ADRIAN, Mich. — If Sunday's intrasquad was any indication, men's wrestling fans will be in for a treat this year.
The Black team used a pin by Isaiah Espinoza at heavyweight to get a come from behind win over the Gold 21-18 during the Bulldogs' annual wrestle-off.
A crowd of around 200 fans, parents, family members and Adrian College students filled Merillat to get the first glimpse of this season's team.
"It just goes with the growth of the program. It made for a great atmosphere and event for the kids that it wasn't just mom and dads in there," said Head Coach Bill Schindel. "It was awesome that we had maybe a couple of hundred people in the crowd and if we can build off of that and maybe get 1,000 people here for our home duals -- it makes it pretty exciting."
Others winning matches for the Black team included Tanner Smith, Spencer Sillman, Derick Duvall and Dylan Wellbaum.
Picking up wins for the Gold team was Mateo Diaz, Robert Nowik, Noah Nieman and Devon Pingel.
Celebrity coaches for the Black team included Men's Lacrosse Coach Brett Wetzel and Assistant Baseball Coach Mitchell Griffiths and for the Gold team it was Softball Coach Ashley Marinacci and Athletic Trainer Caitlin O'Brien.
"To these guys it meant something," Schindel said. "That's what we wanted this to be -- we got a good look of where we are at as far as dual meets go. We've instilled something that they do not want to lose a match even if it's to a teammate. If guys do not want to lose a match just to a teammate, what do you expect from them when they wrestle someone who is wearing a different singlet?"
The Bulldogs open the season with their annual 12-team Adrian Bulldogs Invitational on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Schindel said his goal for his team this weekend is simple.
"We're looking to get better," he said. "We cannot win a national title this weekend. So we're just looking to get better. We have a great field. Obviously, we want to be able to win everything but at the end of the day the focus has to be on getting better."
Wrestling starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Merillat Sport and Fitness Center.
Adrian hosts eight events this season -- including five dual meets, the Adrian College Duals tournament and the NCAA DIII Midwest Regional.
"It's always been a dream of mine to host a regional," Schindel said. "It's going to be great. It's great for our program exposure on a national level. When you're hosting the regional tournament, you're one of six schools in the country to host something. With that comes some name recognition."
The Bulldogs finished the dual season at 8-3 and tied for second in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
"Every year we've gotten better. We have a lot of duals scheduled this year -- I want to see can we start to compete," Schindel said. "Can we put ourselves in a position to compete for an MIAA title? Can we be mentally and physically tough enough to go in and battle?
"If we can do that I think we will put ourselves in a pretty good position."
The Bulldogs set numerous program records last season, including largest margin of victory in a dual meet and most dual wins in a season.
"We can continue to push the standard around here. We are getting better," Schindel said. "We have got a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, a little bit of an edge but we are still a little bit unproven."
Schindel wants his squad to break into the national rankings as a team.
"Adrian College should be in the top-25 in the country," he said.
Pingel is expected to lead the way for the Bulldogs this season. He was a national qualifier last year and led the team with a 28-8 record.
He also was the first Bulldog since 1979 to earn All-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association accolades.
Pingel, who led Adrian in victories and pins (9), was the third Bulldog in the modern era of the program (since 2015-16) to represent Adrian at the NCAA Championships.
"That's big in terms of guys are able to look around in the room and say, 'this is what it looks like,'" Schindel said of Pingel being a NCAA qualifier. "Hopefully we can get him to finish as an all-American this season."
The Bulldogs have nine returning starters this season and that depth should pay off.
"They believe in the process. They believe in this institution. They believe in our coaching staff," Schindel said. "We're not in a position where we just have to lean on Devon Pingel. Guys know what they have to do. The great part is we only have one senior. We have an opportunity to make a pretty good run here."
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