PROVIDENCE, RI – Each year the Johnson & Wales University wrestling team continues to break new ground and the 2018-19 season shouldn't be any different. The Wildcats, ranked third in the preseason National Wrestling Coaches Association poll, open the year this weekend.
The team will be split between New Brunswick, NJ and Ithaca, NY. On Saturday, Johnson & Wales takes on Big Ten Conference foe Rutgers as well as Fresno State and Centenary. Meanwhile, in Upstate New York, the other JWU contingency will take part in the Ithaca College Invitational.
Head coach Lonnie Morris brings back perhaps his most talented squad ever. The Wildcats return four All-Americans and two more wrestlers who advanced to the 2018 championship.
Leading the way is defending national champion Jay Albis at 125 pounds. The NCAA Division III leader in tech falls, he was a finalist in 2017 and wants to be on the mat Saturday night in Roanoke.
Senior Bobby Jordan is back from a medical redshirt and will look to become an All-American at 133 pounds, where he is ranked fifth, after reaching the podium in 2017 at 125 pounds. In the Wildcats' storied history there has never been a three-time All-American, but 141-pounder Joe Ferinde, rated sixth to start the year, wants to be the first and one-up his brother and two-time All-American Michael. Third-ranked senior Khamri Thomas got a taste in 2018 when he placed eighth at 184 pounds.
Senior Adrian Gonzalez came up one match short of earning All-America honors last year at 165 pounds. The trip to Cleveland was too short for junior Michael DiNardo at 197 pounds and he's ready to take his spot on the podium as he starts the year ranked fourth.
Three Wildcats have just missed out on qualifying for the NCAA Championships and want to earn their spot in 2019. At 149, senior Thomas Grippi is a two-time all-region selection while Brady Robin earned all-region accolades at 157 last year as a rookie. An all-region selection in 2017, Michael Gargano wants to redeem himself after an early exit in 2018.
Johnson & Wales' ambitious scheduling continues on December 15. For the second year in a row, the Wildcats will take the stage at the Providence Performing Arts Center for the Downtown Showdown. This year JWU will host perennial NCAA Division II power Wheeling Jesuit at 6 p.m. The Cardinals finished 13th at nationals last year and return a pair of All-Americans, including national champion Terrance Fanning at 285 pounds.
Johnson & Wales will serve as the host for this year's NCAA Northeast Regional Championship, February 23-24. The two-time defending regional champion Wildcats will host the event for the first time since 2004. The top three finishers in each weight class qualify for the NCAA Championships, March 8-9, in Roanoke, Va.