DURHAM, N.C. – Head wrestling coach Clar Anderson understands the value of having a strong and supportive senior core of athletes to lead a program with the knowledge and experience that they have gained over their four years on the mat.
But to become an experienced and mature grappler you need to start at the beginning, and this season Anderson, who added seven new freshmen to his roster for the current season, threw six of the seven into the fire of competition.
Anderson thinks they have all competed against some of the top wrestlers in the country and the ACC allowing them the chance to gain the experience and knowledge firsthand of the preparation and dedication that is needed to compete at the highest level.
“They are getting a tremendous amount of competitive experience that a lot of freshmen don’t get the chance to experience,” Anderson said. “It is a toughening, hardening experience. Stepping out in front of your crowd or your opponent’s crowd and they’re trying their best to dominate you while you’re trying your best to dominate them, it just creates an environment that you can’t replicate.”
The freshman competed in 96 total matches during the season being pitted against some of the most talented and experienced wrestlers in the country, walking away with a combined 41 wins.
The freshman played an important role and Duke got off to a 5-0 start on the season before finishing with a 10-5 mark and 1-4 against other ACC competition.
“I think it’s been probably the key to a lot of our success that we’ve had,” Anderson said. “I get some wrestlers here that may not have had the national accolades of a full scholarship kid from another school, but because they’re thrown into the mix so quickly, they learn to compete with those athletes and often overtaking them by their junior or senior year.”
The class, made up of Peter Terrezza, Jack Anderson, Diego Bencomo, Andrew Fulk, Christopher Mullen, Nick Adamo and Nico Cortese, received a full season’s worth of experience and knowledge during their first year at Duke.
“It’s good to get my experience in early,” Terrezza said. “This is setting me up for the years to come, getting used to college wrestling and the speed.”
Terrezza displayed the most success on the mat of the Duke freshman finishing up the season with a 22-18 record that saw the Manhasset, N.Y. native record five wins out of six matches during the Davidson Open on Dec. 6.
After dropping his first match of the season, Terrezza reeled of his best winning streak of the year winning five straight matches during the Citadel Open on Nov. 8.
As for any first year student athlete, ups and downs are too be expected, and Terrezza had his share, but be grew and became more physical with every match closing out the year winning four of five matches.
As a prep, the 125 pound grappler finished fifth at the New Jersey state meet as a senior being named team MVP earning all-conference and All-Union County honors as both a junior and a senior at New Providence High School.
Getting use to the speed of collegiate wrestling has been the biggest hurdle for Terrezza.
“Everything’s a lot quicker, you have to react faster,” Terrezza said. “Also, in college wrestling everyone is tough. There aren’t kids that you can just take it easy on; you have to go all out every night.”
Practices have been an adjustment as well. Terrezza spends more time training now then he did in high school because everybody is so talented and has been the top athlete on their respected high school teams.
“The intensity is definitely a lot higher because everyone here is just trying to get better,” he said.
The other freshman with double-digit wins on the season is Jack Anderson who posted a 10-13 record on the year winning three straight matches twice, once during the Hokie Open on Nov. 16, and then again later in the season picking up the decision at the Dual in VMI on Jan. 28 following that with two more wins at the GWU Duals on Jan. 31.
Jack, a Merced, Calif. native, who attended Golden Valley High School, was surprised to start so soon as a freshman upon arriving at Duke.
“In high school, I wasn’t the best during my three underclassmen years, but my senior year I think I developed a lot,” Jack said. “I got recruited late, and I didn’t see Duke until May.”
Anderson, who wrestles at 133 pounds, compiled a 129-38 record over his high school career capping his career off with a 52-8 record during his senior season taking seventh in the state championships.
His improvement on the mat began during senior year of high school and has continued into his first year of collegiate competition.
“I’ve been getting rid of a lot of bad habits I’ve made over the last few years, and I’m developing new styles and techniques from all these coaches that have been national champs,” he said.
“I’m getting experience now against people who have had three or four years already,” he added. “I’ve been wrestling redshirt juniors and redshirt sophomores so they’re three years older than me. So I can see myself maturing a lot over the course of my years here.”
Bencomo, who wrestles at 184 pounds, had the next best record going 7-4, but wrestled unattached during the season so his numbers were not counted into Duke’s final total. Bencomo will redshirt his freshman year giving the Phoenix, Ariz. native another year of eligibility as well as the experience of facing collegiate competition.
Bencomo, who was a four year letterwinner at Independence High School, compiled a prep record of 121-10 winning back-to-back state championships during his junior and senior year.
Adamo, Fulk and Mullen all recorded a single win for Duke during the season, while Cortese was the lone freshman not to compete in a regular season match.
Adamo, a Closter, N.J. native, garnered first-team all-league honors all four years at Northern Valley Demarest High School.
Fulk was a four-year letterwinner at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Fla. compiling a 154-25 career record including a 50-1 mark his senior year taking home the state championship.
Mullen captained his North Valley Regional High School team during his junior and senior seasons, lettering all for years. The Harrington Park, N.J. native was a three-time all-league first team selection.
Cortese arrived at Duke from Murraysville, Pa. wrestling in high school at Greensburg Central Catholic. He compiled a four year record of 157-16 including a 46-2 record during his senior year with a third-place finish in the PIAA AAA State Championship.
“They are wrestling some of the top wrestlers in the country and they are holding their own, finishing matches,” Anderson said. “The first time around they may lose by five, six, seven, eight points. The next time around we’re hoping to close that gap and sneak up and take a few of them down.”