In a week that showed the wrestling team’s ceiling to be nearly out of sight, the 19th-ranked Lions took care of the United States Merchant Marine Academy by a final score of 33-10 before sending shock waves through Division III with a 21-17 upset of No. 3 Centenary College.
Flipping the script on the Cyclones allowed the Lions (8-5) to beat a team above them in the national rankings for the first time this season. This happened by moving wrestlers around to take advantage of favorable matchups.
“They beat us pretty bad last year,” Lions head coach Joe Galante said. “I couldn’t tell you what the score was, but it was pretty bad, so we knew who their guys were and who the personnel was. We match up well with them.”
The deciding bout came at 197 pounds, where Junior Brian Broderick (184 pounds) was moved, and the pressure was on since an injury problem forced the Lions to forfeit six points at 285, even if the Cyclones were unaware of it.
“Prior to the match, we had already known that Nate Leer (197) and Jeff Furbish (285) would not be wrestling because of injuries, but we had weighed them in anyway as a strategy,” Broderick said.
Yet Broderick had no problems pinning his aggressive, larger opponent less than a minute in for the game-ending six points.
“We needed to bump (Broderick), he is explosive if the guy’s pushing into him,” Galante said. “Bigger guys tend to push into smaller guys, and (Centenary’s Brandon Hull) did that, which played right into our hands. Lo and behold, he clinched it.”
“With the team score being 15-11, I knew that I could get a decision and we would win the match,” Broderick said. “Just before I wrestled, I slapped fives with Coach Galante and he told me to make sure I did one thing and that was to ‘have fun.’ So I went out there and did exactly that, and everything worked out.”
Filling in for Broderick at 184 pounds was junior Zach Zottollo (165), who won by decision. Junior KC Murphy (165) tied up the Cyclones’ star, third-ranked Kevin Dufresne, keeping Centenary at a safe distance heading into the match’s closing stages.
“They put their top guy at 174 pounds, so we put Murphy in and he wrestled a hard-fought match,” Galante said. “We knew if he didn’t get pinned, we had a chance.”
Earlier, No. 4 senior John Darling (165) won over newly ranked Owen Vernon by a final score of 2-0. Dylan Thorsen (141) seized control of his matches in the third period for a win by decision, and freshman Kevin Churchill (125) gave the Lions a lead to start the match for the 10th time this year.
“Week in and week out (Churchill) has continued to put forth huge performances for us and gives us the momentum we need early on in the match,” Broderick said. “Even though he isn’t ranked, we feel rankings don’t mean much anyway. It wouldn’t be fair at all to say that he can’t compete with the best in the nation.”
It required great performances across the board for the necessary points in the tight upset, and the largest momentum swinger of them all might have come from freshman Nick Detsis (157).
“Perhaps one of the greatest matches of the night, which many of us felt was the turning-point of the match, was when Nick Detsis decisioned (Alan Jordan) to give us back the lead, which we would hold onto for the rest of the evening,” Broderick said. “When you have two ranked teams and the match starts getting down to the wire, it’s those hard-fought points that make the difference at the end of a dual meet. And on Friday night, it was enough to get the job done successfully.”
It was also the Lions’ second win over a nationally ranked team, which showed their extra preparation leading into the new semester.
“We’ve had some barn-burners this season with matches that we certainly could have won, but we weren’t capitalizing on our opponents’ mistakes and giving up points far too easily,” Broderick said. “Over the past few weeks, the coaches have been working with us on our technique, making sure that we’re not only picking up the big things, but also little details which have made the biggest difference.”
A dominant mid-week showing provided part of the momentum that carried into Packer Hall against the Cyclones on Friday, but was also rewarding on its own.
“It was a big match for us because they beat us a couple years ago,” Galante said. “Their coach is an alumni, and it’s a good East-coast rivalry. They’re always in great shape, obviously well-coached, and it was an intense match.”
USMMA had come close to defeating other ranked schools, including No. 25 New York University a week before, but the Lions put on a clinic to grab an early 19-0 lead and later clinched a victory after winning seven of the first eight bouts.
Churchill and Darling earned pins,
while Sophomore Joey DiCarlo (133) also got on the scoreboard for six points with a win by forfeit.
Thorson added a win by major decision and Broderick cleaned up with a win by fall for his first game-winning bout of a great week.
“A week like this can do miracles for a team, but we certainly can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Broderick said. “I think that the Budd-Whitehill Duels in Lycoming was a great team-building experience for us and this week proved to us that we have a team of not just 10 guys, but 20 or so including the ones that are behind the scenes too, that allow us to keep improving on our year.”