Wrestling remains optimistic after losing half of starting lineup


Fourth straight OAC Championship.

Two All-Americans.

Eight All-OAC.

Third straight Top 5 team ranking.

Those are just a few of the accolades the Baldwin Wallace wrestling team collected last year. But they also lost half of their starting lineup over the summer.

“We’re going to be relying on some freshmen this year,” Head Coach Jamie Gibbs said. “I think it has been a good preseason, and our guys prepared all off-season so let the fun begin.”

Charlie Nash and Zeckary Lehman, both seniors, return to lead the team after earning All-American honors by placing in the top-eight of their weight classes at last years Division III Wrestling National Championships. They are also joined by two additional national qualifiers as Dante Ginnetti and Stanley Bleich return for their senior and junior seasons, respectively. With another year under their belts, Gibbs said the goal is always to improve, amidst the pressure of keeping up the excellence, but every wrestler on the team knows that.

“I think our standard is really high, and I would imagine there is some pressure from that,” Gibbs said, “I think they enjoy it though because they have set the standards. It’s their team, and their program so they decide what our standard is.”

BW led the OAC with their eight All-OAC selections, but the team knows the goals are much bigger than that selection.

“I think our program is at a place where most of our guys in the varsity lineup have the goal of All-American, or National Champion and the All-OAC is a byproduct of that,” Gibbs said. “If their ultimate goal is those, then the OAC Awards will happen, but with our younger guys in their first year I think that is their goal this year.”

Even with their sights set on a return to the National Championships, the Yellow Jackets know they must be grounded and work through a tough OAC slate. “It starts with our upperclassmen, who are our leaders,” Gibbs said.

“They know how competitive the OAC is, and they know that each and every time they take the mat, they have to be their very best. I wouldn’t imagine this year we would be picked to win the conference on paper, but that’s still the goal.”

Now, not picking the team who has won four straight conference titles may seem crazy, but after losing five of their ten starters, BW is facing a much different task than they have in the past. “We’re bringing back some star power, but we have some really young guys,” Gibbs said. “We’re going to have some freshmen, which is exciting for me. It’s kind of a new territory because we haven’t been in this position for years.”

It’s never easy to replace starters on any line up, but with two of your losses being two-time All-OAC Justin Ransom, two-time All-American Anthony Royal, the challenge will be unique and tough for Gibbs, who has won four consecutive OAC Coach of the Year awards, to overcome.

“The thing I’m really looking forward to is how our guys respond,” Gibbs said.

“I’m anxious to see who is going to step up into these roles and how much we develop from now until the national tournament, and I’m looking forward to enjoying the process.”

The team ended the season ranked No. 5 nationally, but the pressure to perform doesn’t come from a ranking sheet, Gibbs said, as the Yellow Jackets often put pressure on themselves to succeed.

“I think the pressure comes from within,” Gibbs said.

“We tell them pressure is a privilege, and that they have earned that. But we think they are grounded enough to know there are no guarantees and they’ve seen guys in our program do something one year and not be able to accomplish that the next year. It’s something you have to earn year in and year out.”