A long day of struggles and slams in the College’s Packer Hall paid off for the hosting Lions, who claimed victories in three weight classes, as well as a first-place team finish in the Metropolitan Conference Championships.
The College scored 110 points overall, the highest among Sunday’s nine participating teams, to reclaim the team title over second-place Wilkes University. The Colonels bested the Lions in last year’s tournament, but finished with only 93 points.
“It was an excellent overall team effort that won it for us,” head coach David Icenhower said. “We had to overcome the loss of our leaders Tyler Branham and Dan DiColo in the last week, and won because all 10 of our kids placed — no other team had more than seven.”
With both captains injured, each of the 10 Lions grapplers in the tournament reached either the final round or final consolation round of their respective weight classes, with three grabbing the top slot and a ticket to the NCAA Division III National Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The College’s winning trio included sophomore Kyle Packer at 165 pounds, who pinned his opponent at 2:02, Junior Mike Denver at 184 pounds, also a pin-winner at 2:55 and junior heavyweight Ed Broderick, who won a highly contested bout, 7-5 in overtime.
Packer credited his veteran teammates for his success.
“I think practicing with guys like (Branham) and (DiColo) everyday helped me out in a multitude of ways,” he said. “Those two guys where exceptional work out partners and even better role models. They would always push the team in practice to reach our maximum potential and it showed its success throughout the team during the course of the tournament.”
Icenhower added, “Obviously I am happy and proud of the three winners, but again we won because of a total team effort. Packer was a late
replacement and did an outstanding job, Denver has been consistent all year and leads the nation in wins and Broderick wrestled a very smart match against a strong opponent.”
After impressive regional performances, Packer, Denver, Broderick and sophomore Dan Herr, a Wild Card winner at 133 pounds, will join the finest wrestlers in Division III on March 5-6.
“There are always things you can improve on or work on to get better,” Packer said. “If we as a group keep up the same work ethic and practice regiment that we have been doing for the past several months, then I think we all are equally prepared for Nationals.”
Junior Adam Koziol, who finished fourth at 197 pounds in the tournament, noted that the struggle still lies ahead.
“The competition is only going to get harder, but the guys we are sending are some of the toughest kids I have ever known, and there is no doubt in my mind that they are going to bring home a lot of hardware,” he said. “I would sell my soul to be on that plane with them.”
Two College wrestlers fell just short of an Iowa-bound in-flight movie, as both No. 2-seed junior John Barnett (141 pounds) and No. 1-seeded freshman All-American Brian Broderick (174 pounds) reached the finals but lost by close decisions – 4-2 and 5-3, respectively.
During the award ceremony, Broderick did not leave empty-handed, as he received the title of Metropolitan Conference Co-Rookie of the Year, and Lions assistant coach Joe Pollard was named Metropolitan Conference Co-Assistant Coach of the Year.