To the untrained eye, it may appear that the College’s wrestling team is dragging its feet.
The No. 11-ranked Lions dropped their last two dual meets, first to No. 17-ranked Williams College in the Metropolitan/New England Duals on Saturday, and then to unranked Springfield College on the road on Sunday. A passerby might attribute these losses to lack of focus or determination late in the season. Wrong.
In both losses, the Lions were without senior Tyler Branham, and juniors Justin Bonitatis, Adam Koziol and John Barnett, a combined 304-86 career before the New England Duals.
“It is unfortunate that we dropped the last two dual meets, we all realize our team is real banged up with injuries and that this is not the same lineup we will be throwing out there for the conference tournament,” Barnett said. “For the past few weeks we have wrestled without a bunch of our starters and other guys had to step in and wrestle at different weights, and that is nothing we could control.”
As the Lions tried to get healthy, substitutes led the way in the earlier rounds of the tournament, handing the College victories over Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and Roger Williams University.
The Lions stomped the Engineers of WPI, 42-3 as freshmen James Olivo at 141 pounds and John Darling at 149 pounds filled in with victories, as well as sophomore Chris Lombardi who pinned his opponent in 53 seconds at 157 pounds.
The College then defeated Roger Williams 28-12, led by pins by juniors Mike Denver at 184 pounds and Ed Broderick at 285 pounds. Both Denver and Broderick went 3-0 on the day, winning their matches in a 22-21 loss to Williams College as well.
Freshman Brian Broderick also won all three of his New England bouts.
“I feel like I performed fairly well at the New England Duals,” Brian Broderick said. “I feel like every match that we have is helping us (as a team) get better as long as we learn from them, which will help us with our later matches.”
The Lions have one dual meet remaining before hosting the Metropolitan Conference Championships, a match against Oswego State College on Feb. 6.
“We should have a couple back for Oswego and be able to end the dual meet season on a decent note,” head coach David Icenhower said. “We should have most of the starters back by the Conference. We are not as much looking ahead as trying to get everyone healthy for the end of the year Conference qualifying tournament.”
Lion grapplers weighed in on what they expect from the remainder of the season.
“As the season winds down, I expect myself to win a conference title and go out to nationals and just wrestle every match as hard as I can and good things will happen,” Barnett said. “As for the team, I believe we can realistically send 8-10 guys out to nationals, provided everyone comes back healthy and wrestles the way they are capable of. If we do this, the end of the season could be a ton of fun and we could accomplish something very special together.”
Koziol added, “We have extremely high expectations about the end of the season. Everyone is going to be healthy and ready to go by then. It is what we have been looking forward to since September. If you can’t get excited about this … you’re probably dead.”