By Connor Smith
Social Media Editor
Packer Hall was filled to capacity on Friday, Feb. 5, as the hometown crowd awaited the wrestling team’s first home match since Winter Break. The Lions — currently ranked 10th in the National Wrestling Coaches Association’s Division III poll — lived up to their billing, dispatching No. 18 Wilkes University, 26-9, with relative ease.
“This is the first time we’ve had a group quite like this,” senior Antonio Mancella said. “The sense of unity on the team is one of a kind. It’s never really happened in my time here.”
The Wilkes Colonels displayed strength at 125, scoring a 12-8 decision for a 3-0 lead over the Lions. Although the opening bout gave Wilkes fans hope for an upset, sophomore James Goldschmidt silenced the critics with a 7-1 decision at 133. That would be the last time the College failed to hold a lead during the night, as the Lions swept a total of six straight bouts to amass a dominating 20-3 lead heading into the final three bouts.
“I think they make little improvements,” head coach Joe Galante said. “It’s the guys — they’re doing a great job. You can’t ask any more of them.”
Sophomore Ryan Budzek improved to an overall record of 24-2, following his 4-2 decision at 141. Budzek is putting together an impressive season and it will be interesting to see where his collegiate career takes him in the coming years.
“All the young guys came into their own pretty quickly,” Mancella said. “Even the freshmen aren’t really freshmen. In my eyes, they’re already a part of the team as if they’ve been there for a while.”
The Lions continued to bleed out their opponents at 149, as senior Steven Schneider shut out his opponent by scoring a 6-0 decision.
Mancella looked strong early in his bout at 157. However, an untimely mistake nearly put Mancella on his back towards the end of the second period.
“It was someone that I had wrestled before and I was pretty confident I was gonna win,” Mancella said. “I took a risk and it really didn’t pay off. That happens, sometimes.”
Mancella managed to collect himself in the third period, eventually breaking the 7-7 tie after two periods open and scoring a 13-9 decision.
“I had to refocus and wrestle a little bit tighter and a little bit smarter,” Mancella said. “I had to try and not be so flashy.”
Mancella wrestled like he had something to prove during the third period, scoring points early and often throughout the final period.
Junior Nick Herring (165) and senior Doug Hamann (174) scored back-to-back major decisions to cap off the College’s point-scoring fiesta. The Colonels broke their losing streak with a 4-1 decision at 184. Unfortunately for Wilkes, the damage had already been done with the Lions still leading, 20-6.
Sophomore Constantine Rissiotis scored his seventh pin of the season at 197. Rissiotis is now one pin behind team leader and junior, Dan Wojtaszek. The 1:47 pin dashed any hope of Wilkes College making the match close, as the Lions would eventually drop a 7-2 decision at 285 to end the night with a 26-9 win.
“There are some tough teams out there,” Galante said. “ We want to have respect for them, but at the same time, we don’t want to give them too much respect.”
Galante has a lot to be proud of this season. The Lions — still undefeated at home with a 5-0 record — will host Delaware Valley University on Friday, Feb. 12, in Packer Hall.
“I think we’re gonna do well at nationals,” Mancella said. “I think we’re gonna send a lot more people than others expect. I think everyone that goes is gonna be on that podium.”
When asked for any bold predictions for nationals, Mancella simply smiled and gave an innocent chuckle, eventually declaring, “I say we’ll send the whole team to nationals!”