Wrestling team builds on second season as club

After the Division I program was disbanded in 1985, the Owls returned in 2014 as a club team.

In its second season since 1985, the Temple wrestling team is finding its footing.

After its Division I program disbanded 31 years ago, Temple wrestling returned as a club team last season, finishing undefeated and sending seven wrestlers to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championships in Texas.

This season, the Owls—ranked No. 13 in the NCWA Division I poll—finished the regular season 8-13, and coach Kurt Paroly said the team is headed in a positive direction.

“From being only a [second] year program, to becoming one of the top programs in the country in a short amount of time … everyone is satisfied,” Paroly said.

After nine wrestlers finished within the Top 6 in their weight classes at the NCWA Mid East Conference Championship on Feb. 27—including a first place finish by senior Marcus Newsom at 197 pounds—the Owls have five wrestlers ranked in the Top 20 in their individual weight classes, including No. 9 Matt Mooney at 125 pounds and No. 4 Newsom.

Eight wrestlers finished in the Top 5 at the conference championships, qualifying them to compete at the NCWA National Wrestling Championships on Thursday through Saturday at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida.

“Our name is out there now,”  133-pound senior Alex Barday said. “Hopefully we can get new kids coming in now that we’ve been around for two seasons.”

Phil Richards—an alumnus and founder of North Star Resource Group— set plans in motion to bring back the team following his appointment to the Board of Trustees in 2009. Richards, who wrestled for Temple in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, provided the donation necessary to spark the program’s recreation.

Richards then contacted Bob Ferraro, Sr.,CEO and president of the National High School Coaches Association, to find candidates for head coach.

Paroly, a former Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic team coach and current head coach of the Southeast Pennsylvania Wrestling Club, was Ferraro’s top recommendation because of his extensive coaching experience and familiarity with the region’s top wrestling prospects.

“Phil Richards and Bob Ferraro … they planted the seeds with the higher-ups here,” Paroly said.

In their second season, the level of competition increased, as the Owls matched up with five NCAA Division II and III opponents, compared to zero in season one.

Injuries were also an issue this season, as junior Michael Walsh and Newsom were the only two Owls who didn’t miss any competition.

“Everyone was banged up. … When your starters are out it makes it harder to compete at this level,” Paroly said.

Mooney finished this season with 16 wins and four losses while wrestling at 125 pounds. He finished second at both the Doug Cherry Invitational and NCWA Mid East Conference Championship.

Newsom, along with a first-place finish at the conference championships, posted the team’s best record with 22 wins and two losses.

“We can definitely get this program back to where it once was,” Newsom said. “I really think we can build something special here.”

Several underclassmen performed well despite their relative inexperience, with freshman Eric An and sophomore Mark Kukulka placing third and fourth, respectively, in the conference championships at the 285 pound weight class.

“We’re going to have a very successful next couple of years,” Paroly said.

Ben Blaustein can be reached at benjamin.blaustein@temple.edu.

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