By Ben Hercik
There are 347 College Basketball teams getting ready to start their quest towards March Madness. However, there are also 75 Division I wrestling teams preparing to start their season, and Cleveland State is one of them.
The Vikings are one of the few wrestling teams in Division I who are going into the season with a new head coach as Ben Stehura decided to resign as head coach at the end of last season.
Cleveland State didn’t look far, as head assistant coach Josh Moore was tapped to become the team’s new head coach. Moore has 14 years of coaching experience as an assistant coach at Kent State University and Cleveland State. Moore was also a two time All-American as a wrestler at Penn State University.
“I have wanted the chance to be a head coach and the opportunity came up here at Cleveland State,” Moore said. “I already knew a lot of the people here as well as the alumni, so it just seemed like a natural fit.”
One of the decisions that college coaches must make is who will be the starters and who will be redshirting, this means a player sits out a season and doesn’t compete. With a young team this year, Moore is still working that part out and hoping to see improvement across the board.
“We aren’t sure on the redshirt situation for the season just yet,” Moore said. “There are a few guys we are considering to redshirt, but nothing is set in stone. We are going to be a young team full of new faces this season, and a key point for the year is going to be the development and improvement of these younger wrestlers.”
One of those new faces is Armando Torres who transferred to Cleveland State from Eastern Michigan University in late August. Torres, a redshirt senior, wrestled at 133 pounds last season for the Eagles, and the same is expected this year as a Viking. The key factors that Torres cited for his decision were being closer to home and furthering his education.
“Cleveland State is close to home, as I am from Elyria,” Torres said. “I also knew a lot of people here, and there is a good master’s program in clinical mental health counseling.”
It wasn’t an easy decision, but Torres had a very good reason for choosing Cleveland State, and that was his familiarity with the school.
“It was tough, but I’ve been coming here since I was young, and it was incredible to see some of the updates and changes to the campus since then,” Torres said.
Another name that Viking fans should get to know is Georgio Poullas. Poullas is a sophomore and was on the varsity roster for the majority of last season as a freshman.
At the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) tournament last year, two automatic qualification spots at 165 pounds were available for the NCAA Tournament. Poullas came just four points shy of qualifying. Along with his regular season results, Poullas is working hard to have an even more successful sophomore campaign, because he says if he doesn’t see improvement then he will be disappointed.
“I’ve been working a lot harder to make this year better than the last, with a lot of the focus being on situational drills,” Poullas said. “It will be a big disappointment if I don’t see or feel any improvement.”
Every team needs a leader in the locker room. For the Vikings, that leader is Evan Cheek.
Cheek, a senior, is an NCAA qualifier, the returning EWL Champion at 141 pounds and was named the EWL’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. He described that moment as being very intense, especially given how big the finals matchup was.
“In the final, I had to wrestle the number six ranked guy in the nation and was able to pin him,” Cheek said. “That gave me my first win over a top 10 wrestler in the nation. It was a very intense moment, but it is a very great achievement.”
Cheek isn’t letting any pressure get to him as he sees it as a chance to work out any issues he has.
“Yeah, there is still a lot of pressure,” Cheek said. “With the potential for a redshirt season there is a great opportunity for me to work on the small things. My overall goal is to still be an All-American by the end of my college career.”
The wrestling teams’ season starts on Nov. 3 with the Clarion Open and the first dual matches are against Buffalo, Bucknell and Virginia Military Institute on Nov. 9. Their first home match is against Otterbein on Dec. 9.