Kevin Ward has now been the head coach at Army for over two months and he's enthusiastic about where the Black Knights stand as the season approaches.
“The transition has been just about what I thought it would be, adjusting to a new team and a new school that has a unique way of operating," Ward said. "The team also went through an adjustment with me and the expectations of the coaching staff. I think we’re through the adjustment phase now and things are clicking and moving forward.”
Ward said he's looking forward to seeing the team on the mat during wrestleoffs this Friday, October 31.
“We have a unique mix of youth and experience on our team,” he said. “That creates an interesting potential lineup where we need our experienced guys to step up and be leaders and where a large part of our success will depend on whether our young guys grow up quick.”
Let’s take a weight-by-weight look at the Black Knights.
Ward’s Take: “Hunter Wood is one of two team captains. He’s a fantastic leader and we’re lucky to have him. Sean Badua will challenge Hunter for the spot. It’s really healthy for us as a team to have a senior who’s been around and a freshman who is eager and hungry. I look forward to seeing them battle it out – not just at wrestleoffs, but throughout the year.”
Ward’s Take: “We’ll have someone new at 133 this year. We have three guys– Justin Seim, Mohamed Sow and Christian Doyle battling here. They’re all young and relatively inexperienced so our challenge as a coaching staff is to get someone ready.”
Everett, Photo by BV
Ward’s Take: “Logan Everett, last year’s 133-pound starter, has to be the favorite because of his experience and the way he works. He’s improving every day and it’s fun to watch. There are several young guys at that weight class working really hard, like Jack Lucie, Matt Kelly and others and we hope to see some guys battling it out.”
Ward’s Take: “Mark Marchetti is back. He was a starter as a true freshman and would be the favorite to start again this year in the early season. He’ll be challenged by a couple of others too. We are looking for guys to be pushing all season long – ultimately it’s about raising the level throughout the year.”
Ward’s Take: “We lost a good one when Paul Hancock graduated. Russell Parsons is coming off a stellar high school career where he was one of the top guys in the country. He’s hungry after sitting out a year of competition and he trains like he’s hungry. He has a bright future. Craemer Hedash is a senior who will fight for the spot as well.”
Ward’s Take: “We have two seniors here, Chandler Smith and Cole Gracey. It will be a fun one to watch. For us, we feel really confident that whoever earns the spot will be battle tested and ready to go. With Chandler, there’s so much room to grow – he has a ton of athletic potential and he’s capable of doing so much. [Gracey] already has NCAA experience, which will definitely help him.”
Harvey, Photo by BV
Ward’s Take: “NCAA qualifier Brian Harvey is back. He showed at the national tournament last year that he can really compete with best guys in the country. I’m expecting him to be in the mix this year. He had a very good offseason and beat some tough competition – we expect really good things out of him.”
Ward’s Take: “We’ll have a new face in the lineup here in what is a pretty deep and inexperienced weight class for us. We’ll have to see who separates themselves from the pack; someone has to earn it. It’s wide open for someone to step up and own it for us. The guys in the mix are Austin Wilding, Samson Imonode, Nathan Dow and Tyler McLees.
Ward’s Take: “Bryce Barnes has been to the National tournament twice, with the same result two years in a row. This time he expects a little more out of himself and it shows in the way he works. We also have senior Stephen Snyder moving down to challenge for that spot. Snyder was a heavyweight last year but has made the commitment to move down. That’s where he’ll be best – he’s a more natural 197 than heavyweight. We’ll let the competition settle it.”
T. Smith, Photo by BV
Ward’s Take: “Trevor Smith will get the nod early on. We also have some 197 pounders that we have the option to move up, like David Farr and Mason Kumashiro.”
The Black Knights kick off the dual meet season against one of the nation’s top teams, Ohio State, and will attend some of the country’s toughest tournaments, including the Cliff Keen in Las Vegas and the Southern Scuffle.
“We’re excited about our team and we’re excited about our coaching staff,” Ward said. “We probably have one of the youngest staffs in the country, but we have eight NCAA team titles collectively and a lot of valuable experiences at top programs. We’re fired up about what’s next.”
Bryan Pearsall, a four-year starter for Penn State who won multiple team national titles with the Nittany Lions, is the newest coach at Army. He is also the head of the West Point Wrestling Club. New York Wrestling News caught up briefly with Pearsall.
New York Wrestling News (NYWN): What attracted you to West Point?
Bryan Pearsall (BP): I was really excited to come to West Point because I think the program is really headed in a great direction with head coach Kevin Ward. It’s a great opportunity to advance in my career and be part of a program that is building. I couldn’t pass it up.
NYWN: What are a few things that have stood out thus far about West Point?
BP: One thing is how disciplined the kids are in all areas of their lives. At other top Division 1 wrestling programs, coaches have to worry about what the kids are doing in their personal lives; whether they’re making the right choices. The guys here are so disciplined, we can focus on helping them get better at wrestling.
NYWN: What do you think people can expect from Army wrestling this year?
BP: I think a change in style. We’re gonna be really focused on getting after opponents and scoring points in bunches. Before, I think there was the stereotypical tough and strong and grind-it-out style. Coach Ward is bringing that Oklahoma State style and Coach [Brad] Pataky and I are bringing the Penn State style. We’re looking to score points and bust the matches wide open.
NYWN: You were on some great teams at Penn State. What are some of the things you took away that you use as a coach now?
BP: One thing I really took away is the way you look at the sport. You really have to appreciate it and find a passion for it and love doing it every day. I have that drive and I want to see the sport succeed. I want to share that passion for the sport with young wrestlers – whether that’s the guys on the team or youth wrestlers at the West Point Wrestling Club just starting out.
NYWN: What should people know about the West Point Wrestling Club?
BP: The techniques we’re showing are really high level; college level techniques. If you establish those good habits at a young age, it can take you to great places. Some young wrestlers develop bad habits to just win matches. So if a kid only throws headlocks, that might work at a certain age, but it won’t work at a high level. We’re looking to teach moves that are proven – have worked for national championship teams. We also have a positive atmosphere with a focus on having fun. I’m not a drill sergeant; I’m not trying to kill guys with conditioning workouts. We’re mostly looking to build technique.
NYWN: Who are some of the clinicians at the West Point Wrestling Club?
BP: I’m the head coach, so I run the daily practice. Depending on the day, other coaches on staff at Army help out as well. We also have the Cadet wrestlers coming in and working with the youth kids when schedules allow it. They have really strict regimens at Army, but they like to give back to younger wrestlers as well.
West Point Wrestling Club practices run on Monday and Wednesday nights from 6:30-7:30 p.m. for K-8 and 7:15-8:30 p.m. for grades 9-12 at Arvin Gym. For more information, see this link.