|Keegan Connelly||Al Russamano|
After a highly successful 2018-19 campaign that saw The University of Scranton wrestling team win 11 matches and produce its first qualifier for the NCAA Division III National Championships in 12 years, the Royals will look to aim even higher this season, as the team begins their 2019-20 campaign on Saturday at the Brockport Open in Brockport, N.Y.
Leading the program into the campaign will be head coach Al Russomano, who enters his 14th season as head coach of the wrestling program this year, and despite losing NCAA qualifier Dan D'Agostini to graduation, the Royals return both a core group of strong returnees (15 in all) and 14 newcomers, the programs largest recruiting class ever.
In the offseason, Russomano also added a new assistant coach in John Burgette, a familiar name to local wrestling fans. A former student-athlete at Clarks Summit University, Burgette formerly served as the head wrestling coach at Scranton High School. With the Royals program, Burgette is already in charge of the team's practice regiment and will join Russomano mat side all year coaching during competition.
On the mat, the team's top returner entering the season is senior Keegan Connelly (Schnecksville, Pa./Allentown Central Catholic), who last year posted a 36-11 mark wrestling at 285. Connelly, who finished fifth at last year's NCAA Mideast Regionals, enters the 2019-20 season ranked as the top wrestler in his weight class in the region and is 20th nationally in all of NCAA Division III.
Elsewhere, junior Kyle Shaffer (Mahwah, N.J./Mahwah) returns to the Royals after winning 17 matches last season at 165, as does senior T.J. Conlon (Long Branch, N.J./Long Branch), who also won 17 times last year at 149.
Rounding out the top returnees for the Royals include sophomore Matthew Murawski (Harrington Park, N.J./Northern Valley - Old Tappan), who was 22-14 in his freshman season at 125, junior Aidan McNally (Scranton, Pa./Scranton), who posted a 21-13 mark at 174 a season ago, sophomore A.J. Sortino (Manalapan, N.J./Manalapan) who captured 10 matches a season ago at 133.
The Royals will kick off the season on Saturday when they travel to SUNY Brockport for the Brockport open. Scranton, however, returns home on Sunday, Nov. 9 as the Royals host the annual Electric City Duals inside the John Long Center beginning at 10 a.m. In the event, Scranton will enter both an "A" and "B" team, as the Royals look to improve upon last season's third place finish in the event.
Following a trip to McDaniel for the Green Terror Duals on Nov. 17, Scranton returns home on Nov. 20 when they host East Stroudsburg in the Long Center beginning at 7 p.m. This will be the final home bout for the Royals until January, as the team will hit the road for the Penn Tech Duals on Nov. 23 and the Bob Quaid Open at Centenary on Dec. 8.
After a long break for the Holidays, the Royals return home to the Long Center on Jan. 8 when they take on Hunter. Over the final two months of the season, Scranton will host Elizabethtown (Jan. 21), Alfred State (Feb. 1) and Wilkes (Feb. 9). Following their final regular season bout at King's on Feb. 14, the Royals will then head to the NCAA Mideast Regionals on Feb. 28 and 29 in Ithaca, N.Y.
The 2020 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships are set for Mar. 13 and 14 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
For the full 2019-20 University of Scranton wrestling schedule, click here: https://athletics.scranton.edu/sports/wrest/2019-20/schedule
Fans are also reminded that they can follow the Royals all season long on Instagram @scrantonwrestling.