On October 13th, I contacted an inside source within the Hofstra University Wrestling program to congratulate him on getting a verbal commitment from three-time Minnesota AAA State place-winner, Luke Vaith.
The commitment of Vaith, a 2008 State Runner-up who also brings with him a resume that includes three All-American finishes in the international styles at the cadet and junior levels, was said to be the precursor; The first of what was shaping up to be a very promising recruiting class; An indication that the Pride were well on their way towards maintaining the stranglehold they have enjoyed in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) for the past seven seasons; An answer to Old Dominion Coach, Steve Martin, who had already secured verbals from the #44 and #53 recruits in the nation…Vaith was the beginning, but certainly not the end.
Two more elite recruits were believed to be on their way…As late as last week, each had informed the HU coaching staff that the Hempstead based campus remained their top choice. The verbals were coming “any day now”….And then, one week later, it all fell apart. There would be no blue and gold in the futures of Erik Spjut and Jake Kemerer. Both had elected to go in different directions. On October 20th, the former pledged his allegiance to Virginia Tech and Coach Kevin Dresser. Just yesterday, the latter announced that he is Norman, Oklahoma bound to wrestle for Jack Spates’ Sooners.
Spjut, the #66 recruit out of the Lone Star State is a two-time State Champion (2007-119; 2008-125) who took third as freshman, losing only to Tennessee-Chattanooga recruit in the Jeremy Sandoval 2-0 in their 112-pound quarterfinal bout. In 2006, the product from Conroe the Woodlands also displayed a knack for the international styles, finishing 7th @112 pounds under the Fargo Dome to become a Cadet National Freestyle All-American.
Projected as a 133-pounder at the collegiate level, many (myself included) envisioned Spjut as being the eventual successor to two-time defending CAA Champion/2008 NCAA Honorable Mention All-American, Lou Ruggirello….With SUNY-Binghamton having already received a verbal commitment from the #25 recruit in the country, Jimmy Chase, coupled with a third ODU recruit, 2008 Minnesota State Champion, Justin LeValle (beat Vaith 6-1 in the finals), landing a recruit the caliber of Spjut was perceived as an important step in helping the Pride remain the class of the conference.
While it is disappointing to lose Spjut, there is one silver lining that Pride enthusiasts can take solace in…Prior to his decision to continue his academic and athletic career in Blacksburg, Va., it is a known fact that Spjut was being heavily recruited by Coach Martin and the Monarchs.. Therefore, even though Hofstra failed to land their man, at least we can take some comfort in knowing that our rivals struck out in their pursuit as well.
If the loss of Spjut is equated to the discomfort one feels after suffering a paper cut on their finger, then having the rug pulled out from under us at the 11th hour by Oklahoma may best be described as the pain one might feel if that finger was amputated without warning. I did not view Jake Kemerer as just another great pickup; I saw him as the franchise…The one who might finally deliver the NCAA title that HU fanatics have been waiting for since 1977 when Nick Gallo last achieved the honor; The title that should have been ours last season if not for Mike Pucillo’s decision to follow Tom Ryan to Ohio State; The title that great HU wrestlers of yesteryear—Ed Pidgeon (4th in 1981), Peter Capone (2nd in 1985), Chris Skretkowicz (5th in 2004), Jon Masa (3rd in 2005), Charles Griffin (3rd in 2007 & 2008), etc…—were supposed to deliver…In a wrestling world dominated by Pennsylvania, where zero time state champions like Keith Gavin and Phil Davis go on to win NCAA crowns, having a likely 2xer in your back pocket is usually a sign of great things to come!!!
If the Pride had been successful in adding Kemerer, the #16 recruit in the country, he would have been the highest profile member of the class of 2009 to commit to a CAA school thus far…More importantly, locking down a commitment from the 2008 Pennsylvania State Champion would have provided Tom Shifflet with security at the 165 pound weight class.
With speculation that Ryan Patrovich will move up to 174 pounds following the graduation of 2008 NCAA All-American, Alton Lucas, the addition of W.I.N. Magazine’s #3 ranked wrestler at 160 pounds would have afforded the HU coaching staff the opportunity to breath a little easier and focus on adding depth rather than concerning themselves with plugging potential holes.
Perhaps what hurts the most about losing Kemerer is that no one saw it coming. Unlike Spjut, who in a Brandoesque way, was given an offer he could not refuse by the ACC conference member, Kemerer to Hofstra was always perceived to be a foregone conclusion; The rare money in the bank scenerio; Never in doubt. In speaking to a person with knowledge of the Keystone Stater’s recruitment, the situation was described like this, “we knew he was going out there but everything he had told us indicated that he would not like the school [Oklahoma]. [Jake] didn’t want a big school or large class sizes or a party school.” I suppose the lesson to be taken from all of this is that nothing is certain until the ink drys.
National Letter of Intent day is still several months away. Hence, there remains plenty of time for Hofstra to regroup and emerge with a few blue-chippers. However, with 47 of the top-100 recruits having already provided commitments to the colleges of their choice, the time is now for the Pride to hit the recruiting trail hard.