Despite having eight of its 10 regular starters out, the Lions handily defeated their first two opponents of the year, doubling up Hunter College 28-14 and tallying a 29-15 win over New York University (NYU) on Dec. 1.
Heading into its first dual meets of the season, the team was without several notable starters including two All-Americans, three conference champs and its best transfer.
Thanks to key pins from sophomore Tony Crespo at 133 pounds and senior Jason Chacon at 157 pounds, the Lions were able to hold off NYU en route to an impressive team victory.
“I felt we were a better team than Hunter College so I was more impressed with our win over NYU,” head coach Dave Icenhower said. NYU is coming off an impressive showing at the 2004 Oneonta State University Invitational, placing second out of nine teams at the tournament on Nov. 20.
Although he started three freshmen, including Matt Barber at 141 pounds, Jeff Harrington at 165 pounds and Mike Somma at 174 pounds, Icenhower was optimistic about the team’s chances heading into the dual meets.
“We had a good recruiting year and our new guys had to step up for us a little earlier than we thought they would,” Icenhower said.
The apparent depth of the team has raised the confidence that teammates have in each other.
“Even with a bunch of our key guys out, I still feel like our lineup is strong enough to win matches,” junior Mike Braun said. Braun fought two tough matches on Wednesday at 149 pounds, taking the victory against Hunter but suffering a loss against NYU.
“With some of the new guys helping us out, we didn’t have to bump Nick (Vinciguerra) up to wrestle at heavyweight and risk an injury,” senior Pat Lavin said. Even with junior Keith Bjorhus out due to injury, the Lions had the luxury of forfeiting his heavyweight position for both matches.
Once again, the Lions benefited from the leadership of senior co-captain Nick Vinciguerra and junior Brian Dempsey, who each picked up a pair of victories. Three of their four combined wins were by major decision with Dempsey contributing two.
Vinciguerra and Dempsey were also the only two representatives for the College at the University of North Carolina’s Irwin-Carolina Open. Vinciguerra defeated three Division I opponents en route to capturing second place.
After suffering his first loss on the season, falling 7-2 in the finals of the 197-pound weight class to sophomore Eric Flinchum of Cumberland College, Vinciguerra is now 14-1 and ranked sixth nationally in Division III.
Dempsey had an up and down tournament in the 125-pound weight class. After pinning his first opponent, he fell 6-0 to freshman Justin Staylor of Virginia Tech. He went on to pin his next opponent and then defeated Anthony Butler of Southern Methodist 5-3 in overtime. Finally, he lost to Don Brickler of Limestone College to end his tournament run. Dempsey is currently ranked seventh in the Division III 125-pound weight class.
“Vinciguerra and Dempsey are really coming through for us providing leadership by dominating their opponents and keeping the team focused during this early part of our injury plagued season,” Icenhower said.
On Sunday, Somma and sophomore Pat Cross won championship titles for the Lions at the University of Scranton Invitational, a non-team scored event.
Somma won the title at 174 pounds when he beat Ryan Hamper of Muhlenberg University and went 3-0 on the day. Cross picked up the title at 184 pounds after a 4-0 performance, including a win over Trevor Needham of Scranton in the finals.
Three Lions finished as runner-ups in their weight classes. Chacon finished second at 157 pounds, Crespo at 133 pounds and Harrington at 165 pounds.
Looking ahead, the team is hoping to have most of its injured wrestlers back in time for the Lions’ Tournament held at the College on Jan. 7.
“We could really use the time off to recoup and I know we’ll be back in full force in January,” Lavin said.