West Liberty men’s basketball and wrestling team nationally ranked in “Power 10”



WLU Men’s Basketball Team Outside the ASRC

West Liberty University’s men’s basketball team and wrestling team have both been nationally ranked this month. The basketball team was ranked no.2 in the annual NCAA Division II Preseason “Power 10” posted on the NCAA website. The WLU wrestlers have been ranked no.4 in the nation.
Ben Howlett’s basketballers achieved this ranking off the back of a successful previous season. The Hilltoppers finished top of the Mountain East Conference and made it to the NCAA Division II tournament before being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, the WLU triple threat of 1000 point scorers were cited as a key reason for the no.2 position in the rankings. Dalton Bolon, Will Yoakum, and Pat Robinson all averaged more than 18 points per game and are returning to the Hilltop for the new season scheduled to start in January. The specific fixtures are yet to be released.
The season will be MEC only, as per COVID-19 restrictions, but Howlett’s team will be eager to claim the top spot yet again. “As a team, we love the pressure of being ranke and every game being magnified,” said Robinson. “We work hard every day to put ourselves in a position to win, so we are very confident in ourselves.”
West Liberty’s wrestlers also had a successful season last year with a few achieving individual national rankings as well as NCAA and MEC honors. This year, the team has been pinned as no.4 in the nation by TheOpenMat with nationally ranked wrestlers in six of the 10 weight classes.
This is a significant achievement for the Hilltoppers and allows the coaching staff more depth when recruiting future classes. “Rankings get people excited and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit excited to see West Liberty ranked in the top five as a team and six of our guys ranked among the best in the nation,” Head Coach Danny Irwin said. “This group feels they have been putting in the volume while staying focused on the details that will put them in position to succeed in March. Given the competitors we have in the room, the fact that all of our weights aren’t represented (in the rankings) should provide some extra motivation.”
Although the excitement around the rankings can be capitalized on, it does come with some added pressure. “Winning a national championship is one of our goals,” Irwin said, “but there are probably 10 teams with the guys capable of winning one. In order for us to reach that goal, we need to continue training the way we have been training. That wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and support of our administration and training staff. Our coaches and athletes are incredibly appreciative of their efforts.”
For fixture updates for basketball, wrestling and all other WLU athletics, check in with Hilltoppersports.com and “The Trumpet,” student newspaper.