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College Update for April 19: The future is now for coaches and recruits

By Jason Bryant

With all divisions of collegiate wrestling having completed their respective seasons, the focus in the wrestling community has shifted from competition to what's happening in the future.

For some, the future is now.

In what's been one of the most hectic and drama-filled couple of weeks since the conclusion of the NCAA wrestling championships, recruiting isn't the key focal point right now.

Coaching situations are.

At one point, there were eight Division I coaching jobs open. Coaches retired, some didn't have contracts renewed, and some stepped down on their own accord.

The most heated discussions have involved Iowa, in one way or another.

Just days after Russ Hellickson retired at Ohio State, Iowa announced Jim Zalesky would not return as its head coach. Within hours, Bobby Douglas retired and turned the reigns over to 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Cael Sanderson.

Joe Wells at Oregon State, Wayne Baughman at Air Force and Marlin Grahn of Portland State retired as well.

The carousel went around and around, with Tom Brands rumored to be the top candidate at Iowa - in fact, Brands was the only candidate, accepting the position just over a week after Zalesky was cut loose.

Virginia Tech, having invested in Brands' goal for the future was left scrambling, especially with the signing date then approaching. A push was made for Zalesky in Blacksburg, but Zalesky opted to head west to Oregon State to take over for the retiring Wells.

Utah Valley State, a fledgling Division I program, and the only one in the state of Utah, saw its coach, Cody Sanderson, resign and he's expected to join younger brother Cael on the bench at their alma mater.

After Zalesky's hire at Oregon State, Virginia Tech opted to go with former Iowa national champion Kevin Dresser, a long-time Virginia high school coach who most recently led Christiansburg to its fifth consecutive Group AA title. Christiansburg is a town that borders Blacksburg, which is home to Virginia Tech.

Virginia's coach also resigned, opening the door for Steve Garland, a Cornell assistant and U.Va. grad to likely accept the position. The timing on when Garland will be named the coach at his alma mater is ticking down and he could be announced as early as this week.

Clarion and East Stroudsburg are still open. Clarion's Ken Nellis stepped down just before the season ended and Angelo Borzio announced he would not be returning to coach the Warriors during the season.

Ohio State is reportedly down to four candidates, one of which is Hofstra head coach Tom Ryan. Ryan would be a solid choice for the Buckeyes, as the former Syracuse and Iowa wrestler has built Hofstra from an also-ran in the East to one of the region's top programs coming off an 11th-place finish at the NCAA championships. But this opening is not yet determined.

Stay tuned.

Recruiting News (April 12-19)

After the early signing period, Lehigh and Penn State emerged as the top two schools in terms of gathering up blue-chip talent. Penn State bolstered their case with the addition of Virginia's Bubba Jenkins, the NHSCA Senior National Champ that picked up Beast and Powerade titles this season.

One of Lehigh's late commitments in the early period was Utah's Levi Mele. After a third-place finish at the Ironman at 119 pounds, Mele went up to 125, where he won his third Utah state championship and finished second in the senior nationals to soon-to-be-teammate Mike Grey of Delbarton, N.J. Grey finished his prep career as the first four-time state champion in the state of New Jersey's proud wrestling history.

Oklahoma State tends to horde talent and their recruiting class has taken shape as well. With seven blue-chippers, John Smith's room is still overflowing with talent and the Cowboys won't be rolling over and handing the NCAA title to anyone just yet.

With the coaching situation at Virginia Tech taking a turn away from Tom Brands, it's likely that Billy Murphy, the California standout, won't be surfacing at Virginia Tech. However, three of the five early signees are reportedly "on board" for new coach Dresser. Matt Epperly, one of Dresser's standout wrestlers at Christiansburg, along with New York's Eric Decker and Blair Academy's Jim Powers are still heading down I-81.

Since the start of the signing period, Jenkins is the biggest name to commit. Other top signees that were unsigned in the early period to commit are: Adam Pittman (Great Bridge, Va.) and William Gilleland (Bandys, N.C.) to N.C. State, Corey Greene (Mt. Anthony, Vt.) to Buffalo, Dakotah Simpson (Cushing, Okla.) to Oklahoma State, Anthony Hayes (Battle Ground, Wash.) to Oklahoma and four-time Alaska state champion David Wiese (Fairbanks) to Cumberland University. Arizona State also inked Poway, Calif., senior Todd Schavrien to go along with a solid early class.

With Wiese's signing at Cumberland, the NAIA has made a strong case to be included amongst the choices for graduating seniors.

NAIA team champion Dana College picked up Brian and Eric Graham of Park Hill, Mo., two very good pickups for Steve Costanzo's team. Campbellsville, Cumberland U., Lindenwood and King College have been the most active in the recruiting game this season.

King College just concluded its first year of competition while Campbellsville finished its second.

Division II Newberry is also making a move, picking up highly regarded Bryant Blanton of South Carolina. Blanton will also play football for the Indians.

Several programs that are making returns to the mat are picking up solid kids, with Bucknell and Liberty each building for the immediate future with large recruiting classes and Binghamton picking up strong kids to build for its second season under Tony Robie.

The top signee so far for Robie's squad is NHSCA Senior National Champion Josh Patterson from Wayne, N.Y.
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