When a team is winning a match by 39 points it’s hard to keep a continued emotional interest, but the College’s wrestling team was able to do that last Wednesday, Dec. 1, as senior Mike Denver used support and heart to his advantage while grappling with senior Mike Reilly of King’s College.
“I was not thinking about winning or losing when I was wrestling Reilly,” Denver said. “The only thing I was thinking about was training for nationals. Great moments come from great opportunities, and it’s about seizing those opportunities and making the best out of them and I think I had a great opportunity when I wrestled Reilly in my home gym. I just wanted to go out there and wrestle my match to the best of my ability.”
The Lions won most of their matches handily against the Monarchs in a 42-3 victory, but Denver’s contest still provided plenty of excitement.
Denver, who came into the match ranked No.4 in the 184-pound weight class, squared off against Reilly, who came into the match ranked No. 3.
The pair of wrestlers went out without either one scoring a point in the opening period, but Reilly was able to pull ahead 2-0 after the second period concluded.
“It is easy to go out and wrestle a guy as good as Reilly with the support of my teammates, coaches, friends and family,” Denver said. “Throughout the match all I could really hear were my coaches and teammates yelling to me. That is what made me push myself when I was tired and what drove me in the last two minutes of the match.”
As the pair started to wear each other down, the points began to rack up in the final periods. Denver was able to rally to earn the last five points of the match and nine out of the 12 points scored in the third period overall.
Denver mentioned one thing that caught his eye and willed him to push it down the stretch.
“I looked over at someone who was yelling a bit louder than the rest,” Denver said. “It was (sophomore) Dan Herr pointing to his heart, mouthing ‘it is all heart.’ It was then that I knew I was not going to lose that match.”
The Lions were able to take care of the rest of the Monarchs as they won eight of the nine other matches and dropped the Monarchs to 0-9 on the season.
The match kicked off on a high note as senior Dan Hughes was awarded victory by forfeit in the 125 weight class — the Lions would never give up the lead after that initial forfeit.
The only down point for the Lions on the night came when freshman Enrique Romero was unable to get the best of junior Anthony Dietrick and fell by a score of 9-3.
The match against the Monarchs propelled the Lions into the weekend where they saw three of their wrestlers win titles in their respective weight classes.
Sophomore Dan Herr reached the finals at 133 pounds, senior Justin Bonitatis made the finals at 165, sophomore Brian Broderick at 174 and finally Denver at 184.
Their collective efforts were crucial for the Lions overall performance, which was good enough to earn them second-place with 90.5 team points. The only squad that was better than the Lions was No. 5 Ithaca College who finished the tournament with 105 points.
Herr cut through the competition until he got to the finals in his weight class. There he fell to junior Seth Ecker of Ithaca College by a score of 8-4. Ecker was later named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Bonitatis did not have much trouble making it to the finals in his weight class, but it took a hard fought effort to claim the title. Bonitatis’s final match was won by a narrow 3-2 decision over junior Justin James from The College at Brockport.
Broderick increased his season total to 15-1 on his way to the title at the 174 weight class. The final match of
the tournament for Broderick paired him against top-seeded David Priest of Ithaca College.
Broderick did not let rankings decide his match though. The sophomore left it all on the mat as he came away with a 5-3 victory over Priest.
Denver also went through the tournament without suffering defeat on his way to the title in the 184 weight class after defeating junior Alex Martocello of York College by a score of 7-5.
Although the Lions put up a good showing at York College, Denver still knows there is room for improvement.
“There is always room for improvement, in all aspects of wrestling,” Denver said. “The biggest thing to improve on for the rest of the season is just getting better every day and not worrying about winning or losing but just training for March. This is just the preseason, the real season doesn’t start till March because that’s when everything counts.”
The Lions may be looking ahead to March, but there are still several mathes between now and then that the Lions will need to take care of.
The Lions are done wrestling for the semester, but will return to action on Jan. 8 at the North/South Duals hosted by Ursimus College.
Brandon Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.