After seeing their own win streak fall on the road last week, the No. 12-ranked College returned the favor at home against No. 10-ranked Centenary College on Friday.
Led by three consecutive pin falls at 165, 174 and 184 pounds, the Lions bested their opponents 25-17, snapping a streak of 11 consecutive dual-meet victories for the Cyclones.
The College finishes the regular season at 19-2, the school’s highest win total since the 2007-2008 season. The Cyclones fell to 11-2.
Following a narrow defeat against Delaware Valley College, the College’s wrestlers stressed the importance of the victory.
“After the loss to (Delaware Valley College), it left a sour taste in our mouth, so this win was huge,” sophomore Dan Herr said. “Centenary is known for being a really physical team, but we were more physical, stepped up and beat some of their best guys.”
Senior Mike Denver praised the team’s ability to bounce back.
“This was a really big, important match for us, because Centenary had beaten (Delaware Valley College), and they thought they were going to come into our gym and beat us, but we proved who is going to be conference champions,” Denver said.
Following a back-and-forth battle throughout the first five bouts, senior Justin Bonitatis’s pin in 5:44 at 165 pounds gave the College control of the match and a lead that it would not relinquish.
Bonitatis was one of five seniors enjoying his final dual meet in Packer Hall on Friday. Senior Day kicked off the match, as Bonitatis, Dan Hughes, John Barnett, David Kiley and Adam Koziol were honored with a short ceremony prior to the first bout. The five Lions have a combined career winning percentage of .720 and have totaled 322 wins as a group, led by Bonitatis’s career record of 129-16 — the second-highest win total for a College grappler since 1985.
Sophomore Brian Broderick followed Bonitatis by making quick work of his opponent, pinning him in only 42 seconds at 174 pounds. Broderick finishes the regular season with an impressive 27-3 record.
Senior Mike Denver both sealed the College’s victory and claimed his 100th career victory with the Lions’ third-straight pin, claiming victory at 6:11 at 184 pounds.
The next two weeks will be spent preparing for the Metropolitan Conference Championships on Sunday Feb. 27, hosted by Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The College will be defending its 2009-2010 MCC title as it attempts to have as many wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships as possible.
“It’s getting down to the nitty gritty,” Herr said. “The next two weeks is what our coaches call ‘selfish time.’ We will still have team practices, but it will be specialized for the 10 guys that will be competing in the conference championships.”
Denver added, “Now it’s all about fine-tuning. We have the whole season to practice and train for the conference championships. Now it’s about getting bodies and mind-sets ready, and we are looking forward to beating some good guys. It would be great for our seniors to go out as conference champs.”
Bobby Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.