Cumberland is ranked 15th in the NAIA wrestling coaches’ preseason top 20 poll, the national office announced Wednesday, and four individuals – Steven Sandefer, Zeke Hunt, Cody Linton and Scott Stewart – are ranked in the top 16 in their respective weight classes.
The Bulldogs return 21 letterwinners from last season for second-year head coach Todd Allen, including returning All-Americans Hunt, Linton and Jake Williams, who will return during the second semester.
Sandefer ranks ninth at 157 in the preseason rankings after posting a 23-10 mark at 149. The senior from Mishawaka, Ind., was 1-2 at last year’s NAIA Championships.
Hunt is ninth at 174 after registering a team-best 37-13 record. The senior from Dacula, Ga., finished eighth at the national tournament.
Linton was the program’s best finisher at last year’s NAIA Tournament, placing fourth. The junior from Winters, Calif., native collected a 24-10 overall mark last year, including 20-9 at 184. He is ranked third in the preseason poll.
Stewart was the biggest surprise in the rankings, coming in at 11th at 197. The senior from Kenova, W.Va., redshirted last year but posted 16 victories in 2011-12.
Cumberland will begin the season at the Patriot Open in Williamsburg, Ky., on Nov. 2. The Bulldogs will play host to Shorter and Middle Tennessee State in dual matches on Nov. 19 starting at 5 p.m. at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.