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No. 13 Wrestling Set to Defend OAC Title, Eyes Return to NCAA Championships

No. 13 Wrestling Set to Defend OAC Title, Eyes Return to NCAA Championships

BEREA, Ohio – The No. 13 nationally-ranked Baldwin Wallace University wrestling team enters the 2021-22 with the goal of defending its Ohio Athletic Conference title as well as eyeing a return to the NCAA Division III Championships.

BW, who won its fifth OAC crown in the last six seasons during the spring season, and veteran head coach Jamie Gibbs, return 27 letterwinners, seven Academic All-OAC performers, six All-OAC selections and three All-Americans from last year's squad that was a perfect 6-0.

Headlining the returners for the Yellow Jackets are senior All-American 157-pounder Stanley Bleich (North Ridgeville/Elyria Catholic), senior All-American 165-pounder Dalton Leightner (Ravenna/Rootstown), junior All-OAC 184-pounder Luke Salmon (Sandusky/Perkins) and junior All-American 197-pounder Doug Byrne (Wickliffe), who all enter the campaign ranked in the top-10 in their weight classes.

Bleich, who enters the season ranked third, returns as a four-time All-OAC performer after going a perfect 6-0 in 2021 with 15 takedowns, four escapes and two major decisions.  For his career, he is a two-time NCAA Division III National Championships qualifier and a National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-American.  Bleich ranks ninth on the all-time wins list with 105 victories and a 105-20 record. Off the mat, he is a three-time NWCA Scholar All-American team selection, two-time Academic All-OAC performer, a College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American, Dean's List student, a Jacket Scholar and a member of the Chi Alpha Sigma Honor Society.

Leightner enters the season ranked seventh.  He is a NWCA All-American first-team selection and a three-time OAC Wrestler of the Week performer.  Last spring, Leightner was 3-2 with five escapes, three falls and three takedowns.  For his career, he ranks 26th on the all-time wins list with 78 victories and a record of 78-34.  Off the matt, Leightner is a two-time NWCA Scholar All-American team pick.  

Salmon, who enters the season ranked eighth, comes back after garnering his second All-OAC honor.  In the spring, he posted a record of 5-1 with six takedowns, five escapes, three pins and one technical fall.   For his career, Salmon has tallied a record of 29-11 with 44 escapes, 36 takedowns, seven pins, five major decisions and four technical falls. Off the mat, he is a NWCA Scholar All-American Team selection.

Byrne enters the season ranked 10th.  He returns after earning his first All-OAC accolade and the OAC Award for most pins in the least amount of time with four in 13:21. Byrne finished his second season undefeated with a record of 6-0 and with five takedowns and four pins.  In 2019-20, he was a National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) All-American, NCAA Division III National qualifier and All-Central Region performer. In his two seasons, Byrne has a record of 31-9 with 48 takedowns, 44 escapes, 16 pins, three major decisions and one technical fall.  Off the mat, he is a NWCA Scholar All-American Team selection.

Other key returners are seniors All-OAC performer Kevin Kelly (North Olmsted), All-OAC and Academic All-OAC selections Tanner McHugh (New Ringgold, Pa./Tamaqua) and junior All-OAC performer Drew Levis (Elyria).

Kelly had a breakout season last spring as he earned his first All-OAC nod.  He went undefeated with a record of 7-0 with five takedowns, two pins, one major decision and one technical fall. For his career, Kelly posted a record of 33-21 with 38 takedowns, nine major decisions, five pins and four technical falls.

McHugh enters his final season ranked 38th on the all-time wins list with 65 victories and a two-time All-OAC selection.   Off the mat, McHugh is a two-time NWCA Scholar All-American team selection, two-time All-Academic All-OAC performer, Dean's list student, Jacket Scholar and member of the Chi Alpha Sigma Honor Society 

Levis earned his first All-OAC accolade in the spring after posting a record of 4-1 with three escapes, two takedowns and one pin.  For his career, Levis has a record of 12-4 with 13 escapes, eight takedowns and two pins.

In addition, Gibbs brings back a lot of experience, leadership in seniors Andrew Bachie (Berea/Berea-Midpark), Academic All-OAC performer Aidan Cardaman (Geneva), Ryan Haas (Toledo/Maumee), Quinton Kelley (Akron/Archbishop Hoban), Jarod Miller (Greenville, Pa./Reynolds) and Dominic Shelley (Mentor), juniors Zachery Anderson (Elyria/Midview), Connor DeBoe (Mentor), Luke Hopkins (Cuyahoga Heights), Joey Koplow (Newbury/Kenston), Academic All-OAC performer Griffin Rathburn (New Albany/Bishop Hartley) and Academic All-OAC performer Matthew Werts (Buffalo, N.Y./Saint Joseph's Collegiate Institute) and sophomores Jackson Allen (Webster, N.Y./Webster Thomas), Jaden Hinton (Glassboro, N.J.), Hunter Kupniewski (North Royalton), Robby Palmieri (Gibsonia, Pa./Pine-Richland), David Panda (Columbia, Md./Atholton), Michael Petrella (Reynoldsburg/Bishop Hartley), Justin Ritchie (Carlisle) and Mitch Sanders (Newbury).

Gibbs welcomes his largest class of newcomers in years as 21 first-time wrestlers will compete for time this season.  The 21 newcomers are junior Jacob Decatur (Akron/Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy), sophomores Max Carrier (Oberlin/The Gow School {N.Y.}) and Johnny Novak (Cleveland/St. Ignatius) and freshmen Brett Blaess (Jackson, N.J./Jackson Memorial), Jack Cain (Springfield/Shawnee), Cainan Comferford (Olmsted Township/Olmsted Falls), Evan Daniels (McDonald, Pa./Madonna {W.Va.}), Ben DeGuzman (North Canton/Hoover), Jared Fantauzzi (Willard/Edison), Max Farmer (Findlay), Carter Lloyd (Brecksville/Brecksville-Broadview Heights), Naseem Maali-Gentile (North Lima/South Range), Max Miller (Cleveland/North Royalton), Jarrison Moore (Burbank/Norwayne), Max Oprzadek (Sandusky/Perkins), Brian Palmer (Adena/Buckeye Local), Donovan Palmer (North Ridgeville/Lutheran West), Cole Thompson (Gallatin, Tenn./Beach), Drew Walker (Lancaster/Liberty Union), Tommy West (Avon Lake/St. Edward) and Tyler Wittreich (Painesville/Riverside).

BW opens the 2021-22 season on November 5 and 6 when it travels to Ithaca, New York to compete in the Ithaca College Invitational.  Action is slated to begin on Friday at 3:30 p.m. and at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Fans can follow the action live at

The Yellow Jackets open the home and OAC portion of their schedule on Tuesday, November 16 when they host an OAC match against the University Mount Union in the Ursprung Gymnasium inside the Lou Higgins Center at 7 p.m.  Fans can watch the action live at