second-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds and is looking for a run at the NCAA title. As a junior, he posted an incredible 32-6 overall record and picked up his first Metropolitan Conference title while being named the conference tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.
Albright had a fantastic season with the Green and White, finishing fifth overall at his first NCAA Championships. Albright, who is ranked fourth heading into the year, posted a stellar 34-3 mark, won three in-season tournaments, including York's own New Standard Corporation Invitational, and was named the Outstanding Wrestler at the 2011 Virginia Duals. As a junior this season, Albright has a fantastic opportunity to push for another All-American bid and a NCAA title.
"Martocello and Albright are simply fantastic," Kessler said. "Not only are they exceptionally talented, but they put the extra work in that is necessary to be successful. They lead by example and show the team what our expectations are."
Senior George Saliba and junior Kyle Minogue add even more talent and experience to the Green and White. Saliba, who posted an excellent 21-2 mark last season, moves up to heavyweight as he looks to make the 285-pound class exceptionally strong for York. Minogue put together a great end of the year, including a third-place finish at the Metropolitan Conference Championships, and will look to be York's top selection at 197 pounds.
Matt Heisey, Chris Gugliotti, and Chuck Glatz also return to the Spartans looking for tremendous campaigns. Heisey, a senior at 165 pounds, enters his final season primed for a stellar year. Gugliotti went 24-11 as a sophomore and should be a solid contributor at 149 pounds while Glatz put together a solid freshman campaign at 133 pounds and, with a season of collegiate experience under his belt, has the potential to post a breakout year.
"We have a very strong group of returners," Kessler said. "These guys understand what it takes to be successful not only individually but also as a team. Our veterans are going to be a huge part of any success that we experience this season."
Aside from York's outstanding crew of talented returners, the Spartans have brought in a bevy of excellent newcomers, some of whom could become immediate contributors in just their first season with the program.
"We are very excited about the new guys we have in the wrestling room," Kessler said. "A number of them come in after having experienced excellent success during their high school careers. There is always a learning curve, but I think the adjustment period could be much shorter this year."
Among those fresh faces, T.J. Demetrio (157), Joey Giaccio (125), Michael Monarque (149), Jake Siegfried (157), and Patrick Cassidy (285) each bring strong prep résumés and could become early contributors. Demetrio was 109-41 in high school and finished sixth at the Pennsylvania State Tournament. Giaccio was 129-14 in high school was a two-time New Jersey state qualifier while Monarque put together a 109-20 record and finished seventh at the New Jersey State Tournament. Siegfried was a New Jersey state qualifier with a career mark of 95-18 while Cassidy was a state champion in Delaware.
Heading into the season, the Green and White once again face a quality schedule. The Spartans have already put six of the top-30 teams in Division III on their dual meet schedule (5 top 30 teams are in the Metropolitan Conference), while also squaring off against Division I Millersville and Division II opponents Shippensburg and Kutztown. York's schedule could get even more challenging with January's North/South Duals and Budd Whitehill Duals.
The Spartans are also slated to hold the competitive New Standard Corporation Invitational on Saturday, December 3, at York's Grumbacher Sport & Fitness Center. Last year, the tournament hosted four of the nation's top-15 teams as well as a number of top-ten Division III wrestlers.
"We always strive to wrestle a tough schedule," Kessler said. "We want to compare ourselves to and compete against some of the best programs in the country. There is an expectation that we have this season. There is a belief in the room that we have a great group and we want to measure ourselves against top programs."
The Spartans will get that opportunity early and often this season. York opens up their 2011-2012 slate on Saturday, November 5, as they travel to the King's College Monarch Invitational. The Green and White then travel to Harrisburg for three matches during the Wrestle for a Cure event. On Saturday, November 12, the Spartans face American International, #30 Johns Hopkins, and Shippensburg.
"We are really looking forward to getting going," Kessler concluded. "We do have high expectations. There is tons of optimism in the room this year and the talent to go along with that optimism. We have to stay healthy and proceed through the season one step, one practice, and one match at a time. This has the potential to be a great year for us."