The College’s wrestling team is now one step closer to the NCAA championships after an impressive team performance at the Metropolitan Conference Championships (METs) on Sunday.
The winners at each individual weight class all gained entrance into the NCAA Division III Wrestling championships. The College finished on top with a score of 126 and beat out second place York by 20 points. Montclair State came in third with 89 points. Hunter College, New York University, Centenary College, New York Maritime, Gallaudet University and Yeshiva University also participated in the event.
Individually, the College will be represented well at nationals. At 174 pounds, the College’s up-and-coming freshman Jeff Harrington had the upset victory of the day when he defeated Montclair State junior Jake Beitz. Beitz was the Metropolitan Conference’s top wrestler at 174 pounds, but his loss to Harrington means he will not be wrestling at nationals.
In the 125-pound championship match, junior Brian Dempsey defeated Centenary’s freshman Mike Gummerson 8-5 to earn himself a bid for nationals. Sophomore Joe Galante won the 157-pound championship, which stamped his ticket to nationals.
At the end of regulation in senior Sean Flynn’s 165-pound championship bout, the score was tied at three. After a two-point take-down in the first overtime, Flynn was able to hold off York sophomore Jerry Bowne for the victory.
The College’s senior co-captain Nick Vinciguerra repeated as Metropolitan Conference champion with his 8-1 win over Montclair State’s freshman Mike Berger in the 197-pound championship match. Vinciguerra is ranked fourth nationally and looks to have a strong showing in Minnesota at the national tournament.
In addition to the winners at each bout, five wild card selections were made to send to Nationals. Sophomore David Icenhower Jr. and senior Keith Bjorhus, who took second place in the 149-pound and heavyweight classes respectively, each received wild card bids for nationals. That gives the College a total of seven wrestlers at the national tournament.
Head coach David Icenhower was satisfied with his team’s performance.
“I think the team wrestled well,” Icenhower said. “We were real gritty and just wanted to win.”
Sophomore Pat Cross did not earn a bid to nationals but was one of the most solid wrestlers of the day for the College. In his championship match at 184 pounds, Cross lost 6-3 to York’s junior Duane Bastress, who is ranked first in the nation. Icenhower was impressed by Cross’ performance, however, and is looking forward to good things from him in the future.
“Cross has to be real happy,” Icenhower said. “He barely lost to the best kid in the nation. He still has two more years left here and he will only improve.”
The story of the day belonged to Harrington. Both he and his opponent, Beitz, attended Hunterdon Central High School. Beitz was Harrington’s captain in high school, so wrestling him was quite a thrill for Harrington, and it also helped him with his strategy.
“I knew he had a very strong headlock which he used to pin Vaccaro in the dual meet,” Harrington said. “He also has a good, low single leg takedown, but I managed to get an early lead and kept scoring points.”
Next up for Harrington and the Lions are nationals at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. on March 4-5. At this point, everything is gravy for Harrington and he plans to take it all in stride.
“When first coming here, my dream was just to make the team which didn’t even seem obtainable,” Harrington said. “I was given a great opportunity at 174, and now I’m going to nationals. At this point, I’m not nervous at all. Being a freshman, there are no expectations of me, but, of course, I am going to keep working hard and see how many matches I can win out there.”