College wrestling is a unique sport. Like countless other student-athletes, the men give up their free time to train and compete, but for wrestlers, college is more than likely their last hurrah.
“It’s special because there’s no professional leagues out there for wrestlers, or money down the road, so its great to have opportunities for wrestlers at Mason. Its’ not like they’re making a lot of money because they’re wrestling. They love the sport so they do it for the challenge,” coach Joe Russell said.
On Thursday, Feb. 16, the team hosted their last home match of the season, and recognized the team’s five seniors, Brian Benton, Denny Herndon III, Hunter Manspile, Mendbagana Tovuujav, and Frankie McLaughlin IV. Though there were individual successes against the highly ranked University of Maryland, the team did not pull off a win.
Vincent Rodriguez, a freshman, won his match at 125 pounds with a score of 3-0. Co-caption and redshirt Herndon won his final dual on the team 5-3, giving the Mason team a boost in the overall team score.
197 pound Tovuujav took his sixteenth victory of the season 12-4, finishing his final home match strong.
“We want to build a program that builds stability, make it a program people at the university can be proud of. The goal is to build for the long term not short term gain, and to be valuable to the university and the community,” Russell said.
Russell has faced the challenge well. After a 0-21 season last year, the team was in bad shape. The improvement has been slow but steady, the team’s current record is 6-16.
“It’s my first year here with the team. This year the big thing has been to get to know the guys and figure out where the program is at,” Russell said.
The 28 men on the team wrestle in 10 different weight classes. Scores during individual matches are added up to form a team score.
Though they have a long way to go to catch up with the other teams, Russell says that the wrestlers are doing a good job of training hard and trying to make improvements to train and grow.
During the regular season, the team has 16 matches with other conference teams. For practice, they also wrestle local teams in tournaments and duels. Scores from any of these matches help qualify individual wrestlers for nationals. “Any time you put on a Mason singlet it matters,” Russell said.
The team travels to Charlottesville this week to take on University of Virginia in the last match of the season before the CAA tournament. The tournament will take place in Binghamton, N.Y. on the first weekend of March.