George Mason head wrestling coach Frank Beasley has guided the Patriots to a 4-1 dual meet record this season. The program has had seven NCAA qualifiers under Beasley, who is in his fifth season as George Mason's head wrestling coach. In 2018-19, Beasley led the Patriots to their best season in 11 years, concluding the season with a dual meet record of 9-7. Last season, George Mason was honored by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) for their academic success, finishing in the top five among all Division I wrestling programs with a 3.48 GPA.
MatBoss caught up with Beasley and talked to him about this season's team and results, coaching staff, Pat Popolizio and what it's going to take to break into the top 25.
You opened your dual meet season at home with the Patriot Duals. You won two of the three duals, with your lone loss coming to Bucknell. What were your takeaways from the team's performance?
Beasley: Definitely excited for the season. We started seven freshmen in our lineup, so we're super young. I definitely think Bucknell has a good, solid team. Just more seasoned and experienced. Some of our freshmen states showed through there. So I think that's exciting as we move forward because we have a lot to build on and to work on. I think it's a pretty good starting point for our season.
Freshman 197-pounder Jon List has started his season strong. He won the Southeast Open and then went 3-0 at the Patriot Duals. How good he can be?
Beasley: I think he can be really good. I don't think he realizes how talented he is. He's a hard-working, great kid. He does everything right. He wasn't a superstar recruit or anything. He was fourth in Ohio last year. I think he's starting to see how good he can be. I'm really excited for him to continue to build and develop
Two-time NCAA qualifier Alex Madrigal went 3-0 at the Patriot Duals. He's someone who has been competing in college since 2015. Thoughts on the way he's wrestling?
Beasley: Alex has looked great. It's interesting. He started his college career at 125. He went up to 133. He's been 141 in the past. Now he's up at 149. I think probably for the first time in his life he's not cutting a lot of weight. He walks around on weight. So I think that's going to be really helpful for him because it definitely took a toll on him in previous years. He missed three seasons with injury. So I think that that weight cutting probably weighed into that. And there's just the stress on the body. So I think he feels probably as good as he's ever felt physically. He's not going to be the biggest 149-pounder, but he's going to wrestle with a ton of energy. That's what we saw. His hand fighting and energy level was the best we've ever seen.
Two of your returning MAC placewinners, Josh Jones and Paul Pierce, are expected to redshirt. What went into those decisions?
Beasley: Both are a little bit different. Josh actually has been wrestling with an injury the last couple years and it got the point where he had to get it fixed. He had two injuries basically. Same thing on both sides. He had to have two surgeries over the summer and fall, so he won't be able to get back on the mats until probably right around the time nationals are rolling around. So his was out of our hands. We didn't really have much of a choice in it. He needed to get fixed and get healthy. And he's one of our team leaders and captains. We definitely miss having him in the lineup, but he's still been a strong presence on our bench. So our hands were tied with that one. So he'll still have three years of eligibility, which is pretty exciting. But he'll redshirt this year and hopefully he'll be able to wrestle some of the freestyle tournaments this spring. Hopefully he'll be back for that. But he's kind of on the mend from injury.
Paul started for us his first few years here. He actually started off at 184. We were trying to build him into a 184-pounder and he didn't put enough size on, so we ended up getting him to a more natural weight of 174. I think he started having some more success there. He's a guy who does everything right. Everybody looks up to him on our team. I asked the team to write down who they saw as the leaders, kind of anonymously but every single person on our team picked him which is not always necessarily super common. Usually the leaders get most of the votes, but not necessarily ever single guy. And every single guy voted him. We felt like it was a good year for him to redshirt and really spend the year in development. We thought a redshirt year would benefit him in a sense of going out and competing more freely. He puts a lot of stress and pressure on himself to perform and that definitely affects his results. We're working with him on being able to compete more freely and open this year as a redshirt year. We think it'll benefit him a lot. We've got a really good freshman at 174 in Logan Messer.
This will be your third season in the MAC after competing in the EWL. Obliviously, Missouri left the conference after last season. What are your thoughts on the conference as a whole?
Beasley: I think it's a strong conference with a lot of parody. It's going to be a really fun conference tournament over the next several years just with the teams that are in it. A lot of teams that are building and improving and getting better. Obviously, Central Michigan is the team to knock off at this point. They have a long history. Coach Borrelli's done an amazing job there. But I think you'll see a lot of back and forth from a lot of these teams. I think it makes for a really exciting conference. It's not probably going to be what it has been the last few years with Missouri kind of in the driver's seat. Central Michigan's got a very veteran team, but I think after the season you're going to see a lot of parody in the conference.
I see the hashtag #BeUncommon on George Mason's social media posts. What does the phrase #BeUncommon mean to you and your program?
Beasley: Be uncommon is doing all the little things right. Trying to set ourselves apart. We have a zero drinking, no drug policy year-round, 365 days a year. That's probably pretty uncommon for most wrestling teams. Not that it's totally unique. But it's the way they train. The way they live their lives. The way they treat people and have relationships with the people around them. They want to do something to set themselves apart. Not do what people normally do. Doing little things right and trying to set themselves apart to be successful.
Camden Eppert is in his fourth year on your staff and Mike DePalma is in his third year. What do your assistants bring to your program?
Beasley: They're both incredible. I'll start with Cam. He could lead a program right now. He's more than ready. Obviously, I don't want him to leave, but he is really good organizationally and in the development aspect of these guys, really planning things out and having kind of a master plan for their development; very organized and sometimes I can get off track and he's good at keeping me on track and keep me dialed in and focused and with the long-term vision. He doesn't do things shortsighted. It's always with the long-term vision in mind. So that's a few of his many strengths.
Mike DePalma brings a lot of energy in the room. He's super excited every day to be here. He's done a really good job, especially on the recruiting side for us and finding the right people. You see that with our team this year, starting seven freshmen. He was instrumental in getting a lot of those guys here and then ultimately working with them to make them better. But he brings a lot of energy and a little bit different perspective on some technique. Both those guys have done an incredible job.
You worked side-by-side with Pat Popolizio at Binghamton and at NC State. What was the biggest thing you took from your experience working with Pat?
Beasley: I learned a ton from Pat. I was very fortunate to be able to work with him at both Binghamton and NC State for a long time. I've learned a million things from him. He believed in where we would be. He believed in what would happen and the results we would get. He believed in a system. With doing that, I think you see those results. People didn't expect NC State or Binghamton to do what they did. Because of Pat they did because he had unwavering belief in himself and the team he was putting together. So I think that long-term vision that it's going to take time, and do it the right way, is the biggest thing. There is no shortcut.
You coached Nick Gwiazdowski to world medals. Having spent a lot of time with Nick, what makes him different from other athletes you have coached?
Beasley: He's a student of the sport. He's really good at breaking down film, breaking down his own film, others' film and making adjustments. I think you saw that this year. He didn't look necessarily great at the Olympic Trials and kind of got blown out. Then you saw some adjustments he made for the World Championships. He was fifth, but he was right there with Akgul who has kind of dominated him in the past. You saw some adjustments that he made in that match. I think his ability to make adjustments and sit down and really reevaluate some things to make himself better. Now that he's coaching he's going to do the same thing with the kids he's coaching. I think he had a very strong belief in himself too. He knew that he could achieve those things and I think that's a little bit of a rarity in the sport where you truly believe that you're going to be the best or that you are the best. A lot of kids say it, but I think he truly believed it and let it show. He didn't get in his own way and didn't hold himself back. He didn't doubt himself.
It was recently announced that Morgan State would become the first and only HBCU Division I wrestling program. Any thoughts on this announcement?
Beasley: I think it's amazing for wrestling. Their athletic director Ed Scott was actually at Binghamton when I was there. For a short time he was actually a sports supervisor for wrestling. So he's a gentleman that appreciates the sport and is knowledgeable in the sport of wrestling. My hat's off to him. I think he's going to be a great AD for that program. He's going to help build that program. It's a really important step to the growth of college wrestling at the HBCUs, Division I level and for all college wrestling. I think it's an important step.
What will it take for George Mason break into the top 25 at the NCAAs?
Beasley: That's the next big point that we have to get to. It's never been done. I don't believe we've ever been in the top 30. I'm not sure if we've ever been in the top 35. So that's kind of the next big step, getting into the top 25. That's something that we are focused on and expect to do here in the next several years. So we're building that right now. I think it comes down to the kids in the program that are here right now, getting to the point where we're putting multiple guys on the All-American stand. That is our expectation. I think a few years ago here there wasn't that expectation to have All-Americans. I feel like we are now at the point where our team expects to have All-Americans and national champions. You can see a difference in the level of belief. I think that is the biggest thing right now that maybe we've been missing the last few years. But at the end of the day I think that belief factor is when we're going to have the success at that level and really break through.