Few champs back to defend titles in DODDS-Europe wrestling
New Ramstein wrestling coach Jeff Pellaton was speaking only for the defending Division I champion Royals on Wednesday, but his comment sums up the outlook for the upcoming high school season, which opens Saturday.
“There’s only one champion in the room,” Pellaton said when asked about a prognosis for Ramstein. The Royals crowned four champions and three runners-up last season, but all except 119-pound champion Trey Fortunato have left.
The same is true for most of last year’s Europe-wide titleholders. Fortunato, who will probably move up to 135 this season, is among only three of the 13 who won individual titles last February back for another season.
James Ricks of Division II champion Patch (103) and sophomore Chris Campos of Naples (112) are the others.
In addition to the departure of so many top wrestlers, the wrestling program also will be without two coaches who built powerful programs and won divisional team championships last season. Dave Izzo of Ramstein and Joe Fiedler of Brussels are gone.
However, their legacies linger.
“Joe got tired of all the bus rides,” Fiedler’s successor, Tim Mobley, said by telephone on Wednesday. “Twenty-some years of bus rides really mounts up.”
Twenty-some years of program-building also mounts up. Paul Moseman, third last season at 135 for the Division IV champion Brigands, leads a squad of 18 this season, Mobley said.
“We only have 50 or so boys in the high school,” he said, “so we have more than a third of them out for wrestling. That shows you how much the school values what Fiedler built.”
If that doesn’t, try last season’s victory margin in Division IV — 70-28 over runner-up Alconbury.
Like Mobley, Ramstein’s Pellaton appreciates what he was bequeathed by Rizzo, who transferred to another school and is not coaching wrestling this year.
“Dave … left the house in very good order,” said Pellaton, who coached in the Far East from 1987-2002 before going to Würzburg in 2003 and Ramstein in 2004.
“This is not a difficult place to coach. The wrestlers know what to do and what’s expected of them, the managers know their routines, and the parents and kids step in to help with the administrative tasks. I’m lucky to be here.”
Eric Oyan, the fourth-place finisher at 189 in 2006, and Jeremiah Raveling are expected to help Fortunato lead a “huge bunch of newbies” seeking a repeat crown for Ramstein against perennial powers Wiesbaden and Heidelberg.
Sheer numbers also assist Jim Hall at Naples, where Campos tops a list of 17 returnees.
With Division II champion Patch, led by Ricks and three other European medalists — Matt Gorry, Nick Rogers and Brian Taylor — moving to D-I this season, Naples, second last season, moves into the favorite’s role in Division II. Baumholder, up from D-III and led by bronze medalist David Crow; Aviano, which returns former champion Gary Vogt; perennial power Bitburg, under new coach Terrence Hoffman; and Vilseck, buoyed by its influx of new talent from Fort Lewis, Wash., also are expected to contend.
Coach Fredo Ontiveros is racing the clock as he leads Division III champion London Central into its final wrestling campaign.
“We’re closing next year,” he said by telephone Wednesday, “so we aren’t building for the future. We’ve got to get all our freshmen and first-year wrestlers wrestling like seniors by February. It changes your whole mind-set.”
Ontiveros has five ’06 European qualifiers coming back, including fourth-place finisher Hugh Borchers. But no wrestler is looking forward to this February more than London Central returnee Alex Cook, who broke his collarbone is his first match in the Europeans last February. At the time, he was 19-0.
D-III runner-up Hohenfels, led by silver medalist Dameon Odum, is among the challengers hoping to dethrone London Central in the European championships Feb. 16-17 at Wiesbaden, but the outcome is less important than the process to Ontiveros.
“What’s going to be great about this season is the schedule,” he said. “We go to the Continent three times — to Bitburg, AFNORTH and SHAPE.
“In the past, we mainly wrestled in the U.K., so when we got to Europeans, it was a tossup. Now we’ll know what to expect.”