Wrestling Welcomes Nine in Class of 2015
Courtesy: Columbia University Athletics/Brent Hugo

NEW YORK - A total of nine new faces will join the 2011-12 Columbia Wrestling program, head coach Brendan Buckley announced today.  The Class of 2015 features student-athletes from eight different states who will compete in eight different weight classes.

"I am thrilled about the incoming group of freshmen that hail from eight different states for what is an incredibly diverse group of young men," said Buckley, the Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling.  "In addition to spanning the entire country, this group covers a range of weight classes from 133 pounds through heavyweight.  They have proven that they can compete on a national level and have demonstrated a year round commitment to the sport, something that is very important to us. We are expecting them to make contributions right away."

The class of 2015 is listed below with a statement on each incoming student-athlete from Coach Buckley:

Austin Akins - Colonial Heights, Va. - Matoaca (184/197)

"Austin has competed in nearly ever major tournament in the US - the Super 32, the Beast of the East, NHSCA Nationals, and the Asics Freestyle Junior Nationals.  He may be used at both the 184 and 197 pound weight classes.  He has a terrific attitude and is going to continue to improve."

Four-year letterwinner and three-time captain of wrestling team ... finished 46-5 as a senior with 24 pins ... team placed second at the Central Regional ... individually placed fourth at Virginia AAA States ... finished seventh at the Super 32 Challenge ... Richmond All-Metro at 189 pounds ... Academic All-State as a junior and senior.

Wyatt Baker - Anaheim Hills, Calif. - Servite  (Hwt.)

"As one of the top heavyweights in the state of California for the last two years, we are very excited to bring in another solid wrestler in this weight class.  Wyatt made the finals of the Five Counties Tournament as a junior and then won the tournament this year as a senior. He is big, strong, and very agile and is expected to be challenged as he works with Kevin Lester next year."

Earned eight letters in wrestling (3), football (3) and track (2) ... All-County wrestler ... finished sixth in the state and top-12 in the nation as a senior ... three-time league champion and two-time Cif champion ... competed at the Junior National Duals ... named the Five Counties and Peoria MVP ... had 43 wins by fall in 2011.

Eric Fajardo -Lincoln Park, N.J. - Boonton - (149)

"Eric was a two-time state place-winner in one of the most competitive weight classes. He is a very good athlete with a strong background in judo where he has won several national titles.  Incredibly explosive and very strong, he will be making big gains in a short period of time as he now completely devotes himself to the sport of wrestling."

Earned four letters in wrestling and three each in football and baseball ... captained the wrestling team in 2010 and 2011 ... four-time county finalist and three-time region finalist ... also was a district finalist all four years, twice taking top honors ... three-time state qualifier ... finished fourth in the state twice ... had 29 pins in a season ... holds the all-time pin record and wins record ... seven-time Junior National Champion in Judo.

Shane Hughes - Sussex, Wisc. - Arrowhead Union (184)

"Shane hails from Arrowhead High School in Wisconsin (same school as NCAA Champions, Ben and Max Askren) where he had a nice career.  Originally from Pittsburgh, he placed twice at the Wisconsin state tournament and made the finals this year with a major upset of Devin Peterson in the semifinals for what was his first loss in 49 matches."

Competed in wrestling and football ... compiled an impressive 39-6 record at 189 pounds as a senior, and 37-14 record at 171 as a junior ... part of the 2010 Wisconsin National Dual Team (Greco Roman) National Champions ...  in 2010 was a Wisconsin State Champion in Freestyle and Greco at 189 pounds.

Matt Idelson - Glen Mills, Pa. - Garnet Valley (197)

Matt put his name on the map as a junior when he won the Beast of the East.  This past year he won title at the Super 32 tournament and made the finals of the Beast of the East, and this was while he had Mono.  He then placed fifth at the PIAA State Tournament.  He is very athletic and moves incredibly well for a big guy.  He should jump right into the starting role next year."

Earned four letters in wrestling and twice served as team captain ... first team All-County at 215 pounds as a junior ... named the All-County Wrestler of the Year in 2011 ... as a senior picked up 43 wins including 27 by fall ... team won the Central League title in 2011 ... two-time National Spanish Honor Society and National Society for High School Scholars.

Ryan Ponte - Pepperell, Mass. - Northfield Mount Hermon (133)

"Ryan is a gifted athlete from Northfield Mt. Hermon where he placed four times at the National Prep Tournament.  We had the chance to work with Ryan at our summer camp and were immediately impressed with his wrestling abilities.  Ryan should compete at the 133 pound weight class but could also see time at 141."

Earned four letters in wrestling ... served as team captain as a junior and senior ... four-time National Prep All-American (4th, 3rd, 4th, 5th) ... four-time New England Prep finalist, and two-time champion ... won the Class A Prep title all four years ... as a senior named the Class A Most Outstanding Wrestler and had the most pins in the least amount of time ... holds school record for most career wins and most career pins ... finished high school career with a 159-21 record and 102 pins ... team was New England Champions three years and finished fifth at National Preps in 2011.

Chad Ryan - Sioux City, Iowa - North High (157)

"Chad accomplished a rare feat by placing four times at the Iowa State Tournament as well as earning a state championship title his junior year.  While only wrestling 145 at the state tournament, he is nearly six feet tall and is expected to grow into a 157 or even 165 pounder later in his career.  He is very aggressive and has the ability to scramble very well."

Earned four letters in wrestling and two in cross country ... captained the wrestling team as a senior ... compiled a 178-13 record over four years ... finished with over 100 career pins ... finished second in the state as a freshman at 103 pounds and fourth as a sophomore at 125 pounds ... won the Iowa state title as a junior at 130 pounds in 2010 before capping his career with a third place finish at 145 pound ... member of the National Honor Society.

Elijah Sullivan - Dunlap, Iowa - Iowa City West (141)

"Elijah is one of two incoming freshmen that hails from the state of Iowa.  Elijah was a state finalist and three time state place-winner at the ultra-competitive Iowa State Tournament.  He is also no stranger to Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling having earned All-American status in both styles as well as winning an Asics Junior National title in Freestyle.  We expect him to challenge for a starting role next year."

Four-year letterwinner in wrestling and two-time team captain ... in 2009 finished third in the state and was a Junior Greco All-American ... as a junior placed second in the state and was a Junior Greco National Champion ... placed third at states and finished his senior year with a 46-2 record ... member of the National Honor Society.

Ben Villaret - Staten Island, N.Y. - St. Benedicts Prep (165)

"After a fourth place finish at the Asics Greco-Roman Junior Nationals, Ben did a post-grad year at St. Benedict's and made the finals at the 160 pound weight class losing a close match to nationally ranked, Bobby Burg from Mercersburg Academy.  Ben is a very good athlete that will thrive once he gets into the college environment."

Competed for four years in wrestling at Monsignor Farrell, captaining the team as a senior ... did a post-graduate year at St. Benedicts Prep in 2011 ... three-time CHSAA champion and New York State qualifier ... named first team All-Prep in 2011 ... 2010 New York State Freestyle and Greco Roman Champion at 160 pounds ... also earned All-American honors in Greco after placing fourth in Fargo.