By Nick Jurney
PUEBLO, Colo. (GoThunderWolves.com - Oct. 24, 2013) - The Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves' wrestling squad is gearing up for their 2013-14 campaign with three wrestlers individually ranked and the team sitting just outside the top 20.
Dax Charles, a former national champion for the program in 1992, enters his sixth season as the head coach for the ThunderWolves.
Last year, Charles coached his first national champion since the program's 2008 resurrection in Jesse Hillhouse, who is sticking around to be a student assistant coach while he completes his degree at CSU-Pueblo.
"Jesse brings great leadership into the room," Charles said. "By staying on and finishing his degree, he gives a good example to the kids both on and off the mat."
Another asset that Charles adds to the coaching staff this year is a third former CSU-Pueblo national champion, Chris Currier. Currier works as an engineer and has assisted with youth wrestling clubs in Pueblo for several years, and brings along a resume that includes an induction into the Colorado chapter of the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame and the CSU-Pueblo Athletics Hall of Fame.
The coaching staff has a talented group to work with, led by returning national qualifiers Ray Hall (Sr., Garfield, Ark.), Trevor Grant (Sr., Winnemucca, Nev.) and Niko Bogojevic (Jr., Superior, Wisc.).
Hall was an All-American for the ThunderWolves at 174 pounds last year, and will wait to make his season debut until the second semester while he makes the transition to 157 pounds, according to Charles.
Meanwhile, filling the void for Hall at 157 pounds will be Anthony Thomas (Fr., Vancouver, Wash.).
Trevor Grant, a former national qualifier and Academic All-American is expected to hold his position as the team's starting 165 pound position as he looks to place in the NCAA tournament for the first time.
Bogojevic will return for his second season at CSU-Pueblo and fill the heavyweight role once again. Bogojevic turned in a respectable season last year, amassing 20 victories and qualifying for the national tournament.
This year, Charles believes Bogojevic will do much more than that.
"He'll be a definite All-American," Charles said, "if he's not in the hunt for a title."
The rest of the lineup fills out nicely for Charles' squad as well, featuring a dangerous mixture of youth and experience.
At 125 pounds, two ThunderWolves will be competing for the starting spot. Eric Hughes (Jr., Bolivar, Mo.), a former two-time junior college All-American from Labette (Kan.) Community College will be competing with Pueblo's own Alex Baca (So., Pueblo, Colo.).
Baca, a standout prep wrestler at Pueblo Central, transfers in from Division I University of Wyoming with experience and his home crowd on his side.
"Alex is a great kid," Charles said. "He came back to be a part of our program, and we are looking for great things out of him."
Another Pueblo native Tim Urenda (So., Pueblo, Colo.), fresh off a redshirt year, will be competing for the 133-pound spot with veteran Jimmy Chase (Jr., Hanover Park, Ill.), who competed for the ThunderWolves at 141 pounds last season.
At 141 pounds for the ThunderWolves this year will be Chad Vandiver (Sr., Roscoe, Ill.). Vandiver brings his talents to CSU-Pueblo by way of Division I University of Northern Illinois. Over the last several years, however, Vandiver has been training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and is stepping in for the ThunderWolves for his final year of eligibility.
Coach Charles was excited to get the addition of Vandiver, and was pleased at the maturity and leadership that he brings to the team.
Another Division I transfer makes his way to the ThunderWolves' lineup at 149 pounds with the addition of Justin Gonzales (Sr., Greely, Colo.). Gonzales steps into the spotlight after spending his last three seasons at the University of Northern Colorado in Greely, and heads into his final season slated to finish eighth in the initial rankings. According to Charles, though, that ranking isn't high enough.
"Justin is a great kid and a great student," Charles said. "I think he can win the whole thing."
At 174 pounds for the ThunderWolves will be the return of Matt Addington (Jr., Florence, Colo.), who is coming off a redshirt. Addington was in the ThunderWolves' lineup for his freshman and sophomore seasons before being sidelined with an injury before the regional tournament in 2012.
"Matt is coming back for his third year, and we hope to get him through without any injuries," Charles said. "We are really excited for him."
Augie DeSantis (So., Escondido, Calif.), brother of former CSU-Pueblo regional champion Louie DeSantis, will take over at 184 pounds after transferring from Palomar (Calif.) Community College.
The final position battle will be at 197 pounds, where veteran of the program Chris Frisbie (So., Castle Rock, Colo.) will be competing with Riley Argyle (Jr., Jerome, Idaho). Argyle previously competed at Western Wyoming Community College, where he earned All-American status.
Charles expects this year's team to exceed expectations, and warns that the rankings won't hold them out of the top-20 for long.
"After the first few tournaments this year, we'll definitely be up there," Charles said.