Old Dominion wrestling enters 2013-14 with a preseason ranking and high expectations, courtesy of a slew of experienced athletes and touted recruits. The Monarchs also have a couple of assistant coaches competing at the international level.
The two aren’t coincidental.
Coaching and recruiting have fueled the program’s ascent, from head coach Steve Martin to his assistants. The present staff includes former Monarch Kyle Hutter and Alex Dolly, both of whom have had international success.
Hutter worked his way up to the top three in the U.S. at 55 kilos (121 pounds) in freestyle wrestling. He most recently competed at a prestigious tournament in Yakutsk, Russia, where he placed fifth and was one of just two Americans to reach the medal round.
Dolly, in his second year on the staff, has dual American-Irish citizenship and is a British Senior freestyle champion at 84 kilos (185 pounds). Both aspire to compete in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“It’s huge,” Martin said of having a couple of international competitors on the staff. “They can get on the mat and help our guys get better. Every high-level recruit wants to compete at the Worlds and the Olympics. These guys show that it’s possible to do that from Old Dominion. People are starting to figure that out. It allows us to recruit at a higher level. You can’t put a pricetag on that.”
Hutter, 25, was a three-time NCAA qualifier at ODU and three-time Academic All-American. He vaulted into the national picture at the World Team Trials, pulling off a string of upsets against higher seeds. He moved up to fourth on the ladder for the U.S. team and earned a spot on the team that competed in Russia.
Over 12 days, he trained with and competed against wrestlers from Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Mongolia and Finland.
“It was a great experience,” Hutter said. “It was a different culture and you get to see fans who love the sport of wrestling. I learned a lot about competing at that level. Any experience you get is definitely a bonus.”
Dolly came to ODU after three years as an assistant at Michigan State and a standout career at Northern Iowa, where he was a three-time NCAA qualifier.
Last summer, he became the first Irish wrestler to win a British Senior Championship title since the 1960s. In 2011, he finished ninth at the World Championships, the best by a member of the British team since the 1940s.
Dolly, 28, is nearing the end of his competitive career. An Olympic berth in 2016 would be a fitting cap.
ODU opens the season Sunday at the Hokie Duals in Salem, where the Monarchs will face Rider, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
They open their home dual meet schedule Nov. 24 versus Iowa State, ranked 16th in preseason, and host No. 8 Virginia Tech on Nov. 26. Both matches are at the Constant Center.
ODU has five wrestlers with NCAA experience: Scott Festejo (133); Chris Mecate (141); Alex Richardson (149); Tristan Warner (157); Billy Curling (174). Festejo and Warner qualified two years ago.
In addition, redshirt freshmen Jack Dechow (184) and Kevin Beazley (197) begin the season ranked after outstanding seasons competing unattached. Last June, Beazley won the Greco-Roman FILA Junior World Team Trials at 96 kilos (211 pounds).
“We have a lot of competition in the room,” Martin said. “We have a chance to be a really good team.”