In the history of Bloomsburg wrestling, which dates back to 1936, the program has never seen such lows as they’ve experienced the past two years. After finishing second in the EWL in 2014 and finishing with a 9-8 dual record, the Huskies have stumbled to two consecutive last place finishes in the conference and an abysmal 1-30 dual record. These are dark days indeed.
The question for Bloomsburg now is can they recover? They are one of four wrestling teams, Clarion, Edinboro and Lock Haven are the other three, that wrestle at the Division I level while the rest of their athletic department is Division II. This has made sense, historically, as the Huskies, while not exactly title contenders, have been able to compete in the EWL and hold their own against top level programs. The team even has three top-10 NCAA tournament finishes, in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Certainly two bad years is not enough to sound the death knell for the program, but there are other reasons for concern. The roster turnover that occurred when the previous head coach, John Stutzman, left for Buffalo was understandable, but it has continued to plague the program as new coach Jason Mester, now entering his fourth season, has taken control. Bloomsburg has still been able to attract talented recruits, but keeping them around and performing on the mat has been a struggle. Whether this is a temporary run of bad luck or a symptom of a larger problem is a question the administration must be asking.
Continued roster turnover, regardless of the reason, can put a program’s Academic Progess Rate in jeopardy, leading to penalties such as post-season bans. Currently, Bloomsburg wrestling sits comfortably outside of trouble with an APR of 954 for the most recently reported year, 2014-15, but it is something to keep an eye on if the program does not rebound soon.
The incoming recruiting class is exactly what a program in this situation needs, though it remains to be seen how many will hang around and develop. It includes quantity, 11 wrestlers in total, and quality, many Pennsylvania state place winners, a Pennsylvania state champion and a number of other solid prospects. They’ll have a chance to compete for line-up spots early on as there aren’t a lot of bright spots returning from last year. The Huskies had no NCAA qualifiers for the second consecutive year and had only one wrestler, Brendon Colbert (157), in the top four at the EWL tournament.
The Huskies are not going to recover in a single season. However, Coach Mester needs to show progress. No head coach in program history with at least four years at the helm has a winning percentage below .483. Mester’s sits at .208 and would be much worse if not for his 9-8 record in his first season. This is his team now and there needs to be marked improvement to show he is up for the challenge.
The 2016-17 Bloomsburg wrestling schedule features duals against Michigan State (Nov 26th), Lock Haven (Dec 16th) and Edinboro (Jan 7th). The Huskies will see more dual action at the Boilermaker Duals hosted by Purdue (Nov 12th) and the Pitt Duals on Jan 14th. Their tournament schedule opens with the PSAC Championships at Lock Haven (Dec 16th) and also includes the Wilkes Open on December 22nd. Bloomsburg hosts the EWL Championships March 4th. The NCAA tournament is March 16th through 18th in St. Louis.