Robby Bell’s College Corner
Welcome wrestling fans to the first installment of Robby’s College Corner brought to you in connection with John Carpenter and SCwrestling.com. Hopefully this column will be written weekly with all the ins and outs of college wrestling, mainly from the view of South Carolina College programs with wrestling and our various South Carolinians around the country. I hope you enjoy this column and it brings a little insight to what is going on in the college world and with our states past great wrestlers now on the college level. To help you folks out there that might have forgotten, after the wrestlers names are first mentioned, I will tell you the year they graduated high school in South Carolina and the weight they are wrestling in college now. For example, Robby Bell (’98 157) this would mean that Robby Bell graduated high school in 1998 and wrestled at 157 pound weight class.
First off I would like to start with an update of where we actually have college wrestlers on teams. Most notably the only two college programs still in existence in South Carolina, The Citadel and Anderson College. The Citadel currently boasts 7 individuals from the Palmetto State with 4 of them receiving considerable time in the starting lineup the past few years. Leading the way from Stratford High School are the Bartges brothers, Troy (’98 197/Hwt) and Vince (’99 149). Both of the brothers have seen action the last two years for The Citadel helping them raise their conference finish in the last 3 years from 5th in 2000 to 3rd in 2002. The Citadel team also has gotten a tremendous boost last year from first year started John Bohren (’00 184) who came out of the blue and wrestled well his first year starting. One of the most contested weights for the Bulldogs last year came at 125 pounds where Ryan McClester (’01 125), from Lugoff Elgin High School saw a lot of action before being beat out in the final wrestle off by veteran Brandon Gates. Watch out for Ryan this year, he is going to be the man at 125 for The Citadel and will be in contention for the Southern Conference title in March. Seeing considerable time at 165/174 was Braxton Harrison (’01 157) from Summerville High School. Also from the Low Country embarking on their first college season is true freshmen Mauro Bria (’02 133) from Hilton Head and Chris Reyes (’02 Hwt) from Berkley. Both poses potential to become good college wrestlers in the future for the Bulldogs. And last but not least rounding out the roster of South Carolinian’s on the bulldog roster is Derek Neitz (’02 149) from Spring Valley in the midlands of South Carolina.
Next Anderson College brought in a ton of South Carolina wrestlers this season almost to many for me to name in this article but I am going to try and do that. However, Anderson has a good number of wrestlers from South Carolina who have been in the program and have been contributing a ton to their success the past few years. Leading the way from Dutch Fork High School is Steve Valponi (’99 141) and Ben Laprad (’99 141/149). These two are the anchors of this young Trojan team that is looking for its first state championship in a long time and Division II Qualifiers/All-Americans this season. Also starting on the 2002 squad from Greenville County was Jason Lanning (’97 125) from Woodmont High School and Cliff Poynter (’01 184) of Eastside High School. Rounding out the starting lineup from Rock Hill High School was Tanner Barnes (’98 157). Most notably Coach Doc Kelly said that this is his best recruiting class ever and the best in the history of Anderson College wrestling. At the top of the list is Brent Poynter (’02 165) from Eastside High School and Careef Robertson (’02 174) from Dutch Fork High School. Coach Kelly expects these two to make immediate impacts on the team and only time will tell what these two will accomplish. Look for bumps along the way early but for them to both improve tremendously and turn into good college wrestlers with bright futures ahead. Also two other wrestlers looking to make immediate impacts on the team from Dutch Fork High School are young true freshmen Mike Ellis (’02 125) and Clyde Pollock (’02 133). As for the rest of the freshmen class, I will try and list all of them that I know. Marcos Diaz (’02 125) from Palmetto High School, Tim Sexton and Aaron Chavous both from Pickens High School at listed at 141, Christian Aponte (’02 141) from Hillcrest High School, Justin Harris (’02 141) from Crescent High, Abdel Nassuar (’02 149) from Brynes High School, Preston Prysock (’02 149) of Dorman High, Trevon Fordham and Nathan Hall (’02 157) Hanahan High School, John Hollingsworth (157) Chapin, Halston Burress (’02 184) Berea, Jason Kimbrell (’02 184) from Dorman, Steve Dixon (’02 184) of Nintey Six High, and last but not least Tolouse Popham (’02 197) from Westside High School.
In other colleges around the nation South Carolina products are everywhere. Starting close to our northern neighbor state of North Carolina we have many on college teams. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Ryan Adams (’00 Hwt) has seen a good bit of time in the starting lineup behind Matt Kenny who recently graduated UNC. So Ryan will be the man this year getting plenty of action at Hwt. However sources close to me tell me that Ben Connell (’00 197/Hwt) from Lugoff Elgin High School who went to Oklahoma University after graduation is now going to be transferring to UNC. Connell was not listed on the 2002 or 2003 roster. Should be interesting and I will keep you posted. Rounding out the Carolinian’s on the UNC team is Chris Collins (’99 141) from Rock Hill. Chris has had a lot of time on the wrestling team even placing 4th in the ACC’s in 2001.
Around the rest of North Carolina we find at Appalachian State a number of past wrestlers from South Carolina. Leading the way is nationally ranked Travis Drake (’98 133) from Cheraw High School. Travis has been ranked in the top 25 the last 2 years and won several matches out at the Division I National tournament. Look for good things go come his way this year. He is the best chance for South Carolina to have an AA out at the national tournament. Also seeing some time for the Mountaineers last season was Terrance Thompson (’00 125) from Rock Hill. Tim Goodwin (’01 125) from Richland Northeast High and talented freshmen Parker Valek (’02 184) from Irmo both hope to help out the Appalachain team that was down last year due to injuries.
Rounding out the Tarheel State at North Carolina State University are three tough wrestlers looking to get their break and a full time starting in the Wolfpack Lineup. Already breaking that mold last year was Clarence Davis (’99 125) from Northwestern High School. Clarence got a good bit of time last year at 125/133 making a big splash on the college scene with a fall over his Iowa State opponent last year up in Ames in front of the home Cyclone crowd. Also on the Wolfpack team trying to break in is Eric Heath (’01 149) of Seneca and Will Ryan (’01 165) from Hilton Head.
Last but not least is Brent Blackwell (??? 184) from Chesnee High School who will be a sophomore this year for Gardner Webb University. Brent has spent the last few years wrestling for All Army Greco Teams and should add some much-needed experience to the young bulldog lineup. The bulldogs will jump into Division I wrestling this year after serving the 2 to 4 years out of conference and post season play because of their move from Division II up to the Division I level.
Around the rest of the country we start with Rueben Daniels (’01 Hwt) from Summerville who is wrestling in his junior year at Edinboro University for the mighty Scots up there in PA. Rueben has seen plenty of action in open tournaments and is looking to crack the starting lineup this year. Out mid west are two young talents in Jeff Courson (’01 141) from Lugoff Elgin High and Matt Crain (’01 149/157) from Greer High school. Both of them received redshirt years last year and are going to be tough wrestlers on the NAIA level.
Some wrestlers we are not sure of but we know are out there and are going wrestle will close out this first addition of Robby’s College Corner. Andy King (’02 141) from Fort Mill High School will be joining the Apprentice School in Newport News, VA this fall and wrestle in the NWCA club level this fall. Also from Byrnes High School, Robbie Powell (’02 149) is out in Mississippi at a Junior Military College wrestling on their club team and looks to join a competitive Division I school in two years after his commission as a 2nd Lt. ****The following added later. Watch Brockington is wrestling at William Penn with Myron Drayton (2000 Berkeley) state runnerup and he was runnerup in the Eastern Regionals last year at 141lbs. Now if there are any wrestlers out there that I have missed please someone, email me at Bellrobby@aol.com. I would love to update any wrestlers out there I missed. Thanks and I hope you guys enjoy the first installment of Robby’s College Corner.