Of the 19 freshmen on the 2016-2017 Otterbein wrestling roster, seven will end their collegiate wrestling careers at the end of this season as the program’s first four-year senior class.
Head Wrestling Coach Brent Rastetter, who was hired in 2015 to revive the program that had been cut in 1974, called these wrestlers “The Magnificent Seven” in reference to the 1960 American Western film for their contributions to the foundation of his program.
“These are seven young men that have ridden in on their white horses to start up the Otterbein wrestling program,” Rastetter said. “They are going to ride off into the sunset with things a lot better than they were when they came in.”
Corbin Bunsold, the team’s emotional and vocal leader, started his collegiate wrestling career off strong with a 29-11 record as a freshman. In those 29 victories, Bunsold ranked in the top five nationally with 23 pins.
The high expectations for Bunsold’s sophomore season were never realized after he broke his leg the week before the season. Upon returning to the team as a junior, Bunsold was voted a team captain and earned his second Academic All-American honor.
“I feel like our whole class has constantly been fighting tooth and nail, and that’s something that has brought us together. We went through all of this together, and that makes us stronger,” Bunsold, who will return to the program next season as a graduate assistant, said.
Donny Didion, one of three four-year starters in this graduating class, has wrestled in many weight classes over his career to optimize the Cardinals lineup.
In his freshman season, Didion started at 165 pounds and finished 11-16. Entering senior night, Didion is 17-10 and the starter at 174 pounds.
“[Didion] has always been good at putting the team in front of himself,” Rastetter said. “He has been one of the unsung heroes behind guys who have had more accolades.”
Luke Hess, who is considered by many as the most improved wrestler in the past four years, entered the program under the radar after an unimpressive high school career. Hess’ campus involvement and academic success, on top of his hard work in the wrestling room, have earned him the respect of his coaches and teammates.
With an injury to sophomore Jarrod Setliff, Hess has been a regular starter for the first time in his career with a 15-11 record.
“[Hess’] work ethic is unequaled both on and off the mat,” Rastetter said. “He’s going to be one of those kids I am going to talk about for a long time to come.”
Drew Kasper transferred to Otterbein from Indiana Tech when Rastetter, his high school coach, was hired. The pair won a state title in Kasper’s senior season and have had similar success as Cardinals.
Kasper has “put the program on the map” by securing many program firsts: NCAA Championships qualifier, First-Team All OAC, All-American, national #1 rank, and 100 career wins.
What may be most impressive about Kasper’s career is his dominance at both 197 pounds and heavyweight (up to 285 pounds). At the end of his freshman and sophomore seasons, he was ranked in the top 10 nationally at 197 pounds. Kasper, who is ranked #1 nationally at heavyweight, has a 58-2 record since moving to that weight.
“Everything [Kasper] has done to help build the program has set the stage for any success that we are going to have in the future,” Rastetter said.
Jackson Lakso, an accomplished wrestler from Central Crossing High School in Grove City, Ohio, who Rastetter described as a “spark plug,” was the first recruit the coach contacted when building his first roster.
Lakso has battled through injuries in both shoulders to win over 20 matches in each of the past four seasons.
“[Lakso] has done what I thought he would do coming into the program, and that’s win,” Rastetter said. “If he would have been healthy all the way through, I have no doubt that he would have been an All-American or national champion by now.”
Chris Martinez, a two-time state qualifier in high school, has pushed Drew Kasper in the wrestling room as a fellow heavyweight while contributing to the culture of the team.
“[Martinez] has caused me to laugh more in the practice room than any other kid ever has,” Rastetter said. “I love him to death. The room is not going to be the same without him next year.”
Willy Plaisir, a fan favorite for his athleticism and willingness to go for big moves, won the program’s first tournament at 157 pounds and “showed some flashes of brilliance” his freshman year.
A shoulder injury in NCAA Central Regionals his sophomore year sidelined Plaisir for his junior season, but he has been successful this season at 23-11.
“[Plaisir] is another one of those kids where the injury has helped him grow as a person,” Rastetter said. “He understands that he is going to come out better on the other side of this.”
According to Rastetter, “[His seven seniors] are all going to go on and do some special things in life from here on based on what they have been able to do for us the last four years.”