Wrestling looks toward Metropolitan tournament

The College’s wrestling team lost its season finale at No. 23 Centenary College, 38-9, ending the dual meet portion of the season with two weeks to prepare for the 2012 Metropolitan Conference Championships.

The team lost to a fifth straight ranked team. (Ashley Long / Photo Editor)

It was the fifth consecutive loss for the Lions (11-9), with all five coming against nationally-ranked conference foes, and leaves the team ranked 30th in Division III.

“(Thirtieth) is a place we can build on, but by no means is it where we want to be — we still believe we can put four or five guys in nationals and place in the top 15 of the country,” head coach Joe Galante said. “In order to reach the goals we have, we need to start beating teams like (Centenary).”

And Galante refused to use injury and illness troubles, which kept several Lions off the mat again on Friday, as an excuse.

“We did have a couple illnesses, a couple guys throughout the season were injured,” Galante said. “It’s not the reason we lost. We still have to be responsible for these matches.”

For the Lions’ points against Centenary, senior Brian Bollette (141-pound weight class) won by decision and senior Mike Denver (184) earned a pin.

Both wrestlers, as well as a handful of other talented Lions, hope to qualify for NCAA Division III Championships by contending for their weight classes in the Metropolitan Conference Championships on Feb. 26.

At least four Lions have gone to nationals in each of the last three seasons, and the expectations for individuals are high again this year.

Denver is ranked No. 1 in the 184-pound weight class, junior John Darling (157) is ranked No. 10 in his, senior Dan Herr (141) is a ranked as a national contender, freshman P.J. Schmidt (133) is an honorable mention in the national rankings and some unranked Lions, including Bollette, are capable of doing some damage in the tournament if they are healthy.

The College, which last won the conference in 2010, might not perform as well as a team this year thanks to stiff conference competition.

“I expect our individuals to do well. I’m not sure how our team will be. There are a lot of nationally-ranked teams (in the conference),” Galante said.

Teams like No. 11 Springfield College, No. 15 York College, No. 19 Wilkes University, No. 22 Elizabethtown College and Centenary — the five teams the Lions faced to end the season — will also be at the tournament.

Regardless of what their team score ends up being, the Lions are looking to improve upon their dual meet form and send four (or more) wrestlers to Division III Championships to prove their mettle.

“We’re looking to learn from experience,” Galante said. “We’re proud of our guys and their effort this season, (but) this isn’t where we want to be.”