The John Carroll Patriot wrestling program has been on the rise in past seasons, and despite graduating very talented seniors in prior years, the team is still shooting for the highest rank in the MIAA.

“We have been graduating large senior classes and nobody expects us to be as good as we are,” Patriot coach Keith Watson said.  “We are coming off our best season ever and are still could put as many as 10 wrestlers in the national Preps.

In their best season, the Pats were a 22-2 dual meet team, and crowned conference champs in now senior Mathew Miller, sophomores George Weber and Scott Strapelli, and graduate Stephen St. Clair, with Miller and Strappelli winning state titles.

Returning for another shot at big post-seasons, Strapelli and National Prep All-Americans Miller and Weber are the dominant trio of the John Carroll lineup, but the consistency throughout the rest of the team is what should make for another MIAA dominating year.

Watson is looking to Lance Waters, Dan Froehlich, Joe Vitucci, Ryan Etkins and Rob Clingerman to be his solid wrestlers throughout the lineup to depend upon.             

“These are the guys that we are really counting on to bring home the bacon,” Watson said.  “They probably will win 75 to 90 percent of their matches, but we will need these guys to win big and pull out the pins.

hwtWaters is among some tough practice partners in Weber and Strapelli, whom Watson credits as the tough hardest working wrestlers in the room.  Watson says, “They want the toughest guys and roll with Waters, and they get after it.  They are two exceptional sophomores.”

With just two losses last year, the Patriots know what it takes to compete at the highest levels of the MIAA, and also know they can not let up at any point in this year’s run for post-season gold.

“The weakest teams in our schedule are not lay-downs,” Watson explained.  “No disrespect to Calvert Hall, Gilman and Boys’ Latin, because they are not bad teams, but they are at least going to have full rosters when compared to the schedules other ranked teams will wrestle with gaps in their lineups.”

John Carroll will open the 2010-2011 season Wednesday against Gilman with its annual Wrestlepalooza, an event first established by Watson in his first year as the head coach of the Patriots in 2003.  

And an event it truly is, witnessing a jam-packed gymnasium, Elvis impersonator, live DJ, fog machine, mat light and the whole nine yards that can be expected with any Watson-hosted event.  Match time is 4 p.m.