A Special Season for the Inaugural Members of Fisher’s Returned Wrestling Program

February 9, 2023

For many years, St. John Fisher held a reputation as one of the top wrestling programs in the region. Running from 1965 to 1983, Cardinal wrestlers competed in NCAA Division III and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championships, and held the title of Catholic National Champions numerous times. Following the 1983 season, the program ended and began a near 40-year hiatus.

The 2022-2023 Wrestling Team.

However, the legacy of Cardinal wrestlers has returned, with the 2022-2023 wrestling season marking the first in many years on campus. 

The return of the program was coupled with a generous $400,000 gift from alumnus William Pellicano ’80 and his wife, Tracy. This gift was earmarked for the creation of the Joseph Pellicano Wrestling Pavilion, a state-of-the-art wrestling facility, now located in Michaelhouse Hall.

Just as important as a location to wrestle in is a coach to lead the team; and in fall 2021, the University announced the appointment of Ryne Morrison as head coach of the program. Morrison brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to Fisher, having wrestled at Ursinus College before coaching at both Heidelberg University and Adrian College. Morrison was one of the key factors in leading Adrian to its first-ever national ranking in 2021.

The campus culture and “elite athletic department” stuck out to Morrison, who calls Fisher a “place that has a rich tradition in academic and athletic excellence” and said he was drawn toward the chance to elevate the department.

In the team’s first year, Morrison said he is particularly proud of the character of his athletes over the course of the season.

“It really is a special group that has shown unbelievable toughness, commitment, and resilience throughout the season, while being great additions to the campus community,” he said. “The culture and connection between the team has been really special and that has translated to success on the mat.”

Wrestlers on the team echoed many of the same sentiments. Josh Maslyn, a junior majoring in athletic performance with a minor in psychology, noted that the culture being built in the program is among their top accomplishments this season.

“The team’s biggest wins this season weren’t the things that people see in the form of our dual meet and individual wins,” Maslyn said. “The actual biggest wins were coming to practice, fighting through the emotional and physical difficulty, and staying persistent to work hard despite how we felt on bad days.”

The significance of being inaugural members of the reinstated program isn’t lost on the team, either.

“Being part of Fisher’s first wrestling team in 40 years has been an honor,” he said. “It takes time to get the word out around school that we are here and competing, and it takes time to build a culture and connection that creates a great team, but that has only been a blessing as this means that we get to be the creators of these things. We get to create the winning, respectful, and most of all, fun atmosphere that all of the future wrestlers at Fisher will be a part of.”

Morrison’s vision for the future of the program is simple, yet significant.

“We’re going to create an environment where our student-athletes can enjoy the sport, live the lifestyle that is expected of them, and ultimately have a program that prepares them for success in the next chapter of their lives,” he said.

This article was written by Tyler Cole ’23, a cybersecurity major and PR Writing Intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications.