Re-capturing some of last year’s glory with a second consecutive top-10 performance at nationals, three wrestlers made runs into the top-four spots of their weight classes while a pair of those battled to the championship round at the NCAA tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last week.
Senior John Darling (165) and junior Brian Broderick (184) were the headliners, finishing in second while junior Zach Zotollo (174) ended in fourth to lift the program’s all-time total of All-Americans to 140, many of which were earned by the coaching staff and head coach Joe Galante, and earn a seventh-place team finish a year after sixth.
“The program has had spectacular finishes for the NCAA tournament the last two years under Galante,” Broderick said. “He wrestled in the tournament himself and placed several times and was even a national finalist. He was able to prepare us greatly with regards with what to expect during the whole tournament. He has been 6/6 with qualifiers/All-Americans so that must mean he is giving us good advice and preparing us the best for the tournament. Our assistant coaches do a great job with that too: Dempsey, Flynn, Goduto and Ilaria.”
Darling narrowly missed out on a fairy tale ending after fighting for three wins at the tournament, including an 8-6 upset over last year’s champion and the top seed, only falling 6-3 in the final round.
The Moorestown, N.J. native finished his spectacular four years at the College with 97 wins and two impressive All-American citations.
Broderick’s tournament performance was similar, as he picked up three wins by scores of 7-2, 11-0 and 8-5 en route to narrow defeat in the final round of the match.
While he was proud of the accomplishment, Broderick will aim his sights on first place for next season.
“I was certainly excited to be an All-American, but I wasn’t content with that, I wanted to be a national champion,” Broderick said. “An All-American citation is an accomplishment I’ll hold for the rest of my life, and for that I am proud.”
Zotollo came into the season without any national experience, but put up a career year that he capped in stylish fashion, as he went from going 17-10 to being the nation’s fourth-best wrestler at 174 pounds with a 24-11 record, a remarkable story, especially given the circumstances.
Zotollo earned a dramatic victory in the first round with a 8-7 win, and after a loss by technical fall in the second round, added three more wins through the consolation bracket for the first All-American finish of his career.
A few key pieces of the team, like Darling and former All-American Dan Herr, will be graduating, but going forward the team will need to continue to live up to its high standards for a repeat of the last couple of years’ success.
“The team has depth and there are many solid wrestlers throughout our line-up but it is going to be difficult to replace guys like Darling and Herr. The team must continue working hard during the off-season to prepare themselves for a successful upcoming year.”