College wrestling: EIWA championship preview (from EIWA communications)

By John Aadland
EIWA Director of Sports Information

The nation’s oldest college wrestling tournament convenes for the first time at Hofstra University. The
team title and the individual weight classes are at stake; awards for outstanding wrestler, most career
points, and best pinner will be presented; the coaches will vote for the best amongst themselves and the
officials will vote for the most sportsmanlike team. The EIWA championship tournament is also a
qualifier for the NCAA Championships to be held in Cleveland in two weeks. Forty-seven automatic
qualifying bids will be locked in; it’s the last opportunity for wrestlers not receiving the automatic bids to
make their case for the handful of at-large bids to be extended next week.
The Big Red of Cornell have now won eleven consecutive team titles. To put that in perspective, their
unprecedented run now equals the next two longest streaks combined. The Lehigh Mountain Hawks,
seven times a runner-up during this span, look to mount another assault and claim the top spot. Both
teams lost multiple stars to graduation after last season, but both have rebuilt through a combination of
recruits and roster depth. It’s doubtful that any other team can challenge for the team title.
Last year Princeton staged a strong contest for second place, but injuries have depleted this year’s Tigers’
lineup; while they have contenders for several individual titles it appears unlikely that the winning team’s
colors will be black and orange. Navy fields a veteran squad that could challenge for a high team place;
Army’s recent upset of the Mids in the Star Dual makes a case for the Black Knights. The Drexel
Dragons may have two finalist-level seeds and boast the depth needed to make a strong run. Binghamton
and American round out the group that could battle for third and possibly move higher if things break the
right way.

The weight-by-weight preview:

125 NCAA bids: 1 Defending Champion: Darian Cruz, Lehigh
Defending EIWA and NCAA champion Darian Cruz returns seeking his third title; he is the only
undefeated wrestler in the tournament. Two former 3rd placers, Drexel senior Zach Fuentes and Cornell
soph Noah Baughman, seek to pull off the tournament’s biggest upset. Other returning placewinners are
Army’s Trey Chalifoux, 5th (has a win over Fuentes), and Princeton’s Matteo DeVincenzo, 8th. Junior
Joe Nelson has won Binghamton’s starting job but faced only Fuentes amongst the top contenders.
Another junior, Harvard’s Nolan Hellickson, has enjoyed a sound season.
The lightest weight class generally is host to a large influx of newcomers and this year is no exception.
The best of the freshmen appear to be Gage Curry, American, who could grab a seed as high as 4th; he
has a recent win over Fuentes. Aslan Kilic, Navy (a win over Curry) and Ryan Burns, Sacred Heart round
out the rest of the best frosh.

133 NCAA bids: 3 Defending Champion: Scott Parker, Lehigh
This weight class boasts two returning junior finalists: champ and All-American Parker and 125 runnerup
Josh Terao from American. But the top seed should go to Drexel freshman Austin DeSanto, whose
fine inaugural season includes a sudden victory win over Terao and the highest rankings in this weight
class. Both DeSanto and Parker were injured at the Southern Scuffle but have since returned to action.
Any one of the three could find himself on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon.
Cornell’s Chaz Tucker could be the best of the rest. A junior, he’s a former Top 50 recruit who missed his
first two seasons with injuries. A defensive specialist, he keeps things close and winnable.
Binghamton’s Jacob Nicholson looks to place in his second and final tournament. The best of the
freshmen appear to be Army’s Lane Peters, Navy’s Cody Trybus, and Penn’s Gianni Ghionne.

141 NCAA bids: 4 Returning Champion: None
Spend some time learning to pronounce Diakomilhalis because you’ll be hearing it a lot over the next few
years. Yianni D. justified his high recruiting ranking by stepping right into Cornell’s lineup and has lost
just once. The other top seeds will probably go to Bucknell senior Tyler Smith, a 2-time placewinner, and
Lehigh freshman Luke Karam. Navy junior Nicholas Gil rounds out the top four; he placed 6th two years
Other returning placewinners are Pat D’Arcy of Princeton, a placer at 125 and 133 who’s trying his luck at
141 for the first time; Hofstra’s Vinny Vespa (Monroe-Woodbury graduate), 5th at 133 last year; and Harvard’s AJ Jaffe, 7th last year.
American will send frosh Kizhan Clarke; Binghamton junior Joe Russ seized the Bearcats’ starting job;
two other talented freshmen are Drexel’s Julian Flores and F&M’s Brett Kulp.

149 NCAA bids: 4 Returning Champion: Matthew Kolodzik, Princeton (141)
Sophomore Kolodzik, last year’s 141 champ and A/A, moves up and tops this deep weight class. He’s the
highest-ranked wrestler at this weight but not invincible, as Brown soph Zach Krause demonstrated in a
dual four weeks ago. The other top seeds probably go to three juniors: American’s Michael Sprague
(looking to improve from 5th last year), Lehigh’s Cortlandt Schuyler (who has a win over Sprague), and
Cornell’s Will Koll (who joined the starting lineup in January and has a win over Schuyler). At press time
Navy hadn’t decided between senior Corey Wilding and soph Jared Prince; either fits right in with that
Others in contention for medals (in no particular order) include Harvard soph Hunter Ladnier, a surprise
runner-up last year; Binghamton junior Frank Garcia; Brown’s Krause, of course; senior Jacob
Macalolooy of Columbia, 8th last year; either Drexel frosh Trevor Elfvin (with a win over Schuyler) or
fellow frosh Evan Barczak (Monroe-Woodbury graduate); and Penn senior Joe Oliva. The blood round is the second consolations and
some good wrestlers won’t advance to the medals.

157 NCAA bids: 6 Returning Champion: None
This weight has many contenders but no clear favorite. Princeton junior Mike D’Angelo, 3rd last year, is
at the head of the rankings, closely followed by senior Markus Scheidel of Columbia. D’Angelo recently
won their dual matchup in overtime; Scheidel is a 3-time placewinner and the runner-up back in 2014.
Next is probably Drexel senior Garett Hammond (a transfer from Penn State who went down with an
injury early last year), followed by 3-time placer Zack Davis of Navy; Brown senior Justin Staudenmayer,
5th two years ago; and Lehigh junior Ian Brown, 7th two years ago. Cornell fans will be watching
transfer Fredy Stroker, who joined their team in January.
Also in this deep field are freshman Eric Hong of American, soph Lucas Weiland of Army, soph Tristan
Rifanburg of Binghamton, freshman Brock Wilson of Harvard, senior Joe Velliquette of Penn, and Sacred
Heart’s Paul Klee. As with 149, some good wrestlers won’t be on the podium.

165 NCAA bids: 6 Returning Champion: None
The class boasts a veteran field and, once again, no clear favorite. The top four appear to be Princeton
senior Jonathan Schleifer, a 2-time 5th placer, down from 174; Cornell junior Jon Jay Chavez, a former
Top 50 recruit in his first full season; Lehigh’s unpredictable junior Gordon Wolf, 5th at 174 two years
ago; and Penn’s May Bethea, up from 157 where he was 6th in 2016. Bethea is on a run of twelve straight
victories, including one in sudden victory over Schleifer, and has never looked better. Not to be left out
are two more seniors: Army’s Andrew Mendel, 3rd and 5th the past two years; and Navy’s Drew Daniels,
5th last year.
Also seeking hardware are junior Jon Viruet of Brown, 6th last year; Binghamton senior Vincent DePrez;
Bucknell junior DJ Hollingshead, down from 174; and soph Ebed Jarrell of Drexel, also down from 174.

174 NCAA bids: 5 Former Champion: Jadeen Bernstein, Navy (2015); Returning Champion: Brandon Womack (165)
The top three at 174 are probably former champ and 3-time placewinner Bernstein of Navy; last year’s
165-pound champ and A/A Brandon Womack, a junior from Cornell; and last year’s top seed at 157, soph
Jordan Kutler from Lehigh. Kutler has the highest ranking, Bernstein has the title at this weight, Womack
has the more recent title. Kutler has beaten Womack; Bernstein has not wrestled the other two.
One notch down but looking to move up are 3-time 4th placer Tyler White of Columbia; 2-time placer
Josef Johnson of Harvard; last year’s 7th placer, Ben Harvey of Army, who just edged Bernstein in the
dual with Navy; 2-time 7th-placer Austin Rose of Drexel, up from 165; and 8th-placer Anthony
Lombardo of Binghamton. Freshman Bryce Rogers of Brown and soph Sage Heller of Hofstra are also in
the hunt for medals.

184 NCAA bids: 7 Returning Champion: None
Cornell freshman Max Dean, brother of 4-time EIWA and 2-time NCAA champ Gabe, will try to keep
the family dynasty alive at 184. Ranked ahead of him is Lehigh junior Ryan Preisch, up from 165 and
174 where he earned 3rd- and 2nd-place medals, respectively. Preisch missed close to two months with a
mid-season injury, missing a highly-anticipated matchup with Dean; he hopes to regain top form in time
for the tournament. Also aiming to claim the big trophy are Navy senior Michael Coleman, runner-up last
season who has lost to Dean; and 3-time placer Steve Schneider of Binghamton.
Additional returning placewinners are seniors Alex DeCiantis, Drexel, 6th; Joe Heyob, Penn, 7th; and
Harvard’s Kanon Dean (cousin of Cornell’s duo), 8th. Three more EIWA wrestlers have been in the
national rankings: they are Brown junior Christian LaFragola, who owns a win over Coleman; Army
soph Noah Stewart; and Bucknell soph Drew Phipps (who has very quietly posted wins over Stewart,
LaFragola, and Harvard’s Dean).

197 NCAA bids: 6 Defending Champion: Frank Mattiace, Penn
Be forewarned about the third of Cornell’s standout freshmen, Ben Darmstadt; if you look away during
one of his contests you might miss something you’ll regret not seeing. Thirteen times this season he’s
pinned an opponent in the first period. Last year’s champ, Frank Mattiace of Penn, is the only wrestler
with a win over Darmstadt this season; in a recent re-match the Big Red came out on top. Princeton’s
Patrick Brucki has drawn support in the rankings for much of the year and upset Mattiace two weeks ago.
Then there’s American senior Jeric Kasunic, a 2-time placewinner who rides a 20-match winning streak
into Hempstead and is ranked high in the national polls. Bucknell’s Tom Sleigh, runner-up a year ago,
was injured in his first action in November and will not return for this tournament.
Others wishing to make a statement include Army junior Rocco Caywood, 6th last year and the owner of
a pin of Darmstadt, accomplished early last season; and Navy senior Steban Cervantes, 8th a year ago.
Drexel junior Stephen Loiseau, fifth among EIWA ranked 197s, seeks his first medal. Hofstra junior
Nezar Haddad needs to pull an upset or two to stand on the podium in his home arena. Lehigh freshman
Chris Weiler (wins over Kasunic, Loiseau, and Caywood) recently claimed the starting spot for the
Mountain Hawks.

285 NCAA bids: 5 Defending Champion: Garrett Ryan, Columbia
Two-time placewinner Mike Hughes of Hofstra returns from a year layoff to top the rankings among
EIWA grapplers; he would dearly love to win a title at home as a senior. Blocking his path is defending
champ Ryan, another two-time placewinning senior. In between the two stands Jordan Wood, the third of
Lehigh’s top freshmen. Hughes has a win over Ryan; neither has wrestled Wood.
Two placewinners return from the 2016 tournament: juniors Antonio Pelusi of Franklin & Marshall, 5th,
and Jeramy Sweany, Cornell, 6th. American senior Brett Dempsey and Brown junior Ian Butterbrodt
have appeared in the rankings. Princeton soph Christian Araneo, who missed five weeks following a
December injury, makes his first appearance at EIWAs, as does Army plebe Robert Heald. Navy is still
deciding between senior Austin Faunce and soph Andrew Piehl.
For those looking ahead, the 115th EIWA tournament will be held at the Events Center, home of the
Bearcats of Binghamton University, on March 8-9, 2019.

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