Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rogers & Greenberg Flashback to Wrestling Origins

Hard as it may be to believe, F&M wrestling coaches Mike Rogers and Matt Greenberg weren’t wrestling in their cribs. In fact, both had rather unconventional, and surprisingly late introductions to the sport.

Growing up in Florida during the 80s and 90s, wrestling wasn’t the most popular sport. Truth be told, it was probably about as popular as sailing—maybe even less so.

During his freshman year of high school, Rogers began his wrestling career, and concluding his inaugural season with a grand total of five wins. As a senior, Rogers won states and took second place nationally, earning him recognition and recruiting visits from various colleges. Despite various offers from several schools across the country, Rogers chose Lock Haven University, a school which would accommodate his desire for a small campus with a Division I wrestling program.

Upon his immediate arrival, Rogers made a mark at Lock Haven, capturing first place at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championship. He would go on to defend that title for the remainder of his collegiate career, in addition to earning All-American accolades, and boasting two championship victories in the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL).

“I was of a part of a pretty good team—we finished fifth in the country, so that kind of put me on the track that small schools can compete with big schools,” Rogers said. “We’re a school of 3,000 students finishing fifth behind schools like Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State, right in the mix with a lot of Big 10, Big 12 schools.”

It was this aspect of wrestling that intrigued Rogers, and motivated him to work harder in order to upend the larger, better known schools.

“I think wrestling is a unique sport that lends itself to small schools being able to compete against large schools and it’s 10 guys against 10 guys, and you can really turn a situation where you have four or five guys getting big enough points, you can be as competitive as anyone else, so that was really appealing to me.”

Despite initially pursuing a career in special education, Rogers found his way back to wrestling, and is seeking to provide his team with the best collegiate wrestling experience possible, accompanied by top-tier academics.

Like Rogers, Greenberg began wrestling at a very late stage in the game, following an odd and unexpected turn of events.

As a sophomore in high school, Greenberg was enthralled with the prospect of snowboarding, and had recently purchased his first board. As he prepared to be a part of the snowboard clique and become one of the ‘dudes,’ Greenberg found himself getting into frequent trouble at school.

Notified of their son’s misbehavior, Greenberg’s parents quickly gave him an ultimatum—get rid of the snowboard, or find a winter hobby that would keep him out of trouble.

The school wrestling coach had called Greenberg’s home, suggesting that Matt and wrestling might be a match.

 “I stumbled into wrestling—my first practice I remember walking in and asking where the ropes were, and I thought it was pro wrestling. I had no idea what I was getting into,” said Greenberg. “Very quickly I realized it was the sport for me. I like the fact that you can control your own destiny, the fact that you don’t have to rely on other people holding up their end of the deal to be successful. If you want to win, you work harder than the guys around you, and you win.”

Equipped with this simple understanding of the sport, Greenberg embarked on what would prove to be an immensely successful career.

“Very quickly I became engulfed in the training, engulfed in the sport and I realized that this was something that could take me into college.”

Prior to his senior year, Greenberg received very little attention from recruiters, and finished his junior season fifth in the state. One year later, Greenberg entered the same tournament undefeated, but ended up taking third overall in the state.

“That’s when I started getting all the letters from the Ivy League schools and I said ‘wow I can do this.’ That summer, I took second in the country at the U.S. Nationals for high school, and I ended up committing to wrestle in college.”

Following his high school graduation, Greenberg matriculated at Columbia University, but his stay in the Upper West Side would be short-lived.

His sophomore year of college, Greenberg transferred to Cornell University, in what he deems “the best decision I ever made.”

“The program was on the way up, but it hadn’t established itself as the powerhouse it is today,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg thrived with the Big Red, aiding the team in its successful goal of breaking into the top-10 national rankings.

Greenberg finished his career as a four-time All-Ivy League selection, an Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) title at 197-pounds, All-America honors his senior season, and three trips to the Division I National Championship.  

Like Rogers, Greenberg is quite fond of the concept of wrestling at the D-I level, in a smaller, liberal arts setting, preparing its wrestlers for the working world, while enjoying the benefits of elite wrestling.

“I wanted to be in a place where you had student-athletes and not just athletes,” said Greenberg. “I like a program that doesn’t have to deal with the scholarship side of the sport. I wanted a program where 99 percent of the athletes went on to do something other than athletics after college.”

For both Rogers and Greenberg, F&M has been the perfect fit, and at the helm of Diplomat wrestling are two men doing far more than just coaching. The pair have a vision, and have made it their business to prepare every F&M wrestler that walks through the door for the competitiveness of D-I wrestling perfectly balanced with a liberal arts education and an understanding of the working world that will lead them to successful professional careers and lives. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

High Expectations for F&M as Regular Season Comes to a Close

As the product of a smaller and less well-known college wrestling program, head coach Mike Rogers has found a home for himself here at F&M.

While many people consider F&M to be disadvantaged in the highly competitive E.I.W.A., Rogers doesn’t feel any sort of handicap, despite the fact that F&M has far lass funds, a significantly smaller student body, and an athletic scholarship allowance of exactly zero dollars.

When Rogers took up the reigns here at F&M in 2011, the team only had nine wrestlers, and was forced to forfeit in three or four weights on a regular basis.

“It was quite the undertaking,” Rogers said. “We only had nine guys, we were forfeit in three or four weights, but I saw a lot of potential.”

While the school does not allow for athletic scholarships, Rogers and assistant coach Matt Greenberg have worked on selling the school itself to recruits, and advertising the wrestling program for what it is—a family of hardworking wrestlers giving their all day in and day out towards achieving one communal goal.

“By not having scholarships, no one’s here for the wrong reasons, so I think that helps where everyone is here for the right reasons,” said Rogers. “They want to get a good education and compete at the DI level. It’s a little bit liberating if you think of it that way. We’re attracting the right kids, and it streamlines our recruiting so if academically or financially it’s not going to work out, you don’t waste each others time.”

Despite lacking the means and funding found at other E.I.W.A. programs, F&M has become increasingly competitive, and has clawed its way up from the bottom to the middle of the conference.

The team has improved immeasurably in the last two seasons, and with just one senior being lost to graduation, this youthful team has a bright and promising future ahead.

This season, the team has gotten more dual meet wins than ever before at this point in the season, and though the Diplomats have a long way to go before an E.I.W.A. title, the distance they’ve come in recent years is truly remarkable.

“We’re not forfeiting any weight classes and that’s an accomplishment in itself,” Rogers said. “We’re continuing to make progress, and as we get individual and team success, that gives us some notoriety. I think we can be competitive, and if we can do that, that’s a pretty significant move forward to be in the middle of a conference that has such quality programs from each school.”

One of the major changes Rogers and Greenberg have been responsible for is the improvement in the level of conditioning and the workouts. Rogers’ motto throughout his coaching career has been “we don’t lose, we just run out of time.” Throughout the season thus far, this has been exemplified time and again, as several of the losses F&M suffered were narrow defeats after a strong comeback that fell just short.

“When we’re falling short it’s more the mental part of it, and we’re still not quite believing in ourselves, and we’re holding ourselves back early, so that by the time they think they can win the match they’ve either dug a hole so deep or they’re very apprehensive to take that next step” said Rogers. Once we start doing that we’ll move forward a lot quicker. We’re losing a lot of really close, competitive matches because we start a little slow. What we’re changing is the expectation.”

Though the expectations for the team are high and perhaps in this season, unattainable, Rogers emphasized the coaching staffs’ refusal to compromise on these standards.

“We expect them to train as if they’re going to win,” Rogers said.  “Our standards are pretty high, and I’m not willing to lower our standards to meet a certain goal. Either we make it or we don’t.”

Though this outlook might seem particularly harsh and illiberal, the Diplomats coaching staff has never been disappointed by a complete team effort, even if the result is a loss.   

“We talk to our guys quite often about vision, and we want our fans to be entertained when we wrestle,” said Rogers. “Go out there, give it your best effort, and make it exciting for people. I don’t see any reasons why we can’t have All-Americans and why we can’t be winning tournaments at the national level. I don’t think we’re any different than any of those schools.”

As the team prepares for the upcoming E.I.W.A. Championship on Mar. 8, all eyes will be on nationally ranked sophomore Rick Durso, and the equally supportive cast led by upperclassmen Andrew Murano and Eric Norgard, and Colin Lahiff, with big performances expected from lightweights Robert Ruiz and Aaron Moldoff. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Greenberg Hosts Weekly Radio Talk Show Analyzing Pop Culture, Sports

Though his job title indicates that the bulk of his work is confined to the wrestling mats, F&M assistant wrestling coach Matt Greenberg has gone above and beyond his obligations, and is truly embodying the liberal arts experience.

Earlier this month, Greenberg kicked off his first radio talk show on WFNM 89.1, titled “Matt's Bad Sports Show”. As a dilettante of pop culture and the world of athletics, Greenberg is eager to share his ruminations and observations on pop culture and sports with the local community, and plans on welcoming new guests to the show each week.

“It’s a fun show; I love being able to give my commentary on things that are going on in society,” Greenberg said. “I think a lot of people on campus want to have their voice heard, but might not have an outlet for it, and that’s what I’m hoping to give them—at least for an hour a week.”

Some of those guests include unheralded student-athletes like F&M wrestlers Andrew Murano ’14 and Colin Gironda ’16.

“They have a lot of talents,” said Greenberg.  “They’re not just wrestlers, they’re not just students; they’re unique people and they should be able to express what’s unique about them and what makes them different from all the people out there.”

While Greenberg never had the luxuries of a smaller liberal arts education, he has taken full advantage of the amenities available on campus, and is serving both Franklin & Marshall and the local community as far more than just the assistant wrestling coach.

Tune in for Greenberg’s show every Wednesday from 7-8 p.m. via local radio on 89.1, or online at 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Diplomats Nip Wildcats at Home 20-16

No longer will F&M wrestling be checked off as “an easy win” on the schedules of its opponents. No longer will the Diplomats settle for being able to count their wins on one hand.

For the first time in several years, F&M wrestling is off to a winning start. As Davidson prepared for the start of the match, many of the wrestlers were smiling, joking around with one another. A surprising number of Wildcat fans made the trip to Lancaster, but both they and their wrestlers left the building with their tails between their legs, bearing somber and defeated expressions.

In what Assistant Coach Matt Greenberg described as “a total team effort,” the Diplomats squeaked by Davidson 20-16, riding out an early five-bout win streak.

Sophomore Robert Ruiz took care of business at 133-pounds, capturing a major decision over Davdison’s Anthony Elias, putting F&M ahead 4-3. Nationally ranked Richard Durso dominated at the 141-pound spot, recording the only pin of the night, and supplementing an additional six points to F&M’s total.  Andrew Murano and Rob King picked up decision victories at 149 and 165-pounds, respectively, while senior Eric Norgard secured a crucial major decision victory over Nathaniel Powers.

The win snaps a four match losing streak in the series against the Wildcats but more importantly, marks the first time this season the team has wrestled top-to-bottom as a full squad.

“We were greedy and unselfish at the same time,” said Greenberg. “Guys earned bonus points where they were available and held them from bonus points when they [Davidson] were expecting them. We asked a lot of our entire team Friday. Guys did not know where or when they were going to wrestle, but they were still ready when called upon to perform. We had some injuries and even those guys stepped up big.”

 Under the tutelage of Coaches Rogers and Greenberg, F&M has never beat Davidson until now, and the Wildcats were certainly bewildered after seeing a 4-9 team transform itself into a 4-2 team in just two short years.

“We didn’t see them last year but I would have to say we were looking forward to wrestling them again and knew this year was as good a time as any for us to step up and show them things are different in Lancaster nowadays,” Greenberg said.

And show them they did. Coach Greenberg credits much of Friday’s win to Coach Mike Rogers’ strategizing and preparing to face the Wildcats.

“Coach Rogers is the best coach I have ever seen when it comes to match preparation,” Greenberg said. “We sat down and came up with different strategies depending on all the different scenarios match-by-match as to who would wrestle and what we needed from them. A lot of the credit off the mats goes to Rogers and his preparation.”
F&M will hit the mats again next weekend, as the team makes the short trip to Millersville University for the Mid Penn Duals, beginning Saturday Jan. 19, and concluding on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lahiff in Action

Colin Lahiff locked in combat with Gettysburg's Manny Markantone at 165-pounds. Lahiff pulled through with the sudden victory for F&M in the win on Wednesday, Jan. 9.

Diplomats Cruise Past Gettysburg, Improve to 3-2

In the decades long rivalry between Franklin & Marshall and Gettysburg Colleges, the Diplomats reminded the Bullets what it means to be a Division I program, punishing the visiting rivals 43-8 in the Mayser Center Wednesday evening.

F&M assumed a commanding 31-0 lead after six matches, with 18 of those points coming as a result of three Gettysburg forfeits. Freshman Aaron Moldoff fired up F&M with a quick pin to open at 125-pounds. Back-to-back forfeits at the 133 and 141-pound classes left sophomores Robert Ruiz and Richard Durso on the sidelines, giving F&M an additional 12 points.

Junior Andrew Murano stepped in at 149-pounds, contributing to the Diplomat attack with a major decision victory, while freshman Chuckie Kerkesner recorded a pin late in the heavyweight match to wrap up the night. Sophomore Isaiah Cromwell overcame a 5-1 deficit with a pin over Gettysburg’s Marshall Puls in 4:45 at 197-pounds, and Colin Lahiff pulled through with a sudden victory in a nail biter at 165. 

F&M’s suffered just two losses on the night, holding its opponent to under 10 points for the second time this season.

Assistant Coach Matt Greenberg was satisfied with the overall performance, but will be looking to make adjustments before Friday’s match against Davidson College.

“We’re trying to find guys who want to step up, who can handle the pressure and who want to take the role of a leader and we’ll keep putting guys out there until we can find the best possible line up,” Greenberg said. I was pleased with the win; I always think we can do better. Some of our guys didn’t necessarily take them [their opponents] out of the match as quickly as I would have liked. I think there were some good things, I’d like to see a little bit more; but that’s coaching—you always want to see more”

In the past couple years, F&M has come a long way, amending its schedule from predominantly Division III competition, to this year’s primarily D-I agenda.

“When I first got here, we had an entire Division III schedule. Three, four years ago we had four forfeits and we were in that position, so it kind of shows you how quickly you can turn things around. You’re never too good for anybody, you’re never above it.”  

When the Diplomats face Davidson on Friday, the team can’t afford to make any mistakes, and Coach Greenberg is counting on near flawless performances in every weight class.

“We’ve got to make some adjustments,” Greenberg said. “Some guys, they’re not going to have the opportunity to fix those mistakes and make up for some of those points that they gave away so we’re going to have to clean some things up. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and see the improvement.”

Murano, who carries the weight of being the lone 149-pounder on the team will be counted on for another strong performance.

The junior considers the win against Gettysburg to be a testament to F&M’s Division I status.

“It just shows that we belong at the Division I level and we know that,” Murano said. “We’re all Division I wrestlers, we’re all tough, we’re all pulling out wins and this is a programs that’s on the rise.”

Despite the win, Murano was utterly disappointed with the trio of forfeits, and his teammates’ inability to compete.

“For me, it’s frustrating, but for them [teammates who won by forfeit] it’s extremely frustrating. A lot of people would be happy just getting the win, but we’re not happy. We want to go out there and we want to wrestle and show what we can do. It’s nice to have six points on the board in all three weight classes, but at the same time, I’d like to get six points in all three of those weight classes with our guys wrestling.”

Murano is expectantly awaiting Friday’s match, where no forfeits are likely to be seen.

“It’s tough to get your weight down mid-week, and we may have been a little sluggish today, but come Friday we’re taking on Davidson so we should have no problem with that—I think we’re going to win as a team.”

For Murano, competing against Division III Gettysburg served as a reinforcement reminding him why he chose Division I F&M, rather than a D-III program.

“We’re small fish in a big pond, and we just want to show that the small fish can really do well at this level,” Murano said. “That’s what we’re out here to prove and we don’t want it any other way.”

While the Diplomats face myriad challenges this season, the improvements the team has made are immeasurable. F&M currently holds a 3-2 record, contrasted with last year’s 0-5 start, and the team will look to improve to 4-2, at 7:30 p.m. Friday here in Lancaster.