Playing the role of cardiac kids throughout much of the weekend, the wrestling team overcame early deficits for a treble of wins at the New England-Metro Duals before ending its five-game winning streak with a loss to No. 11 Springfield College.
Success for the Lions (11-6) came in droves at the upper-middle weight classes, as senior John Darling (165), junior Zach Zottollo (174) and junior Brian Broderick (184) went a combined 11-0 during that winning stretch.
Tack on a win by decision from junior KC Murphy (174) and those three weight classes put up 62 percent of the team’s total points during the stretch.
“They’re some of our most talented wrestlers but also some of the most dedicated year-round,” head coach Joe Galante said. “They may not wrestle everyday but they’re always training — running, swimming (and so on).”
Yet, partially due to the absence of freshman Kevin Churchill (125) and senior Dan Herr (133), the Lions opened three of the four matches by losing the first two rounds, including in Sunday’s 24-17 loss to familiar Metropolitan Conference foe Springfield.
“Springfield is a tough team, a large team,” Galante said. “They have Jersey guys, too, so we know some of their wrestlers. What did it for us was giving up the bonus points — whatever momentum we had was lost at that point.”
The Pride and Lions traded blows early to tie it at eight, as sophomore P.J. Schmidt (141) earned five points via technical fall and freshman Mike Shaughnessy (149) earned a win by decision to counter Springfield’s early headway.
Points from Darling, Zottollo and Broderick put the Lions in the driver’s seat despite a Springfield pin at 157 pounds, but the Pride closed out the match at 197 pounds and heavyweight to give the Lions their fourth loss this year that went down to the final round.
In stark contrast, this past Saturday’s New England-Metro Duals tournament featured three Lions wins that extended their season-best winning streak to five games.
“It was another great team performance, again not just from one guy but the whole team,” Galante said. “The bench was alive, the guys were cohesive.”
Early-match losses put the Lions in a 6-0 hole against Roger Williams University to start the tournament, but the Lions were able to come back by taking six of the last eight bouts in an eventual 22-15 win.
Schmidt, Shaughnessy, Darling and Broderick picked up wins by decision, while Zottollo and Nathaniel Leer (285) added bonus point wins for the comeback victory.
In similarly dramatic fashion later in the day, Hunter College gave the Lions their largest deficit since Jan. 5 by building a 10-0 lead through three rounds.
Yet seven straight successful Lions bouts — highlighted by a Broderick technical fall and the ability of senior Dan Brill (197) to limit the Hawks’ gain at heavyweight — ensured an 18-16 triumph.
The other match of the weekend, against Williams College, saw the Lions run wild in a 31-12 win that featured bonus points across the board. Freshman Jimmy Gill (125), sophomore Joey DiCarlo (133), senior Antonio Mancella (157 from 174), Darling, Murphy, Broderick and Brill all picked up wins for the Lions, who only dropped decisions at 141 and 149 and a forfeit at 285.
The remaining schedule will just keep getting tougher for the Lions. On Friday, Feb. 8, the Lions travel to No. 7 Wilkes University, have a tilt with No. 8 Delaware Valley College the following week, and take on No. 15 Messiah College in Packer Hall to close out the season on Saturday, Feb. 16.
“We play a lot of good teams, all ranked teams in the top 15. It’s just the way our schedule works,” Galante said. “It’s good for our guys to wrestle against the competition before Regionals.”