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Duke wrestling season preview

Redshirt senior Josh Finesilver and his brother Matt will be two of the leaders on this year's team.
Redshirt senior Josh Finesilver and his brother Matt will be two of the leaders on this year's team.

Overview

After another upsetting campaign last year, the Blue Devils will return to the mats Saturday hungrier than ever for some wins. Blowout losses were continuous last season, but the Blue Devils only competed with their ACC opponents—all of whom ranked as top-20 teams nationally. Though Duke finished pretty poorly last year, with a tie for 48th place out of 60 at NCAA Championships, there is plenty of reason to predict that the Blue Devils will not have a repeat of last season.

Leadership and experience return to the team this year in the form of redshirt senior Matt Finesilver. Along with his twin brother Josh, the two have been program leaders since they arrived in 2017. Matt’s absence due to an ACL injury last season hurt the team, but he's back now. Additionally, the accumulation of four freshmen who didn’t have a senior season and only five competitions for the roster to work with, instead of the usual 16, meant no “learning curve,” as head coach Glen Lanham said. However, with Matt and Josh back together as leaders, along with several other wrestlers who stepped up in training from last season and stayed over the summer, Lanham believes that the team will grow through watching these wrestlers “lead by example.”

With the return of many wrestlers who were a match away from being national qualifiers this year, Lanham knows that if the season pans out as he expects, they can have multiple national qualifiers and all-Americans. The clock is ticking, and what Lanham wants fans to know is that if you pay attention, “you can look for some really big things out of the team.” —Ana Young

New wrestler(s) to watch: Logan Ferrero, Adar Schwarzbach

Considering their level of decoration and notability, freshmen Logan Ferrero and Adar Schwarzbach are the newcomers to watch. Ferrero comes to Durham after registering a stellar four-year campaign at the Whitfield School in St. Louis, Mo. He led the team to four state titles, was state champion in his weight class twice and recorded a 164-25 record. Schwarzbach proceeded similarly with an impressive 2020 season in which he was the Reno Worlds national champion, the California Greco state champion and placed third at the California freestyle state championship. Given the accolades that Ferrero and Schwarzbach racked up before hitting the mats as Blue Devils, it’s only fair to deduce that the two will continue to make their mark here as well. - Young

Returning wrestler(s) to watch: Matt Finesilver

The Finesilver brothers return to the team this season as a duo again. The last time we saw both Matt and Josh compete in the same year was the 2018-19 season—also the last time the Blue Devils checked off some wins on their schedule. After taking a year off wrestling at Duke to train for the Olympics, then facing a season-ending injury last year, Matt Finesilver’s revival the past few months confirms that he is ready to bring his A-game. The redshirt senior emerges at the highest ranking of any Blue Devil at eighth in his weight class. With his presence back on the roster, Lanham expects the team to have a level of leadership it lacked last year. 

“He’s a very hard competitor, and he brings that tenacity to the mat,” Lanham said. “I think a lot of our younger guys feed off that.” —Young

Most anticipated meet

ACC Championships, March 6

Next year after a strenuous regular season, each Blue Devil will have the opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Duke has sent wrestlers to the national event for 13-straight seasons, which puts pressure on the 2022 squad to show up in Charlottesville. Josh Finesilver, who joins the squad again this season as a redshirt senior, won NCAA bids in 2018, 2019 and 2021, while Duke’s Mason Eaglin received an at-large bid to continue the streak through 2020. The team’s unfortunate outcomes over the past two years, finishing sixth of six teams at both the 2020 and 2021 ACC tournaments, should also serve as motivation for the Blue Devils on the mat. —Elena Karas

Best-case scenario

Best-case scenario, the team comes back fighting after their rough 2020-2021 season under the leadership of Matt Finesilver and the excitement of a crowd, pulling out wins against rival North Carolina and Virginia. The Blue Devils put on a strong performance at the ACC championships, leading them to finish in the top half of the ACC and generate several automatic qualifiers for the final competition in Detroit. One of the wrestlers representing Duke at the NCAA Championships, potentially the Finesilver brothers or Schwarzbach, accumulate enough victories over the three-day exhibition to earn the title of NCAA All-American, becoming Duke’s sixth in program history. —Karas

Worst-case scenario

Duke’s worst-case scenario is that after a short, five-competition season, the team is unable to adjust to the 19-tournament schedule, falling in all of their ACC matches. If no Blue Devils qualify for the NCAA Championship, it most likely means the squad finished sixth in the ACC, however, there would still be the chance of a wrestler receiving an at-large bid and going on to represent the team in Detroit. —Karas

Prediction

Young: 2-17, 6th at ACC Championships, 24th at NCAA Championships

Karas: 5-14, 5th at ACC Championships, 28th at NCAA Championships


Ana Young | Assistant Blue Zone Editor

Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.

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