BY LOUIS FREY
The Sacred Heart University wrestling season begins on Nov. 4, with the Tiger Open, hosted by Princeton University.
The team looks to turn the page from last season, where they finished last at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships.
“Everyone on our team will have the opportunity to wrestle, which is nice,” said head coach John Clark. “We’re looking forward to the Tiger Open and then will focus on our first duels of the year the following weekend.”
The wrestlers will compete as individuals in the event. Senior Chris Cornell believes the Tiger Open will be good for the freshman.
“It is a good way for them (freshmen) to see what college wrestling is all about against Division I competition,” said Cornell.
The team is looking to show that they are serious contenders for the season. There is also a focus on thriving off of the mat as well.
“We are going to be doing the right things in the classroom, the wrestling room and outside of campus,” said Cornell. “We’re ready for it.”
The team has a new assistant coach this season, Braden Atwood. The appeal for Atwood was the opportunity to turn the wrestling program in a new direction.
“We’re really looking to make huge strides in the early parts of the season,” said Atwood.
According to the Sacred Heart athletics website, Atwood wrestled at Purdue University from 2011 to 2015. He was a three-time team captain, placed at the Big Ten Championships in each of his four seasons, and won 91 times, which ranks him 19th in program history for wins. After college, he coached at the University of North Carolina for two years and at the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point last season.
Purdue and USMA West Point will both be competing at the Tiger Open.
“I really like the fact that we are competing against teams that I have been a part of,” said Atwood. “We are training to be the best and as much as I love Purdue and am loyal to my alma mater, I will always try to beat them.”
According to Princeton’s athletic website, the Tiger Open will also feature Hofstra, Columbia, Maryland, Lehigh, Old Dominion, Riders, Rutgers, U.S. Military Academy Prep School (USMAPS) and Stanford.
In addition to going in a new direction, Atwood wants the team to develop a good attitude. He has his own phrase, “Stay winning.”
“It means doing the right things at all times, whether that may be at school, wrestling, or in life,” said Atwood.
The wrestlers have looked up to both Atwood and Clark.
“They’re the best coaches in the country,” said Cornell. “They are two awesome dudes that you can hangout with, wrestle with, or go to dinner with. They are very good role models.”
After the Tiger Open, the team will compete at the Journeyman Classic in Albany, N.Y., on Nov. 10. They will compete against Bloomsburg, Citadel and Appalachian State.