One year after recording their first winning record since the 2000-01 season the Bears look to build on a successful 2014-15 year.
Coast Guard returns fourteen wrestlers, including four seniors and seven juniors, from a team that went 13-6, beat Merchant Marine for the first time since the 2007 season, and sent two wrestlers to the NCAA National Championships.
"We have a strong nucleus of returning guys that all played a part in last year success. The graduating seniors will be missed as they possessed strong leadership, wrestling ability, and commitment to working hard. We will look for new guys this year to step up and fill the shoes Nate Giorgio, Mike Giorgio, Steve Kidwell, Ben Greene, and Mark Howard who were lost to graduation.
Returners include senior Mike Shermot (174) who placed second in the 174 pounds division at the NCAA Northeast Wrestling Regional qualifying him for the National Championships. Shermot was 21-6 wrestling at 174 last season and was named All-New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) second team and Pilgrim League honorable mention. He was also third at the All-Academy Championships.
Other key returners for Coast Guard are Wagner, junior Mike Palomba (157), and sophomore Chris Sullivan. The three of them were named second team All-Pilgrim and NEWA honorable mention. Junior Phil Azzari (197) was also named second team All-Pilgrim last season.
"The culture is changing but it is still a work in progress," commented Bratland. "However, from what I have seen so far are guys who are committed to wrestling, who are not afraid to work hard, and they want to be champions on and off the wrestling mat."
The Bears also bring in a strong freshman class to add to an experienced lineup. The class is highlighted by middleweight wrestlers including Illinois native Nick Remke (157), followed by Christian Gosch (149), Nick Jabs (157), Colin Johnson (149), Adam Wilhelm (141), and Nick Wittrock (141).
Coast Guard has a full slate of meets this season including an early season test from Roger Williams who is ranked number 12 in the Division III Preseason Coaches Poll. Last season the Bears had a tight battle with the Hawks as they fell by a score of 23-18.
"I hope for the same type of environment and atmosphere that we had last year," said Bratland. "I think it was good for both programs to go out and battle hard early in the season."
It will also be a first in Coast Guard wrestling history as the Bears will travel out to Fort Wayne, Indiana in early January to take part in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Duals. They are one of 24 Division III teams in the nation to be invited to take part in the Duals. 13 of the top 15 teams in the Division III Preseason Coaches Poll will be attending.
"The Nationals Duals will be a great opportunity to expose our wrestlers to the top teams in the country," added Bratland. "It will be important for the team to see what the top teams are doing and how they compete, and I think they will learn a lot from that process. It is going to be a good test for us as a team, but we are excited for the opportunity."
Coast Guard is also excited to welcome assistant coach J.R. Lewis. Lewis served as a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater Wisconsin-La Crosse for the past two seasons where he coached five All-Americans and one national finalist.
"I am really excited about having J.R. on board here at the Coast Guard Academy," said Bratland. "Being a highly successful student-athlete and coach while at UW-Lacrosse, J.R. understands and values the work it takes to excel in both athletics and academics. His experience, passion, and work ethic will help develop all of our athletes and to continue the tremendous wrestling tradition here at the Coast Guard Academy."
Bratland and the entire Coast Guard wrestling program continue to strive to build a high power program at not only the regional level, but also the national level. The Bears open their season on November 14th at the Roger Williams Invitational.
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