Veteran Mountaineer wrestling team begins new season

Last+season%2C+redshirt+senior+Jon+Jon+Millner+became+the+second+Mountaineer+to+earn+NCAA+All-American+honors+twice.+

Courtesy of Andy McLean, App State Athletics

Last season, redshirt senior Jon Jon Millner became the second Mountaineer to earn NCAA All-American honors twice.

Trey Blake

After JohnMark Bentley’s 13th season as the App State wrestling head coach saw the team go 9-2 overall and 7-0 in conference play, an All-American in Jon Jon Millner, and a top-30 finish at the NCAA Championship, spirits could not be higher. 

“I’m very excited that we are in that position where we have the challenge to win championships,” Bentley said. “This year is probably the most excited I’ve been in my 14 years as a head coach here mainly because I really love this team.”

With a veteran Mountaineer team that features three preseason All-SoCon wrestlers in Caleb Smith at 125 lbs., Jon Jon Millner at 149 lbs. and Cody Bond at 157 lbs. respectively, and a No. 2 SoCon preseason ranking, it’s hard not to be excited about the trajectory of the wrestling program. With Millner showing out last season in the NCAA Championships, grabbing sixth place in the 149 weight division, the team also sent four other wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. 

The six of 10 starters returning from last season will have the workload fall heavily on those six. All six of the returners are ranked inside the top 50 of their weight divisions, so the thought of them carrying the team is not a scary one. With two seniors in Milner and Bond, and three Juniors within the starting lineup experience is something that the Mountaineers will rely on.

“This is a very veteran team for the most part and they have been through a lot of highs and lows in the last 3-5 years,” Bentley said. “They know what the grind is like, and that should create confidence in the team.” 

As the Black and Gold have three top 20 matches on the schedule, there’s little room for failure for the four new faces to the lineup. The four additions to the starting roster will look to contribute as well. Bentley praised all four, saying that they “had great offseasons and have chips on their shoulder.”

The three top 20 teams the Mountaineers will face this year are No. 12 NC State in Raleigh, No. 17 Virginia Tech in Boone and No. 19 North Carolina in Chapel Hill. With NC State and North Carolina being the lone two losses on the Black and Gold’s 9-2 record last year, and all three teams finished in the top 20 at the NCAA Championships, this is a great opportunity for the Black and Gold to get a program-defining win during this season.

App State’s home opener, the Mountaineer Invitational, comes Nov. 12.