By Josh Kestenbaum
The men’s wrestling team has been on quite a streak lately, and nothing changed Tuesday, Jan. 20, when they met the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy on the mat. The Lions came from behind and defeated the USMMA Mariners, 25-16.
Two of the coaches in this match, Lions coach Joe Galante, ’07, and USMMA’s Greg Ilaria, ’04, were both All-American wrestlers here at the College. Galante earned his in 2005 and 2007, while Coach Ilaria achieved his in 2003 and 2004.
The Mariners jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but the Lions refused to be silenced. The comeback began with a definitive 7-1 victory at 141 by freshman Ryan Budzek and continued with junior Dylan Thorsen’s victory at 149. Following additional victories at 157 and 165, the College led the Mariners by a score of 13-7.
The momentum carried through to the 174 weight class, where Zach Zotollo, the nation’s top wrestler at that weight, pinned his opponent in just 3:50. The senior now has a record of 11-0 on the season.
The Mariners were able to pull within three with victories at 184 and 197, with only heavyweight left. However, the Lions emerged victorious after a pin by freshman Brandon Simon at 4:44 in the heavyweight match.
The Lions were back in action on Friday, Jan. 23, when they took on the Centenary College Cyclones. The Lions never trailed the Cyclones on their way to a decisive 26-12 victory.
Before the match, the school honored the 30th anniversary of the 1985 NCAA Division III National Championship wrestling team.
The Lions sprang out to an early 10-0 lead on the backs of a forfeit at 125 and a major decision at 133 by freshman James Goldschmidt.
Despite a Cyclones win at 141, the Lions remained in the lead thanks in part to another victory at 149 by Thorsen. With a win at 157, Centenary closed the Lions’ lead to 14-6. Freshman Kellen Whitney earned a point for the Lions at 165 and extended their lead.
At 174, Zotollo further extended his undefeated record, advancing to 12-0 on the season, and the Lions’ lead to 20-6.
The final Lions win of the match came from a forfeit at 184 and pushed the Lions’ total to 26. The Cyclones were able to win the final two weight classes and close the gap to 26-12.
“Success over the past few matches has really been about persistence,” Zotollo said about the team’s recent hot streak. “You have to stay focused on what you can control, and I think we have done that.”
The Lions are now 10-4 on the season and have won four straight matches. They are in action again on Saturday, Jan. 31, when they host the Metro/New England Duals in the Rec Center. The College will be taking on 16th-ranked Roger Williams University, 19th-ranked Williams College and Bridgewater State University.