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ISSUE 121 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/30/2007

Ahrar, new recruits revive wrestling team

By Eric Monek Anderson
Sports Editor


Friday, November 30, 2007

In its third year since new coach Sean Ahrar arrived to rebuild the program, the St. Olaf wrestling team is enjoying an impressive season on the mat and in the recruiting arena. The roster features 23 wrestlers, the highest total in Ahrar's tenure at St. Olaf.

In the 2007 season, the squad has competed at the North Iowa Community College Open and the Cobber Open in Moorhead, Minn.. St. Olaf wrestlers have notched 10 place-winning performances, including two second-place and two third-place efforts, respectively.

At the Cobber Open Nov. 17, Tom Kopietz '08, one of few seniors on the team, finished second in the 165 weight class, while Collin Pitts '10 was the runner-up at 125. Four other wrestlers placed at the meet, including Justin Bain '11, Josef Waples '11, Dan Rysavy '10 and Josh Bain '11.

It is clear that underclassmen have a strong presence on the St. Olaf roster. Three years ago, the St. Olaf wrestling team featured a meager roster that could not compete against elite area schools like Augsburg.

"The numbers were very low," Ahrar said. "If you don't have any competition in your own practice to create competitive wrestlers, you aren't going to succeed at meets."

In response, Ahrar hit the recruiting trail. Himself attracted by St. Olaf's excellent facilities and excellent academic reputation, Ahrar used those aspects of the college to approach the considerable challenge of essentially building a program from scratch.

The current freshman class is just Ahrar's second class at St. Olaf, but comprises over half of the team. The team still isn't deep enough, as Ahrar would like to have enough wrestlers to go 3-4 deep at each weight class. "It really takes five years of recruiting to build a program," Ahrar said. "That means we still have three years ahead of us."

Ahrar has big dreams for the program. "I'd like to win a national championship," he said. "I don't want to be mediocre, and I don't want to lose."

This fall, 13 wrestling recruits are applying early decision to St. Olaf, including five from as far away as Texas and North Carolina. Even more impressive: 30 recruits are applying early action to the school. Ahrar would like to yield 15-20 wrestlers from those applicants. "Iron sharpens iron," he said.

The principle of competition in wrestling is alive and well deep in the Skoglund Athletic Center. Before each meet, wrestlers at each weight class have a "wrestle-off" to determine which wrestler will best represent St. Olaf.

The Oles face off at the MSOE Invitational in Wisconsin Saturday. Their first home meet of the year is Dec. 6 against Waldorf.

The wrestlers competed Wednesday against Rochester Community and Technical College. The Messenger went to press before results from the meet were available.





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