EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. – Coming off its best season in the Southern Conference and best finish at the NCAA Championships in the Division I era, SIUE wrestling Head Coach Jeremy Spates announced the addition of five student-athletes for the 2017-18 season.
Jacob Blaha, Christian DuLaney, Matt Malavsky, Trent Rakers and Bryce Sheffer will join the Cougars in the fall.
SIUE finished third in the SoCon with three wrestlers advancing to the NCAA Division I Championships. Senior Jake Residori earned All-American honors at 174 pounds.
"We are very excited about the class so far," said Spates. "This is a great group of guys that we are adding. They are bringing in some impressive accolades both academically and athletically."
Below are quick bios of SIUE's latest newcomers.
Blaha, who looks to compete at the 125 and 133-pound weight classes, will become a second-generation SIUE Cougar. His father, Tom, was a standout wrestler for SIUE from 1987 to 1992.
Jacob has made a name for himself in the Collinsville High School record books. After finishing his senior season with a 42-9 record, he finished his prep career No. 2 in wins, No. 2 in points scored and third in pins.
A three-time All-Conference selection, he competed at the Illinois All-Star meet on the south team.
"I've gotten to know Jacob well over the past few years," said Spates. "He is a leader on his team, school and community. We are excited to have him add that to our program. It is always good to keep local talent at home."
DuLaney, a 197-pounder, hails from Shakopee, Minnesota, competing for Benilde-St. Margaret's School. He comes to SIUE via the University of Northern Iowa and Iowa Lakes Community College.
At Benilde-St. Margaret's, he was a two-time state runner-up in 2013 at 182 pounds and in 2014 at 220 pounds. At Iowa Lakes, he was a two-time NJCAA All-American, placing second in 2017 and third in 2016 at 197 pounds.
A wrestler for the Minnesota Storm, DuLaney placed third at the UWW Junior Greco-Roman Nationals at 96 kg and seventh at the University Greco-Roman Nationals at 98 kg.
"Christian has already shown he can compete and win at this level," said Spates. "He loves the sport, and his mentality for freestyle and Greco aligns with ours. He is a great addition to the program."
Malavsky, who will compete at 125 pounds, is a three-time state qualifier from Evangelical Christian High School in Fort Myers, Florida. He was a 2017 district champion and passed the 100-win mark his senior season.
A fourth-place finisher at the state championships this past season, Malavsky is the 2015 AAU Florida state champion. He competed for the Riverdale Elite Travel team as well as the Palmetteo Ridge Elite Dual Team and the Ft. Myers Disney Dual Team. Malavsky also was the 2017 Rotary Scholar-Athlete award winner.
"Matthew is another personal connection to the program," Spates said. "I have seen him work and grow as an athlete and a person the last few years. We are excited to have another tough lightweight in the room."
Rakers, who hails from nearby Highland, Illinois, was a 2A state champion for Highland High School in 2017. He also placed fourth as a junior in 2016. He will compete at 157 pounds for the Cougars.
The school record holder for career wins with 144, Rakers competed at the East vs. West/Illinois vs. Missouri All-Star Dual meet. He also competed as a member of the Illinois Inferno for two years and one year with Illinois South.
"Trent is another great local talent," said Spates. "Being a two-time state place winner and undefeated Illinois state champion says a lot. He was a leader and captain on all of the teams he has been on. We think the move to wrestling full time will make Trent's future bright."
Sheffer, who finished his senior season at Union County High School undefeated at 55-0, is a four-time state champion out of Morganfield, Kentucky.
He also earned All-State honors with a seventh-place finish during eighth grade. Sheffer expects to compete at 157 pounds for the Cougars.
"Bryce actually was the first of the class to sign," said Spates. "Any time you start out with a four-time state champion, it is a good sign. He comes from a great program that knows how to win so we are excited for Bryce to bring that here."