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Maryland wrestling team gearing up for first season in Big Ten

Maryland wrestler Shyheim Brown drills during a practice in January.
Maryland wrestler Shyheim Brown drills during a practice in January.(Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Maryland wrestling in Big Ten is like "finding your Christmas present in June" for coach

COLLEGE PARK — Maryland wrestling coach Kerry McCoy wrestled in the Big Ten and later coached in the conference.

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After Maryland decided in 2012 to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference and join the Big Ten, McCoy told people close to him that it was like "finding your Christmas present in June."

Now, the Terps will get a chance to show they can compete in the unquestioned premier conference in college wrestling.

Maryland begins its season Oct. 26 and will later face perennial national powers like Penn State, Iowa and Minnesota in College Park.

"We've got a pretty exciting schedule ahead of us," said McCoy, a two-time Olympian and former heavyweight champion at Penn State. "We've got a bunch of guys that are really excited about the transition. And coming from the ACC, being the top team in the ACC and transitioning into having to battle to get up to those ranks in the Big Ten is a really exciting opportunity for us."

In all, 10 of the Terps' 19 dual meets this season will be against teams ranked in the top-17 of Wrestling Insider News (WIN) Magazine's preseason rankings.

Nine of those teams are from the Big Ten, eight of which are ranked among the top-11 nationally by WIN Magazine.

Maryland, meanwhile, is ranked outside the top-25 after finishing last year just 9-8 and after losing two-time All-American Jimmy Sheptock, who went 32-1 last year and placed second at 184 pounds at the NCAA championships.

"We definitely feel like the underdogs," said redshirt senior Frank Goodwin (Arundel), who was 12-9 last season. "We'll walk around tournaments and they'll be like, 'Welcome to the Big Ten,' so we definitely feel like the underdogs, but I feel like we can do real well."

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Maryland placed just fifth at the ACC championships last season but won ACC titles in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012.

The Terps also placed 20th at the NCAA championships last season, aided by Sheptock becoming the first Maryland national finalist since 1969.

"Last year, we were not happy with the overall season," McCoy said. "But when you get a guy in the national finals and finish in the top-20 in the country, the wrap overall is pretty good. So just knowing that we can get guys to that level consistently — in the six seasons that I've been here, we've had 11 guys get on the NCAA podium, and obviously we've won three conference championships — so our guys know that we can be successful at the highest level."

With Sheptock and Christian Boley (25-6) both gone, the Terps will lean on former All-American Spencer Myers at 285 pounds as well as wrestlers like redshirt sophomore Shyheim Brown, Goodwin and redshirt senior Tony Gardner (Calvert Hall), among others.

"The intensity level has been great this year," Brown said. "And as long as we keep that focus, I know we're going to do well."

Gardner has moved back up to the 184-pound class after wrestling last year at 174 pounds. He was 18-7 at 197 pounds in 2011-12 and tied for the team-lead with eight pins. Gardner was 9-4 at 184 pounds as a redshirt junior in 2012-13.

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McCoy outlined some of Maryland's team goals Tuesday.

Among them are finishing in the top half of the Big Ten tournament, getting all of the Terps' wrestlers qualified for the national tournament and ending the season ranked among the top-10 teams in the country.

"One of the things that we talk about is the success we had in the ACC, we want to carry that over into the Big Ten," McCoy said. "We don't have any expectation of going there and taking a few years to figure it out and see happens. … We know we can compete at the highest level, and we want to keep that going, so we're not going to take a back seat to anybody."

Another aspect of the Big Ten move that has McCoy excited is the increased exposure for Maryland. Many of the Terps' dual meets can be seen on BTN2go.com. Maryland may also have some dual meets broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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