April 1, 2004
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University wrestling program enjoyed yet another solid season in 2003-04. Ranked in the Top 25 throughout the entire season, the team earned a 16th place finish at the 2004 NCAA Tournament and saw the finest individual season by a Mountaineer in school history.
Head coach Craig Turnbull led an injury-plagued Mountaineer squad to a 9-5 dual meet season and won a share of the 2004 Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) Championship title. For his efforts, Turnbull was selected by his peers as the EWL coach of the year. The league honor marks the fourth for Turnbull, previously accepting the accolades in 1990, 1998 and 2002.
The story of the year, however, belongs to Greg Jones who became the first Mountaineer to complete an undefeated season going a perfect 26-0. He also became the first wrestler in WVU history to win multiple national titles with his 184-pound championship in St. Louis. Jones’ performance was so dominant that he did not give up an offensive point during the entire 2004 NCAA tournament in going 5-0.
At the EWL Championships West Virginia and Edinboro wrestled to an overall tie with each team tallying 99.50 points while Pitt was a close third with 97.50 points in the closest tournament race in league history. The Mountaineers and Fighting Scots were each named EWL Tournament co-Champions. WVU has won the tournament title in two of the past three years.
Jones won his third consecutive league crown and four of his teamamates earned runner-up finishes to automatically qualify for the national tournament. Matt Lebe (157) made his second NCAA apperance, while Casey Brewster (125), Joe Clarke (141) and Matt Daddino (197) appeared as first-time qualifiers. Jones was selected EWL Wrestler of the Year for the second time in his career.
Jones was not the only highlight as Lebe and Clarke both provided top seasons for West Virginia. Clarke, a graduate of Princeton, used his final year of eligibility in producing the second-best record by a WVU 131/141-pounder in going 28-10. The senior won two tournament titles (WVU Open, Navy Classic) in filling in for All-American Brandon Lauer who redshirted the season.
Sophomore Lebe, like Clarke, finished in the round of 12 – one win shy of All-America status. Wrestling in perhaps the toughest weight-class in the country, the 157-pounder totaled a record of 31-9. Lebe’s 31 wins was good enough for third most all-time by a Mountaineer sophomore. He finished fourth at the prestigious Midlands Tournament after garnering titles at the WVU Open and Navy Classic. At one point in the season, Lebe wrestled 12 of 14 consecutive bouts against ranked opponents. The Jeanette, Pa., native was ranked as high as seventh in the country this year.
West Virginia opened the season with a bang as at least one Mountaineer placed in the opening three tournaments. Daddino, a Hofstra transfer, won his first title in a gold and blue uniform at the Navy Classic. Mike Torriero (149) and Zac Fryling (165) both earned runner-up finishes for the Mountaineers in Annapolis.
Lebe wrestled to a fifth place finish at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and the team placed 19th with only six participants. Jones made an impressive debut to the 2004 season earning a title at the Midlands as the team took 11th place with just five grapplers.
The team traveled out West to compete in the Sun Devil Duals hosted by Arizona State. The Mountaineers split matches with Stanford of the Pac-10 and No. 8 ranked Missouri of the Big XII.
West Virginia fell to No. 11 ranked Penn State, 13-24, before knocking off Ohio, 23-22, in non-league action. Turnbull’s squad was also chosen as one of the Top 16 teams in the country to participate in the National Duals in Cleveland, Ohio.
The EWL dual season came at a time of injuries for West Virginia. Lanfer Simpson returned to the mat in place of heavyweight Brent Miller for the second semester. The Mountaineer sophomore sealed team victories with wins in the final bout against Cleveland State, Clarion and Pitt.
The Mountaineers reeled off five straight league victories before Edinboro snapped WVU’s 19-match EWL win streak. It was the first regular season EWL loss for WVU in over two years.
West Virginia’s performance off the mat was equally impressive. They landed 15 wrestlers on the 2003-04 EWL All-Academic Team – the most among EWL institutions.
Regardless of the year, the goal of Turnbull’s Mountaineers is always simple and always the same. Work hard and wrestle. West Virginia has proven to be the EWL’s dominant team and a national contender every season.
Other memorable moments from 2003-04 include:
Regardless of the year, the goal of Turnbull's Mountaineers is always simple and always the same. Work hard and wrestle. West Virginia has proven to be the EWL's dominant team and a national contender every season. Very quietly, amidst the serenity of the Shell Building, the wresting team is already looking to build off the success of 2003-04.
Back-to-back wins at 133 and 141-pounds against Missouri at the Sun Devil Duals in Tempe. Seth Lisa beat No. 6 ranked Paul Collum, 5-3, while Clarke defeated No. 10 ranked J.P. Reese, 6-3.
Simpson needed just :38 seconds to pin Aaron Ferrance of Bloomsburg for the first victory of his career.
Sophomore Eric Mullen (174) scored a fall over Michigan’s R.J. Boudro at the NWCA National Duals in his first dual meet action of the year.
Jones’ 10-6 victory over Ben Heizer of Northern Illinois at the 38th Annual NWCA All-Star Classic. He became the first grappler in WVU history to make consecutive appearances, winning both times.
True freshman Fryling brought the crowd to their feet and gave WVU the momentum with his upset of No. 18 ranked Zach Doll of rival Pitt.
Junior Drew Joseph (141) scored his first career fall at 2:36 against Chris Smolko at Virginia Tech.
On “Senior Night,” Brewster opened the 125-pound match with his first career dual meet fall at 3:49 over Lock Haven’s Jim Collins.
149-pounder Torrierio raced out to an 8-1 lead on two-time All-American Mike Maney of Lock Haven. He scored two takedowns and two near falls in the opening period leading to an upset of No. 9 ranked Maney with a 14-4 major decision victory.
Filling in at heavyweight, Ryan Wilman posted a 4-1 upset over Lock Haven’s Steve Itterly. Despite giving up nearly 80 pounds, Wilman earned a 4-1 decision.
The strategic lineup changes by WVU coaches and an impressive run from 165 through 197-pounds to defeat Ohio, 23-22, in Athens.
Moving up one weight-class to 133-pounds, Nathan Kendjorsky registered his first career dual meet fall over Cleveland State’s Mark Bugara.
Jones posted a 7-0 record in league contests that won him the EWL Points Champion award.
Fryling’s 19-14 mark ties teammate Lebe for tenth-place on WVU’s list of most wins by a freshman.
Jones’ 100th career victory in St. Louis, becoming only the seventh Mountaineer to reach the century mark. His 101-4 career record ties Joe Carr (101-34) for fifth on West Virginia’s list of all-time wins.
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