WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue wrestling team is less than two weeks from the start of their 2019-20 competition schedule, opening Saturday, Nov. 2 at the Michigan State Open. The Boilermakers’ lower weights will see a little bit of consistency from 2018-19, but a lot of change and new faces as they open the season.
The Boilermakers return a welcome and familiar face at the bottom of the lineup in junior Devin Schroder. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native has won 40 matches over his first two seasons, including a 21-13 mark as Purdue’s starter last year. He placed eighth at the 2019 Big Ten Championships, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, and had three other placewinning performances at tournaments during the season, including the Princeton Open and the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
Schroder’s top-game continues to be his strength on the mat, racking up 100+ back points in each of his first two seasons, and already ranking eighth all-time at Purdue on the list. He’s earned several preseason rankings across the country to open up this year, including a No. 8 nod from WIN Magazine and No. 10 overall from TrackWrestling.
Schroder will get ample support from sophomore Marshall Craig and freshman Nate Cummings. Craig had three wins in his first season of varsity action, and appeared in a quartet of duals in relief of Schroder, while Cummings appeared in several tournaments in redshirt action, placing at Loras and Indianapolis.
Purdue will see a pair of new faces at 125 in Michael Leveille and Kooper Loehr, with both expected to redshirt their inaugural seasons. Both are Illinois natives with Leveille placing at the 3A state championships twice and Loehr getting on the 2A state podium on two occasions as well.
The graduation of multi-year starter Ben Thornton leaves a new opportunity in the Boilermaker lineup and a few fresh faces ready to embrace the challenge. The front-runners for the gig are sophomore Jack Cheney and true freshman Travis Ford-Melton, both ready for the 2019-20 varsity spot.
Cheney was 13-4 in his first varsity season, all coming in tournament appearances. He took home the Indianapolis Greyhound Open title, took second at the Maryville Kaufman/Brand Open and was third in the frosh/soph division at Michigan State. He also appeared at the 2018 Midlands Championships, where he scored a fall in his first match, one-of-seven for the California native in his freshman campaign.
Purdue head coach Tony Ersland has not been afraid to put true freshmen into the varsity lineup in his five years in West Lafayette, and Ford-Melton could be the next one in that line in 2019-20. Regarded as one of the nation’s top freshman prospects at 133 by FloWrestling, he is a four-time Illinois state placewinner and finished near the top of the podium at several top amateur tournaments in his high school career. He racked up 154 wins in high school and looks to pick up where he left off as he puts on the Old Gold & Black.
Sophomore Bjorn Schroeder is another face Purdue could see at 133 pounds this season, but there’s potential for him to bump to 141 pounds as well. Schroeder has eight victories in his varsity career, and has competed in four dual meets, including two Big Ten battles.
The third spot in the Boilermakers’ varsity lineup brings in an interesting mix of familiar faces with new opportunities. Senior Nate Limmex is a two-time NCAA Championship qualifier at the weight, and is eligible to wrestle at 141 pounds again for Ersland, but will start the year at 149 pounds, leaving the door open for some young blood.
Sophomores Parker Filius and Alec White will scrap for the starting spot to open the year, both very capable of making an impact for the Boilermakers. Filius drops down from 149 pounds, where he had a tough freshman year, while White returns to 141 for the second straight season. Filius had several solid performances in his redshirt season at 141 pounds, including the Eastern Michigan Open Frosh/Soph title and runner-up finishes at Michigan State and Northern Iowa.
Limmex owns preseason rankings from nearly every outlet to start the season at 141, including a No. 16 nod from WIN Magazine and No. 25 via FloWrestling.