By Connor Smith and Sean Reis
Social Media Editor and Production Manager
The wrestling squad battled adversity during its final matches of the regular season. The Lions ended their home schedule in exciting fashion — clinching an undefeated record at home on Friday, Feb. 12, by edging out Delaware Valley University (DVU), 21-20, on scoring criteria. The Lions — still ranked 10th in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) Division III poll — were back in action on Saturday, Feb. 13, falling to No. 4 Messiah College, 29-10.
“We work hard in the room and it shows on the mat,” sophomore Stephen Boncimino said.
The Lions honored seniors Jimmy Gill, Joe Paton, Steven Schneider and Antonio Mancella prior to the match on Friday. All four seniors were in action in the team’s back and forth effort against DVU.
The College was forced to fight from behind after an early 1-0 decision at 125 gave the Lions an early 3-0 deficit.
Sophomore James Goldschmidt tied things up at 133 with a tight 3-2 decision. This weekend, the Lions were without sophomore Ryan Budzek, who is currently ranked No. 5 in the nation at 141 by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, as he is currently dealing with some swelling in his knee.
DVU scored a 23-9 technical fall at 141, snagging an 8-3 lead over the College.
Schneider, who celebrated Senior Night with his last win at home, fought for a 3-2 decision at 149. Mancella also won his final bout in Packer Hall with a 7-2 decision at 157.
Delaware Valley ended the seniors’ short streak at 165 by scoring a 9-2 decision.
With only four bouts remaining, the 11-9 deficit grew more and more urgent. Senior Doug Hamann stepped onto the mat with all the intensity you’d expect from a seasoned veteran. Hamann made his last home match of the season count, as he completed a dominating 18-0 technical fall of his opponent at 174. He’ll be back next year to compete, as he only completed three seasons of the allowed four due to injury.
Delaware Valley would not go down without a fight, though, something that became evident when the team tied the match back up with a 5-2 decision at 184.
On a night dedicated to the seniors, it was sophomore Stephen Boncimino who broke the tie with a game-changing pin at 197.
“I just went out and did what I had to do,” Boncimino said.
With the score at 20-14, DVU could only hope for a tie at 285. Proving to be the most persistent pest the Lions have faced all season, DVU managed a pin in the final bout and put the match in the hands of criteria at 20-20.
The Lions had already suffered a heartbreaking loss at the hands of criteria against No. 3 Roger Williams University, so another tie-breaker could have put a damper on an otherwise exciting Senior Night. Luckily for the College, the scoring criteria gave the wrestling team a 21-20 win, thanks to a razor-thin 48-45 lead in match points.
Having been pushed to the limit during the previous night, the Lions faced a rematch with No. 4 Messiah College on Saturday, Feb 13.
Messiah’s wrestlers proved their strength with an early technical fall at 125. Goldschmidt replied with a 15-2 major decision at 133. Messiah then managed its own major decision at 141, before Schneider and Mancella scored back-to-back decisions to tie up the match at 10-10 heading into the final five bouts.
That would be the closest the Lions would come, as Messiah scored three straight decisions, a technical fall and a pin down the stretch to hand the College its worst loss of the season, 29-10.
With their second loss to Messiah, the Lions closed the regular season with a 18-3 record in duals.
“I’m just trying to get ready for regionals,” Budzek said. “I’m trying to get better at every position.”
The Lions will have ample time to regroup and prepare for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) East Regional Championships, which will take place at Washington and Lee University on Wednesday, Feb. 27, and Thursday, Feb. 28. Each wrestler will battle for top three finishes, which yield an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III National Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, March 11, and Saturday, March 12.