As fall sports begin their NEWMAC tournaments, winter sports look to begin their seasons.
The 2013-2014 version of the Springfield College wrestling team will begin theirs this Friday and Saturday at the Ithaca Invitational in Ithaca, N.Y. The team finished third in the event a season ago.
The 2012-2013 campaign was a very successful one, as the Pride had a 14-2 record in dual matches, finished eighth in the country, and had three All-Americans. All three All-Americans – Derek Adams (Charlestown, R.I.), Devin Biscaha (Jackson, N.J.), and Joe Grippi (Bedford Hills, N.Y.) – were able to place in the national tournament held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Biscaha became the first wrestler in Springfield College history to win the National Championship, as he defeated Kristopher Krawchuk from Wilkes in the final match. Adams stood on the podium as he claimed fourth place. Grippi came back to Springfield with his second All-American honor and a sixth-place finish.
The Pride have set their expectations high as they welcome 19 freshmen wrestlers and return 28 from last year’s team. Two of the returners are Biscaha and Adams, as they begin their senior and junior years, respectively. Looking to capitalize on their impressive seasons from a year ago, the country will watch both of them, as Biscaha (157 lbs.) and Adams (133 lbs.) open the season rankedNo. 1 in their respective weight classes.
Biscaha is calm, cool and collected. He is 21-years-old, studying Physical Education, and aspires to be a wrestling coach in the future. The reason for Biscaha’s success may be that he never lets pressure touch him.
“I like to work hard and have fun. I’m a pretty laid-back person,” Biscaha said. “I just like to enjoy myself, and when you’re having fun, you’re relaxed and always doing better.”
The fun for Biscaha starts at practice.
“It’s awesome [to be on a team ranked sixth]. It makes everything so much better when you’re out there succeeding with your friends.”
One of the men that Biscaha enjoys to succeed with is 20-year-old Derek Adams. Adams may have surprised many last year, as he placed fourth in Nationals after being unseeded and ranked 13th. However, this year he won’t be able to surprise anyone as he goes into the season ranked No. 1. He has always been the underdog, but he likes being on top for a change.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Adams said. “I’m usually the underdog, so I’ve never been in this position before, but I like it.”
The change in ranking hasn’t diminished Adams’ work ethic at all. If anything, it’s made him work harder. Adams has a lingering lower body injury that will likely sideline him for the first couple of matches. The injury developed into a stress fracture because he didn’t want to take any time off.
Clearly, being No. 1 drives him more.
The timetable for his return is hopeful for December, but may extend until after Christmas break. Until then, Adams is at practice and meets, attempting to influence the 19 freshmen wrestlers.
“It definitely helps to have two ranked guys in there,” Adams said. “It makes me want to push that much [more as] I’m sure it helps them too, knowing that we were where they are and now we are at the top.”
Adams and Biscaha have definitely reached out to freshmen and have made them want to be at the top as well.
“Seeing them work hard every single day no matter what they have going on makes me want to work hard,” freshman Luke Balina said. “They don’t have any distractions when they come on the mat. They’re definitely motivating and showing me and everyone else how to get to the top.”
It doesn’t hurt either that the Pride’s wrestling coach is Jason Holder. After growing up in Danville, N.H., Holder received a scholarship to Boston University, where he was a starter and captain all four years. For three of those years, he was even part of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee on campus.
Holder has the leadership skills on his résumé as he goes into his third year of coaching at Springfield College. After two years, Holder holds a 28-5 record, but is hungry for more.
“We need to get better, no matter what,” Holder said. “If we were ranked No. 1 [in the country], we still would have improvements that we would need to work on so we could get better. I love being the coach of the Springfield College wrestling team and seeing these guys compete every day. It’s an honor.”
The one-time Division I championship qualifier in Holder holds high expectations, but doesn’t set outcome goals for his men. Holder is able to help his men captivate spectators by setting out to get better each and every day.
“I’m not putting outcome expectations out there,” Holder said. “We need to work on the little things. We set goals, and if we can accomplish them, then I believe the outcome will take care of itself.”
The Pride have a season to look forward to, as they watch the wrestlers take the mat for what could be a historic season. They start out this weekend in New York for an invitational before they come home for an invitational of their own. The Pride grapplers host the annual Doug Parker Invitational on Saturday, Nov. 23. They have one more invitational in December before their season really picks up with dual matches in January.
The three invitational tournaments and 16 dual matches will lead them into the regional tournament and national tournament in March. Holder looks to lead Biscaha, Adams and company back to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to give them a chance at a National Championship and the team a chance to finish in the top five for the first time in school history.