Jeff Zeeman ’97 highlighted these two articles in a recent thread, but they both deserve their own post.

A story on Williams wrestling.

It’s only a formality now. Georgetown’s Ryan Malo will be continuing the St. John’s Prep connection at Williams College.

Malo, the 2007 New England champion with a perfect 58-0 record, began the year on scholarship at Boston University. But, after splitting 10 matches, he withdrew from school because he did not enjoy living in the city.

While taking classes at Northern Essex Community College for the last month, Malo has been mulling a transfer. Although he briefly considered Wesleyan and other schools, Williams was always the frontrunner and it looks like it will be his destination.

“It looks pretty good — I just have to wait for my official letter (of acceptance),” said Malo. “It’s a great school and having kids I know so well there just makes it better.”

Somehow I think that most transfer applications from BU, much less from Northern Essex Community College, are not so successful.

Despite Williams policy on tips, Dave Fehr asks “Will the Ephs ever catch the Jeffs?”

The last several weeks have convinced me that the men’s basketball teams of Williams and Amherst are miles apart – and I’m not talking about the 65 miles along Route 116 that separate the two towns. The Jeffs are 18-2 (as of Feb. 4), ranked second in the country and are, I believe, destined to return to Salem to defend the national championship they won last March.

The Ephs, meanwhile, started 12-0 but are finding it difficult to win in their league and have dropped a total of five games at this writing, including two to Amherst.

So, of course, I’m convinced the sky is falling and I’ll never again see these two teams competitive, much less Williams competitive on a national level. The only flaw in this analysis is that I felt the same way a decade ago and was happily proved wrong. When the Mike Nogelo Final Four teams of ’97 and ’98 graduated, I figured that was it for Williams and any further NCAA hoops glory. A short five years later, the Ephs were national champs, and they almost repeated in 2004.

One thing has changed, however, as back then there was no Nesbitt Net, which is director of Admissions Dick Nesbitt’s and President Morty Schapiro’s increasingly fine-meshed screen that weeds out applicants, including star athletes, with “low” board scores.

Wonder what the academic credentials of the Amherst mens basketball team are . . .

The rest of both articles is below.

Wrestling

Williams currently has three St. John’s grads wrestling at Williams and all are starters. Senior Doug Washington of Andover (his family recently moved to Alabama) sports a 16-9 record at 165, junior Kyle Ayer of Topsfield is 23-3 and ranked second in New England at 197 and freshman Tim Kiely of Newburyport is 9-8 at heavyweight.

Malo, who was the 2007 North Shore Moynihan Lumber Student-Athlete of the Year, is good friends with Ayer and Kiely. During the summer, they regularly work out in a wrestling room at Ayer’s house.

Williams co-coach Dan DiCenzo is happy to have another St. John’s product join the team and particularly excited that it’s Malo.

“Ryan is obviously a quality wrestler and he’s also an excellent student,” said DiCenzo, whose Ephs are 10-9 and ranked 28th in the country. “With him and the kids coming back next year, we should be in the top 15.

“We think it’s a great fit for Ryan and we know that any St. John’s kid can make it. We have to have kids who get As and 1400s on their SATs and who can handle the work in the classroom.

“We’ve had great success with St. John’s kids. It’s a private school but we like that it competes against the public schools. (St. John’s coach) Manny Costa does a great job with them. He works his kids hard and shows the discipline you need. It’s tough to get kids who are so disciplined and ready to do the work.”

DiCenzo, who also coaches football, often recruits athletes who can play both sports in college. Kiely is one of them and three recruits coming in next year will play both sports. Down the road, he likes what he’s heard of Timberlane heavyweight Brian Nicoll as a football player, wrestler and student.

But he’s also looking for specialists and he won’t keep St. John’s out of sight. He already has an eye on junior Ryan Harding of North Andover.

“I should put Manny on the payroll,” joked DiCenzo. “It’s challenging to get kids who are able to do the academic work and can make it on the mat. He’s making my job easier.”

Fehr

But, you protest, there is no Nesbitt Net, because the college’s administration insists that when Williams began to raise the bar on athletic admissions six or seven years ago, the other NESCAC schools followed suit.

This, I maintain, never happened, and the playing field is tilted against Williams in many sports. Other NESCAC schools may have cut a few athletic “tips” when Williams dropped from 72 to 66, but the (ital) number (ital) of tips was never a major competitive issue. The issue, rather, was what constitutes a tip, which turns out to be quite different from one school to the next.

My “evidence:”

. ITEM: A superstar on a high-profile team of a NESCAC rival (you’d be surprised which one) had a 480 verbal SAT score.

. ITEM: A key offensive player on a NESCAC rival (you’d be surprised which one) had prep grades so low that Williams wouldn’t give him a second look.

. ITEM: The Boston Globe annually publishes a special section highlighting star high school athletes. I asked a coach about one kid who was headed to Bowdoin and heard: “He inquired here, but was inadmissible because of low board scores. Bowdoin doesn’t require board scores” (neither does Middlebury).

. ITEM: Early this decade, at the height of the stink about athletic admissions, the then-president of Middlebury wrote a column on that subject for the Midd alumni magazine. After acknowledging the importance of the issue, he said that Middlebury had closely examined the profiles of all its athletes and “concluded that they were representative of the student body as a whole.” In other words, screw you, guys, we’re not changing anything.

Am I saying that these kids should be playing at Williams? No, but it seems unfair that they should be playing against Williams. Perhaps the administration should make a statement along these lines: “The NESCAC has the highest admission standards of any Division 3 athletic conference in America. We at Williams, however, have raised the bar even higher than suggested by our sister schools because we believe this is necessary in order to maintain the proper balance between athletics and academics.”

I still wouldn’t agree with the policy, but I’d have more respect for the school than I do now as they continue to insist that everything is even-steven.

The Eph coaches are not complaining about the tightened admissions policy. They wouldn’t want to be seen as whiners offering excuses, plus they likely realize that the administration does not take kindly to criticism. The only coach to state for the record that the new admissions standards had impacted his team’s ability to compete, no longer works in Williamstown.

I’m not claiming that the Nesbitt Net is the only factor in the relative drop-off of several teams, but it seems that it must be a key factor. Also, many teams, especially the large-roster squads (swimming, indoor and outdoor track, cross country) continue to do well and, due in large part to those sports, Williams may win yet another Directors Cup this spring.

But in basketball, Amherst’s men have dominated Williams for most of this decade, winning 15 of the 23 games played since 2000-01, including eight of the last nine. The Jeffs seem to graduate two or three stars each season and retool without losing a step. This ability will be tested in 2008. Dave Hixon essentially employs a seven man rotation and five of them, including All America Andrew Olson, are seniors. Dave Paulsen also goes seven deep most games, and the three seniors in his rotation include Chris Shalvoy, his best player.

The NESCAC is probably the strongest Division III conference in America. Last fall, NCAA championships were won by Middlebury in men’s soccer, Amherst in women’s cross country, and Bowdoin in field hockey (the Polar Bears beat Middlebury in the final). However, the league’s power, centered in Williamstown for well more than a decade, seems to be shifting to the north and east where, just maybe, their local versions of the Nesbitt Net are somewhat more forgiving.

See out Tips category for related posts.

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