WJU wrestlers open home season tonight

WHEELING – It seems like only yesterday that Sean Doyle was being introduced as the first head coach in Wheeling Jesuit University history.

Since then, it’s been like a blur for the Buckeye Local High School graduate as he began the process of building a program from the ground up.

“A lot of people have made a commitment to us in the past 10 months,” Doyle said. “Whether it’s the wrestlers, their families, the administration or the student body, everyone’s been great to us.”

Doyle and the Cardinals’ first wrestling season became a reality when they put forth a strong showing at the Baldwin-Wallace Open event in suburban Cleveland last weekend.

However, tonight, Ohio Valley mat afficionados get their first glimpse at the 2013-14 Cardinals, who are welcoming Alma College from Michigan for the school’s first home match.

“We’re ready,” Doyle said. “(Friday) is going to be an exciting day for everyone. I’ll be able to sleep better once it’s over because we’ve put so much into this. We’ve been emphasizing to our guys that putting on a good product on the mat is how you build an identity. We want it to be a fun evening for everyone.”

Along with the match against Alma College, which is coached by Todd Hibbs, who wrestled for Doyle’s father, Dan at Jefferson Union Local, there will be a slate of exhibition matches featuring area high school and junior high competitors.

“This should be a super event,” Doyle said. “This will be the first time that all of our kids’ families are together, we’ve had good amount of work done by the student groups on campus to spread the word, so we’re expecting a big turnout.”

The showcase matches and collegiate exhibition matches will begin at 5:30 p.m. The actual match between Jesuit and Alma is slated for a 7 p.m. start and will feature 10 weight classes.

“A lot has gone into (today’s) match, but I don’t want our guys to be one-shot wonders,” Doyle said. “We want consistency from our guys. After (today) we’ll move forward with the season and continue to try to improve each tournament.”

Along with the wrestling, the students of Wheeling Jesuit are hosting a tailgate party in the McDonough Center’s auxiliary gymnasium and there will also be a social held, which Doyle said more than 150 people have already committed to attend.

The Cardinals placed nine wrestlers in last week’s B-W event, including Martins Ferry graduate Damon Outward, who recorded the first pin in Jesuit mat history. He finished fifth in the tournament.

According to Doyle, he’ll wrestle an exhibition match. University High’s Scott Lopez will wrestle in the varsity match at 130 pounds.

Cambridge product Sawyer Leppla, who was an OVAC runnerup and Division II state placer last season, will get the call at 174 pounds.

“We found some great positives aside from the wins and losses (last week),” Doyle said. “We competed well. We want guys who are ready to wrestle hard for seven minutes. You can’t have lapses at this level. We’ve got great chemistry on this team. We didn’t do wrestle offs, so each guy is competing for his starting spot each time he sets foot on the mat.”

On top of the wrestling, the Cardinals, who’ve been heavily active in the community during the off-season, will be collecting paper of all forms for the Augusta Levy Learning Center.