Two Lions earn All-America honors

The Lions finished 18th with 20.5 points in the Division III Championships. (Krystal Spencer / Staff Photographer)

The College continued its tradition of excellence on the national stage this past weekend, crowning two All-Americans at the NCAA Division III Championships.

Seniors Justin Bonitatis and Mike Denver each earned their second All-America honor, finishing fifth and sixth at 165 and 184 pounds, respectively, maintaining the Lions’ streak of 38 consecutive years with at least one College All-American.

As a team, the Lions finished 18th out of 60 participating colleges and universities with 20.5 total points. Wartburg College reclaimed its 2009 title with 118 points.

“I am very happy that (Denver) and (Bonitatis) were All-Americans,” head coach David Icenhower said. “I was a little disappointed that we didn’t do better as a team, but we placed in the top 20, and we will go back and try to work on things for next year.”

Bonitatis, a No. 3 seed in the tournament, earned a win early on Saturday in an 11-6 decision over St. Olaf College senior Josef Waples in the consolation bracket. After falling to No. 5-seeded senior Luke Miller of Ohio Northern University 7-3, Bonitatis claimed the final victory of his College career with a 4-1 victory over sophomore James Myers of Olivet College.

Bonitatis finishes his four-year career as a Lion with an impressive record of 136-18, the highest win total for a College wrestler in more than 20 years.

Icenhower noted Bonitatis’s recognition as one of the state’s top wrestlers.

“He is being honored at a banquet in south Jersey tonight for successful south Jersey wrestlers in college, and although he was a little disappointed he didn’t get farther, I think over time he will be proud of what he’s accomplished. With all of the successful wrestlers we have had over the years, (the win total) says a lot about him.”

Bonitatis also earned All-America honors as a sophomore where he finished eighth in the 2009 national tournament.

At 184 pounds, Denver reached his weight class semifinals on Saturday before conceding three consecutive matches for sixth place.

Denver defeated University of Wisconsin-Osh Kosh junior Sam Engelland 6-2 in the round of 16, as well as No. 6-seeded York College junior Alex Martocello 4-1 in the quarterfinals to earn his honor. The win over Martocello was especially sweet, as Martocello had bested Denver in the Metropolitan Conference Championships two weeks earlier.

One win from the final, Denver fell to No. 2-seeded senior Ben Engelland of University of Wisconsin — Stevens Point, 4-0. From there, Denver entered the consolation bracket where he was defeated by St. John’s University junior Dustin Baxter, 6-1. In his fifth-place match, Denver withdrew due to medical forfeit.

Denver finishes his season with a record of 37-6 for 106 wins as a Lion and with another stellar performance next season, he could seriously challenge Bonitatis’s career win total.

The College’s three underclass participants, sophomores Dan Herr and Brian Broderick and freshman Steve Godine, were less impressive. Broderick and Godine won one match each in the double-elimination tournament, and Herr dropped both of his matches.

“Hopefully they learned that if they didn’t win they are obviously missing something and they will come back and work on it next year,” Icenhower said.

Bobby Olivier can be reached at olivier6@tcnj.edu.