By Connor Smith
Social Media Editor
Not even winter break could cool down the wrestling team, as the Lions surged to a 13-1 record for the first time since the 2010-11 season. The College sits at 10th place of the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) poll, while a rematch with sixth-ranked Messiah College looms in the distance on Saturday, Feb. 6.
“Our motto is ‘Lion strong,’ and I’d say we’re living up to it,” coach Joe Galante said. “We’re trying to get better every day. I expected them all to do well and they are.”
The Lions entered the break following a fifth-place showing at the New Standard Invitational, returning to action on Sunday, Jan. 3, with a 46-3 rout of Hunter College. The same day, the wrestling team continued their dominating efforts by dismantling Trinity College, 48-4.
Juniors Nick Herring (165) and Dan Wojtaszek (184) led the charge with a combined total of four wins by fall during their matches, while 2015 All-American Antonio Mancella returned to action by outscoring his opponents, 27-1.
Mancella is putting together an impressive senior season. However, the Lions’ strength lies in their consistency from top to bottom. Senior Doug Hamman boasts an overall record of 16-1 at 174, while sophomore Ryan Budzek gives the College hope to continue its winning ways with an impressive 20-2 overall record at 141.
“Budzek has done a nice job,” Galante said. “He’s got a lot of wrestling ahead of him, and I look forward to seeing what happens in March.”
The team’s mettle was put to the test in the Budd Whitehill Duals on Friday, Jan. 8, through Saturday, Jan. 9, when the Lions stormed past Rochester Institute of Technology, 36-6, and Thiel College, 45-2.
The Lions demonstrated their strength, registering six pins and a technical fall, carving their path toward a semifinal berth.
Both Wesleyan and Williams colleges proved to be better matches for the Lions, who were able to get two “Ws” in the win column, going on to win, 25-12 and 24-1, respectively, against the schools.
Following their semifinal match with Wesleyan College, the Lions were engaged in a fierce battle with nationally-ranked Messiah College.
“It was a good feeling,” Galante said. “We wanted to get to the finals, and we did.”
Down an early technical fall, sophomore James Goldschmidt flipped the switch on the Falcons by scoring an impressive technical fall of his own.
After the Lions clawed their way to a slim 15-8 lead, the Falcons surged back, handing the team a heartbreaking loss in the finals, cutting their undefeated streak short at 11-1. Although disappointed in their final match, the Lions clinched their best finish in the Budd Whitehill Duals since 2011.
“We’ll get to see Messiah again in a couple weeks,” Galante said. “We’ll look to straighten that loss out.”
The Lions must fight an uphill battle if they want to pass Messiah College in the rankings, yet there will be a number of opportunities for Galante’s squad in the coming weeks.
“Any time you wrestle a team that’s top ranked in the country, you’re going to get good effort,” Galante said. “We definitely want to get them back.”
Following their humbling defeat, the Lions returned to their dominating fashion with a 34-3 victory over the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and a 32-6 victory over Centenary College.
The NWCA also ranked Herring and Budzek among the top five wrestlers in the nation, at 165 and 141, respectively. The combined efforts of the junior and the sophomore have helped put the team in a position to win.
The key for this young squad is to avoid complacency and never underestimate their opponents.
The College’s wrestling team will look to top the METRO New England Duals in Bristol, R.I., on Saturday, Jan. 30.
Still ranked tenth in the National poll, the College will have a lot to prove in the ensuing weeks. After rematches with Messiah and Williams colleges, the Lions will look forward to the Messiah College Open to avenge their loss on their rival’s home turf.
The NCAA East Regionals will be hosted by Washington & Lee University beginning on Saturday, Feb. 27. The Lions will look to storm their way to the top with their eyes on the NCAA Division III Championship on Friday, March 11.
“We want to be top five team in the country,” Galante said. “We want to have All-Americans and Academic All-Americans. I want them to have strong character. a positive attitude and commitment to what they’re doing.”
The Lions have come so far since their early 5-0 start. The young squad has dealt with adversity and the Lions are ready to prove themselves on the long road ahead.”
The Lions have come so far since their early 5-0 start. The young squad has dealt with adversity and the Lions are ready to prove themselves on the long road ahead.