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Preview: Embry-Riddle wrestling team looks to build off a disappointing 2017-2018
College Wrestling

Embry Riddle wrestler Eli Mason practices a takedown during practice Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Embry Riddle wrestler Eli Mason practices a takedown during practice Thursday, November 15, 2018 in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

PRESCOTT — The Embry-Riddle men’s wrestling team is coming into their 2018 season with a squad of four returning All-Americans and a crop of young talent looking to make an impact.

With the level of talent on the roster, it’s no surprise the Eagles come into 2018 ranked 10th in the preseason rankings, but they are however, coming off a disappointing end to last season. In 2017-2018, the Eagles went into the NAIA national tournament looking to place in multiple weight divisions, but injuries and mental errors resulted in a frustrating finish of T-26th.

“Last year was definitely a pretty disappointing finish for us,” head coach KC Rock said. “I felt like we had the makings of a top-15, top-10 team. We had two returning All-Americans not place. We had a 197 pounder that was probably third or fourth best in the country who dislocated his elbow six weeks before and wrestled tough to take eighth. We had a 141 pounder take eighth and we had the kid who took third beat and just made a big mental error at the end of it.”

Coming off last season the Eagles appear to be strong on paper, with five wrestlers being ranked in the top 10 of their current weight classes in the preseason poll. Their three highest ranked wrestlers are senior Eli Mason who comes in ranked fifth in the 197 pound division and senior Kody Davis and James Williams come in ranked sixth in their divisions of 174 and 157 pounds.

But for the Eagles, it won’t just be the veterans that will be important as an impressive crop of young wrestlers has senior Mason seeing both promise and potential for results.

“I think we have a great group of freshmen that can find success at nationals and regionals at 125, 133 and 141 (pounds),” Mason said. “I mean we picked up Josh Nira, Berit Sturgeon and Jayce Cunha who I believe have the potential to place already this season as freshman.”

The Eagles will once again compete in the Cascade Collegiate Conference for the second straight season and have tough matches lined up against Menlo College (CA), Southern Oregon and Montana State-Northern later this season.

Outside of their regular season schedule, the Eagles like most other teams also have their eyes on the Grand View Vikings (IA), who have won seven consecutive NAIA national championships.

“I personally would like to beat Grand View who has won it like the last seven years, so I think if we all focus on our own individual success, we’re definitely a top five team,” Mason said.

“We have depth so I think we can send 10 to nationals and get 10 places. I think we're deep and I think we can finish better than 10th overall.”

The Eagles open with their first big weekend here in Prescott, on Friday, Nov. 16 as they take on Life Pacific at 6 p.m. and they host the ERAU Mile High Open on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 10 a.m.

Chris Whitcomb is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @AZChris32. Email him at cwhitcomb@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.

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