Shane Stolz, Sports Information Director
WALNUT RIDGE – The Williams Baptist University wrestling team enters the 2018-19 season tied for the 10th in the national rankings. The NAIA released its Coaches’ Preseason Top 20 Poll on Wednesday.
The Eagles finished in third place nationally in 2017-18 season.
“We have a lot of hard work to put in. We lost a lot of talent last season and have holes to fill, but I am confident in our process and training. I know we will have guys step up by the end of the year,” head coach Todd Allen said.
Williams has now been ranked in the top 20 for twenty straight polls. The last time WBU was outside the top 20 was Dec. 9, 2015. The team’s highest ever ranking was three, which they have reached on six occasions.
Seven individuals are ranked in their respective weight divisions.
All-American Nicholas Drendel is the highest ranked Eagle, coming in at fourth in the 157 lb. weight class. The 133 lb. weight division has two WBU representatives. Tanner Irwin is ranked seventh, followed by Jaitlan Pitts at eight.
Another All-American comes in ranked ninth in the 184 lb. division. Jeff Haley enters the year ranked after redshirting in 2017-18.
Kyle Lee joins Drendel in the 157 lb. division, ranking 11th. Meanwhile, Maleek Canton enters his first year of competition at WBU ranked 17th in the 197 lb. weight class, while Tyler Giorgini holds the 20th ranking in the 285 lb. division.
“I have seen a tremendous amount of growth off the wrestling mat this year. Typically that progress off the mat translates directly into success on the mat. Our guys want to prove that it is not one person or one success that make up this team, but that we are fighters and we will meet a challenge head on,” Allen added.
The Eagles were picked by the American Midwest Conference coaches to finish first in the AMC this season. WBU has won the championship in all three seasons the conference has sponsored the sport.
Individually, two Williams wrestlers are picked to win their respective weight classes in the conference. Drendel and Irwin are favored in their divisions.
“I am excited to see outside competition this year. We have a lot of guys that need to prove themselves this year and I believe they will. It will be another exciting year,” Allen concluded.
Williams opens its season on November 3 at the Patriot Open in Williamsburg, Ky. The event will begin at 7 a.m.