History repeated itself this past weekend as the wrestling team finished runner-up to Lehigh for the second year in a row at the EIWA championships in Bethlehem, Pa. The Red trailed the Mountain Hawks by three and half points going into yesterday’s action and couldn’t leapfrog the host school on the final day of competition, losing 129-114.5. Penn finished third with 113 points.
“I can’t tell you that I’m overly excited that we got second,” said head coach Rob Koll. “We say that we want to wrestle for the national championships, but I think the guys took that speech a little too literally.”
Freshman Troy Nickerson was the only wrestler to win an EIWA title. Although the Red was unable to win the team EIWA title, there were still a lot of positives that came out of the weekend’s festivities.
Thanks to strong tournament showings, the Red will send eight wrestlers to the NCAA national tournament in Oklahoma City, Okla., which is set to take place in two weeks. Freshman Troy Nickerson, sophomore Steve Anceravage, junior Jerry Rinaldi, senior Dustin Manotti and senior Joe Mazzurco all punched their tickets to nationals on Saturday by finishing in the top-3 in their respected weight classes. Junior Keith Dickey, senior Mike Mormile and senior Dan Miracola all received wild card at-large berths last night.
Nickerson went undefeated at 125 pounds, edging out Lehigh’s Matt Fisk by a score of 2-1 in the championship match. Nickerson gained momentum early in the tournament as he pinned Ricky Ringel of Rutgers in his first post-season action in a Cornell singlet. He went on to beat Navy’s Alex Usztics by major decision and Army’s William Simpson on his way to his first-ever EIWA individual championship.
Senior Mike Mormile wrestled at 133 pounds and finished in fourth place. After winning his first two matches, he was then scheduled to face Harvard’s Robbie Preston – a wrestler Mormile has a history of losing to, although Mormile did beat Preston in dual action earlier in the season. Despite tying the match at 3 late in the third period, Mormile lost because of riding time advantage. After attempts to fight back through the consolation bracket, Mormile eventually lost to Navy’s Joseph Baker by a score of 8-5.
At 141, junior Matt Easter received a tough draw, dropping his first match to the tournament’s No. 3 seed Steve Adamcsik of Rutgers. Easter then wrestled Brown’s Mark Savino and took him to sudden death overtime after Savino was penalized a point for stalling. Savino eventually scored a takedown in the extra period en route to a 4-2 victory.
Dickey had a spirited run at the 149-pound title but fell short, eventually finishing fourth. After winning his first two bouts, Dickey kept the ball rolling as he pulled off a major upset against the tournament’s No. 2 seed Pat Simpson of Army. Despite wrestling with a bloody nose, Dickey scored a late takedown to hold on for the 5-2 decision. He eventually lost to Lehigh’s Trevor Chinn in the semi-finals and then faced Simpson again for third place. Simpson made the necessary adjustments and defeated Dickey by a score of 10-3.
Manotti finished second in the 157-pound weight class, losing to Harvard’s Andrew Flanagan by injury default. Manotti breezed his way through the early portion of the tournament, defeating Mark Smith of ESU, 13-4, and Army’s Brian Rowan, 11-3.
“Dustin just got knocked out,” Koll said. “He had the guy right where he wanted, went for the double leg and the next thing you know he’s on the ground with his eyes closed for 30 seconds.”
Anceravage earned his first trip to nationals as he came in second at 165 pounds. He fell to American’s Muzffar Abdurokhmanov in the finals, 9-3. Anceravage got to the final match by beating Lehigh’s Troy Letters, who has been fighting an injury all year long. Anceravage went the distance with Letters, who won a national title in 2004, but the Policy Analysis and Management major had the last laugh as Anceravage scored an escape and a takedown late in the third period on his way to the 5-3 victory.
Senior Dan Miracola finished in fifth place in the 174-pound weight class. After losing in his first match to the No. 4 seed Matthew Stolpinski of Navy, he fought his way back through the consolation bracket only to lose to Columbia’s Matt Palmer. Palmer is ranked No. 10 in the nation.
Mazzurco couldn’t muster any momentum in the finals of the 184-pound bracket as he finished second to American’s Josh Glenn, 4-0. After winning by a score of 19-6 against Brown’s Branden Stearns in his first match, Mazzurco then edged out Navy’s Jon Kane and Columbia’s Justin Barent on his way to the final match.
“Joe [Mazzurco] got beat by the number one guy in the country,” Koll said. “Its unfortunate because we all think Joe is the number one guy in the country.”
Jerry Rinaldi followed Mazzurco’s example as he finished second at 197 pounds. He was defeated by Lehigh’s Matt Cassidy in the finals by a score of 4-2.
Sophomore Zach Hammond finished fifth in the heavyweight division. The Galloway, N.J., native started the tournament off dropping a 6-2 decision to the No. 3 seed Adam LoPiccolo of American. The two met up again in the consolation bracket as LoPiccolo won again by a score of 1-0. Hammond defeated Army’s Michael Sprigg in the fifth place match by a score of 5-2.
With the count down clock to nationals winding down inside the Friedman Wrestling Center, only one thing is for certain.
“We have to wrestle better if we want to place in the top five at nationals,” Koll said. “We’re taking eight guys and that’s about how many we thought we’d have. I guess we have to be happy about that.”
Archived article by Tim Kuhls
Sun Assistant Sports Editor