NORFOLK (WAVY) – Steve Martin said he didn’t think it would take “this long” to get the Old Dominion wrestling program moving, but as of right now it may have been worth the wait. In his eleventh season as head coach, Martin has the Monarchs ranked no. 22 by USA Today and the National Wrestling Coaches Association as they head to the National Championships in St. Louis, Miss.
Seven Moncarchs made the tournament, which ties a school record. “We have four guys seeded in the top ten…and we’re looking to get guys on the podium, and see if we can’t get some national champs too,” said Martin.
While Martin firmly believes all seven qualifiers have a shot, the one to look out for will be Jack Dechow. A sophomore from Richmond, Ill., Dechow is 29-1 this season following an All-American freshman campaign in which he finished fourth at the national tournament.
All that, and he’s not satisfied. “My goal this year is to win it,” said Dechow, “I’m not going to be happy unless I get my hand raised on the top of that podium.
Dechow’s teammate Chris Mecate has a 2-4 record over the last two years in the NCAA’s. His nickname for Dechow is the “Real Chicago Bear.
“He has that inner-arrogance that it takes to be a champion,” said Mecate, “He honestly has it and he knows, when he goes in there he expects to win.” Mecate is 21-8, while teammate and fifth-year senior Taylor Tristan Warner is back in the national tournament for the third year, looking for his first win.
“To make it that far, but not to come back with any hardware is very disappointing,” said Warner. “The motivation here is, last time, I’m going to go out there, just let it all fly and hopefully come back with All-American.” Although he’s 0-2 at the NCAA Tournament, he was the first athlete in ODU history to be awarded the prestigious Elite 89 Award, which is a national award given to an athlete that excels both in the field of competition and in the classroom.
There hasn’t been a national champion wrestler from ODU since 1974, but Martin feels like this is as good a year as any to change that. “It’s going to be interesting going into the tournament. Our guys are ready to scrap,” he said.