McHenry, MD – Garrett College's inaugural wrestling season produced six national tournament qualifiers, one district champion and a fifth-place team finish in the NJCAA Eastern District II championships.
As impressive as that was, GC head coach John Chambers considers it ancient history.
"You start fresh," said Chambers. "It's getting the guys to buy into the fact that last year has ended and the 2019-20 season is an all-new year."
It may be a new year, but the cast of characters includes some familiar faces.
Three sophomores who each finished third at districts and qualified for nationals – Davy Mundey (165 pounds in 2018-19), Chris Estrada (184 pounds) and Tanner Clark (197 pounds) – are back along with a fourth national qualifier, Austin Dyson (174 pounds). While their sophomore weight classes are still being defined, their impact on the Lakers' hopes can't be overestimated.
"I'm expecting big things out of Davy," Chambers said of Mundey, who posted a 20-7 record last season. "He has the ability to be an all-American and standing on that podium the final weekend in Council Bluffs, Iowa [site of the national tournament)."
Clark – the only Laker to reach the Round of 16 at last year's national tournament while producing a 17-10 record – should also have an impressive sophomore season.
"He [Clark] was in the weight room all summer," Chambers said. "He's so much stronger and so much quicker than he was last year."
Dyson, who posted an 11-9 record last season, "has the type of work ethic I love recruiting," said Chambers.
"There are no off days for Austin – he's in the weight room and on the mat all the time doing what he needs to do to get better each day," said Chambers.
Estrada (12-7 in 2018-19) had a strong start, an injury-riddled middle, and a national-qualifying end to his freshman season.
"He's shown great improvement and his attitude is awesome," Chambers said of Estrada.
Garrett Beaulieu, Blake Reynolds (65-6 high school record), and Michael Makanjuola are also back from last year's squad. Chambers said his national-qualifying quartet and the other sophomores can help the new Lakers reach last year's level of achievement.
"Our national qualifiers got a taste of what it takes to be successful on the big stage," said Chambers. "All of our returners have become great leaders. They've really engaged with the freshmen and involve them."
Chambers expects to add six freshmen starters to his sophomore nucleus to create what the second-year head coach expects to be a much-improved team.
"We're more athletic this year and stronger," said Chambers.
Freshmen Loic Tueguo (48-3 high school record), Dakota Lovelace (80-31), Darius Sprye (83-30) and Jack Amos are expected to start in the lower-weight classes. Timothy Stokes – a Virginia high school state champion in 2017 who compiled a 111-37 high school record – should help in the middle weights, while Trevor Fawley is expected to wrestle at 174 pounds.
"The freshman class is a much more athletic recruiting class," said Chambers, comparing his first two recruiting classes. "We are so much improved in our athleticism that it's almost unbelievable."
One key addition won't even be wrestling for the Lakers: assistant coach Tanner Cahill, himself a highly decorated collegiate wrestler.
"The knowledge and the enthusiasm he's brought to our wrestling program has been so important for us," Chambers said of Cahill. "He's really improved our program."
And that program has set some high goals.
"Even though we're just a second-year program, we have some major goals we want to attain," said Chambers. "From a team standpoint, our No. 1 goal is to win a district championship. Our second goal is to compete to be the top non-scholarship team in the country."
The Lakers start their second season with a noon home match on Saturday, November 2nd against NCAA Division II opponent Fairmont State University. That's the first of five home dual meets this season.