INDIANAPOLIS – Gardner-Webb wrestling has four student-athletes listed in the initial 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Coaches' Rankings released Friday.
The Runnin' Bulldogs had three national qualifiers last season and intend to increase that number in St. Louis this March.
Gardner-Webb's Tyler Marinelli (Jefferson, Ga. / Jefferson HS) is ranked No. 23 by the panel at 165 pounds. The redshirt sophomore enters this weekend's action with a 9-3 mark overall (3-0 dual) with a pair of tech fall wins.
Marinelli, in his first season as a starter with the 'Dogs, wrestled well as a redshirt last season and entered the 2016-2017 campaign highly regarded. GWU has had a national qualifier at 165 pounds twice in the past three seasons (2014, 2016).
Marinelli is the highest rated 165-pounder listed among Southern Conference members in the NCAA rankings.
Austin Trott (Kingsland, Ga. / Camden County HS) is ranked No. 23 as well by the panel at 174 pounds, just behind Appalachian State's Nick Kee (No. 22) in that listing among SoCon wrestlers.
A two-time NCAA qualifier at 165 pounds, Trott has been strong this season at his new weight – posting a 12-1 mark (6-0 dual) with a pair of pins and four tech falls. The rangy, 6-foot-2 standout has posted 83 career wins (20 pins) to date and is 15-4 all-time against SoCon competition.
Veteran Hunter Gamble (McDonough, Ga. / Union Grove HS) is another former NCAA qualifier for the Runnin' Bulldogs, winning the SoCon at 174 pounds as a true freshman in 2013. Gamble has advanced to 184 pounds and is one of the circuit's top performers again in 2017.
Gamble is ranked No. 17 by the coaches' panel, one of three SoCon wrestlers rated in the top-33. Chattanooga's Bryce Carr (16th) and Campbell's Ville Heino (22nd) are also among the nation's elite.
Gamble and Heino will square off Friday night in a very important Southern Conference battle in Buies Creek.
Gamble is 12-2 against challenging competition so far this season, posting a 6-0 record in duals.
Heavyweight Boyce Cornwell (Conyers, Ga. / Heritage HS) is ranked No. 27 by the NCAA Coaches, his second-straight season appearing in the top-33. The graduate student has excelled since moving up to the 285-pound weight class last season, qualifying for the NCAA Championships last March – and picking up a first-round win in Madison Square Garden.
Cornwell is 15-4 so far this season, going 5-1 against dual competition with two pins. He is one of five Southern Conference heavyweights listed in the top-33 – joining Chattanooga's Jared Johnson (10th), Appalachian State's Denzel Dejournette (13th), SIU Edwardsville's Jake McKiernan (31st) and Campbell's Jere Heino (32nd).
The five 285-pounders listed ties the Atlantic Coast Conference for the second-most nationally for a conference. Only the Big Ten has more (8) in the top-33.
Gardner-Webb 149-pounder Chris Vassar (14-5 overall, 4-1 dual) and 157-pounder Ryan Mosley (14-7 overall, 4-1 dual) are also off to solid starts to the 2016-2017 season and are expected to make a push into the rankings with continued positive results.
Both are previous NCAA qualifiers, with Vassar earning an at-large bid last season (New York) and Mosley earning one of the SoCon's allocations at 149 pounds in 2015 (St. Louis).
The Runnin' Bulldogs get back to SoCon action on Friday night, battling Campbell at 6:00 pm in Buies Creek. The match will be streamed live on The Big South Network (bigsouthsports.com).