Wrestling looks to win their first conference title, potential NCAA run

The Washington and Lee wrestling has not won an ODAC championship title since 1979. This team is looking to change the tide for the program

Elly Cosgrove

The Washington and Lee wrestling team has their sights set on winning the Centennial Conference championship for the first time.

Wrestling first competed in the Centennial Conference in the 1998-99 season. Prior, the team competed as an ‘independent’ for 17 years. The Old Dominion Athletic Conference sponsored wrestling from 1976 through 1980 because the conference had enough wrestling programs to support sponsorship. However, many colleges across the country, including the ODAC, dropped wrestling as a varsity sport in the 1980s, which resulted in the ODAC no longer sponsoring the sport, according to W&L sports information director Brian Laubscher.

Washington and Lee did win the ODAC championship title in 1977, 1978, and 1979. It has not won a conference title since.

“What we have on our mind right now is a real shot at winning the conference for the first time,” Rexx Hallyburton, ‘20, said. “If we win all three of our duals this weekend we would be conference champions and it’s definitely a possibility just looking at our lineup and the potential matchups against Hopkins, Stevens, and Merchant Marine.”

The Generals faced Johns Hopkins University on Feb. 1 away and walked away with a 29-12 victory. The team also competed against Merchant Marine Academy and Stevens Institute of Technology at Johns Hopkins on Feb. 2. All three teams are in the Centennial Conference.

“We will have some tough competition, so we need to focus on pushing ourselves to get bonus points and fight through the close matches,” Shane Conners, ‘20, said.

Prior to these contests, the Generals defeated Gettysburg College and McDaniel College, two conference opponents, in late January.

“It was good to see our team score a lot of points against competitive teams in the Conference,” Conners said about the team’s performance.

A lot of the team’s success this season can be attributed to the 12 freshmen that were added this year.

“The freshmen have made an immediate impact on our lineup, they make up four of our ten starters right now,” Hallyburton said. “They have been able to compete against top level competition since the first match and some of them have even won tournaments this year.”

This is the first year the team has ever been in the national rankings, and the freshmen stepped into some big roles to make that happen, Conners said.

“All the freshman have very different styles, so it’s always nice to get a bunch of different looks in the practice room,” he said.

Looking forward, the Generals will travel to Merchant Marine Academy on Feb. 9 for the Centennial Conference Championship. After that, it’s the NCAA Southeast Regional on Feb. 22.

Head coach Nathan Shearer has been emphasizing that the second half of the season flies by and that the team needs to sprint to the finish line, Conners said.

“The sprint consists of staying on top of lifts, getting in extra workouts, pushing ourselves to new levels every day in practice, and fighting for every point,” he said. “If we keep doing all these things, then we will be in a great position to succeed over the next few weeks.”