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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Wrestlers say UB neglected team for months before head coach’s removal

Athletic Director Mark Alnutt denied a rift with the wrestling team and declined to comment further on John Stutzman’s removal

<p>Alumni Arena, UB's indoor athletic facility.</p>

Alumni Arena, UB's indoor athletic facility.

Three weeks after 11-year wrestling head coach John Stutzman was removed on March 28, 14 wrestlers have entered the transfer portal due to what several wrestlers have called mistreatment and neglect by UB Athletics. According to FloWrestling, the transfers make up just under half of the official 29-man roster

The Spectrum spoke with five UB wrestlers, four of whom asked to remain anonymous to protect their scholarships and transfer stock. One wrestler, graduate student Caleb Brooks, spoke on the record. Wrestlers recounted stories of dangerous misdiagnosed injuries, moldy and water-damaged wrestling mats, and a general lack of transparency and communication from the administration. Brooks recalled when a trainer misdiagnosed a broken knee as tendonitis.

“I know the difference between a bruise and a real injury… I was telling the trainers that there was something wrong with my knee,” Brooks said. “I was not given an X-Ray even though I asked for one. We had to fight and I actually emailed the administration.”

Another wrestler credited Stutzman with getting Brooks proper treatment. 

“If Stutz didn’t fight for him, and he went one more day [of practice], at any moment his kneecap could’ve snapped.” another wrestler added.

Brooks said there was no return-to-play protocol after his injury.

The wrestlers say they want more details about Stutzman’s removal, and at least six have taken to social media to criticize UB Athletics for the move. They also alleged that Deputy Athletic Director D’Ann Keller spoke negatively about the wrestling team to alumni and fans during a basketball game and that the news of Stutzman’s impending removal was leaked weeks before the official announcement.

Keller and Athletic Director Mark Alnutt denied the allegations and said that UB Athletics has worked with the wrestling team to address their concerns. They cited a November meeting to adjust the team’s training staff and said that mold in the wrestling room was not brought to their attention until after the season ended.

The wrestlers shared photos and a video of the damaged mats with The Spectrum. UB Athletics says it was not made aware of the issue until recently.

“I don’t know how long it has been going on, but it wasn’t brought up when we met with them back in November as an issue,” Alnutt said of the condition of the mats. “But all of a sudden, that was an issue two weeks ago.”  

“It was never reported to our facility staff. There’s a lot of times when the wrestling staff takes care of cleaning the facility themselves because they have the kind of expertise of what they want to do,” Keller said. “That was never brought to our attention that [the condition of the mats] was an issue.”

Brooks doesn’t buy it. He says that he and the other wrestlers think the administration wants to see the wrestling team “killed.”

“I had a conversation with Stutz… I expressed concerns that I’m hearing rumors about they’re going to fire him. And it’s exactly what happened,” he said. “It’s all coming down to trust. Who do they expect us to trust? You take away the guy that we did trust.”

The Spectrum made multiple attempts to contact John Stutzman. His mother said in a phone call that she would pass along a request for comment, but he has yet to respond.

“None of us really trust the administration,” Brooks said. “We’re just continuously lied to.”

Alnutt said he has “no idea” why wrestlers don’t trust the administration.

“I wish I had an answer to tell you, you know, what the disconnect is. I always share with all the student athletes that my door is always open,” Alnutt said. “We have 16 sports right here and we’re hearing this from one sport after a coaching change. So we’re going to continue operating how we operate.”

The reason for the coaching change remains unclear. Alnutt released a 100-word statement on March 28 saying the program needed a “fresh start.” Alnutt declined to elaborate, saying, “No, we’re good… we’re going to stick with that statement,” in an interview with The Spectrum.

Alnutt said the team will hire a new head coach in the next few weeks. He said that this timeline will allow wrestlers in the transfer portal to meet with the new coaching staff before the portal closes on May 12. He added that assistant coach Derek Spann is running the team in the interim.

“I do feel that the future is going to be very bright for our wrestling program,” he said.

Two wrestlers in the transfer portal, Nick Stampoulas and Chase Kranitz, have already committed to other schools, according to their social media accounts.

Others are faced with the decision to stay at UB or to look elsewhere. Either way, the future is uncertain. Some are considering staying at UB but ending their wrestling careers.

“We’re literally in tears, we don’t know our futures,” one anonymous wrestler said. “We just want an answer. It’s not only about Stutz, but for us.”

Ryan Tantalo is the managing editor and can be reached at ryan.tantalo@ubspectrum.com

Henry Daley is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at henry.daley@ubspectrum.com 


RYAN TANTALO
tantalo-2023

Ryan Tantalo is the managing editor of The Spectrum. He previously served as senior sports editor. Outside of the newsroom, Ryan spends his time announcing college hockey games, golfing, skiing and reading.


HENRY DALEY
henry-daley.jpg

Henry Daley is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. His work has featured on other platforms such as Medium and Last Word on Sports. Outside of the newspaper, he enjoys running and watching sports (when he’s not writing about them). 

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