Third-place team finish at nationals caps best season in Boro wrestling history
Story first appeared in the April 2, 2015 edition of the Edinboro University Spectator, which was distributed on campus and around the town of Edinboro.
Edinboro wrestling has had four national champions, multiple All-Americans and has been a Division I program since 1986. However, the Fighting Scots have never finished in the top four in the team race at nationals, earning that elusive team trophy.
Until this season.
Boro completed its best season yet by finishing third at the 2015 Division I Wrestling National Championships earlier this month with 75.5 team points, earning the first NCAA team trophy in program history, topping the previous best team finish of fifth, which was achieved a year ago.
The 75.5 team points were possible with great individual trips at the national championships. Mitchell Port and Dave Habat both finished as national runner-ups. A.J. Schopp and Vic Avery both finished third, with Schopp registering four falls in the consolation bracket, racking up bonus points. And Kory Mines advancing to the quarterfinals with a few upset victories, as well.
“It was an unbelievable, awesome year,” head coach Tim Flynn said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. “The team set out to get a team award and we certainly did, finishing third, the highest finish ever. I think when you reflect back it was the best team we ever had in the tournament. There is a lot to be proud of there.”
The statistics, just from nationals, speak for themselves. The two runner-ups, coupled with the pair of third-place finishes, gave Edinboro four All-Americans this year, tying the school record for the most in a single-season. The only other time Boro had four was 1988. Additionally, this is just the second time Edinboro had three wrestlers in the semi-finals as Port, Habat and Avery all wrestled with a trip to the finals on the line. The trio of Paul Donahoe, Gregor Gillespie and Jarrod King were the only other three to do so, back in 2009.
“It’s nice,” Flynn said at nationals of having four All-Americans. “I’d like to have four or five every year.”
Avery was one of those All-Americans this year after not placing in his previous two trips to nationals, in 2012 and 2014. His jump from just a qualifier to an All-American has been in progress all season long, according to Flynn.
“I think the person that has improved the most has been Vic Avery,” he said. “He has fulfilled his talent. He has talent and has dedication and now he has performed at the matches.”
Avery’s growth, with the already established Port, Habat and Schopp created a tough lineup for opponents to wrestle. Boro finished its regular season with a 14-5 record in duals, a PSAC championship and a EWL title. Additionally, the Scots finished fourth at the Virginia Duals in January.
One unknown who was a piece to the puzzle early on was Austin Matthews. The sophomore transfer from Clarion earned the start at 157 lbs. from the beginning and wowed local fans in the season-opening dual against Pitt, where he won a 7-4 decision.
Matthews was 9-0 on the season before being sidelined with a knee injury after the EMU Duals in November.
“I think the biggest thing from someone like that who comes into your program is his ability to accept what we are doing and how we are doing it,” Flynn said. “The way we work out, when we work out. He just embraced the program. That was big.”
Matthews applied for a redshirt season from the NCAA and should return next season.
Flynn and company will have Matthews for the future, but replaces multiple starters from this year’s lineup. Those individuals are Mines, Schopp, Port, and Habat, the starters at 125, 133, 141 and 149, respectively, who collectively earned the name, “Murderer’s Row,” around the world of wrestling for how dominant the foursome is.
Collectively, the quartet has 487 career victories and eight All-American medals.
Additionally, Kasey-Burnett Davis, who appeared multiple times this season and previously was a starter, also finished up his career at Edinboro.
The Scots have a few returners and newcomers that hope to keep Edinboro at the top of the Division I wrestling landscape including Avery, Matthews, Pat Jennings, Vince Pickett and Sean Russell.
They all have big shoes to fill, shoes Flynn likes Edinboro to wear.
“It’s great, but there is so much work that goes into it,” Flynn said. “Next year we are going to have a lot of young guys and we will have to sit down and set goals for this next team and see what we can do.”