The Wesleyan wrestling team’s confidence is certainly high as it near the most important stretch of its season. This past Sunday promised to be a significant challenge, when the team traveled to Johnson and Wales to take part in the NEWA Duals Tournament. Wesleyan grabbed the title in 2011 and has not finished lower than third in the past four seasons. Coupling that with a recent victory over the fourth-ranked team in New England, the Cardinals entered Sunday feeling assured of their abilities.
After an outstanding performance from the team on Sunday, Wesleyan left the NEWA Tournament feeling the same way. The Cardinals finished second in the tournament of 14 NEWA teams, going 2-1 and losing to Springfield College by just one point. Though the team may view Sunday’s result as a slight disappointment because of high aspirations, the result is impressive nonetheless.
Even before the success of Sunday’s tournament, the Cardinals had built up an impressive résumé over the break. Sunday, Jan. 19, Wesleyan gained three crucial dual- match victories over opponents Trinity, WPI, and Roger Williams. The victories improved the team’s overall dual-match record to 9-5 and were highlighted by Roger Williams’ ranking of fourth in New England and 21st in the nation entering the matches.
The week prior, Wesleyan scored an even more impressive feat with its results at the NWCA DIII National Duals. The Cardinals finished sixth at the National Duals, accumulating a 3-2 record and knocking off two top-10 ranked teams, Ithaca College and Olivet College, in the process. Their results at the tournament were rewarded with a 10th national ranking and the top rank in New England for Division III. Much of the team’s recent success has been attributed to its mindset and determination.
“Over break we completely committed ourselves to the process, and it paid off with us taking sixth at national duals,” insisted 184-pounder Jefferson Ajayi ’13.
Two wrestlers in particular were acknowledged for their commitment and results over the break. After the NWCA National Duals, senior captain Howard Tobochnik ’13 was awarded NEWA Wrestler of the Week. Following his matches against Trinity, WPI, and RWU, Tobochnik improved his impressive record to 22-3.
A week after the captain was recognized for his performance, another senior standout, Ajayi, was named NEWA Wrestler of the Week after going 3-0 versus Trinity, WPI, and RWU. Ajayi boosted his overall record to 20-4, going alongside senior teammates Nick Scotto ’13 and Kyle Roosa ’13 as the three other wrestlers who have already notched 20-win seasons.
At this point in the season, it has become clear Wesleyan will not be satisfied with anything except ultimate success. The team hopes to win its upcoming regional tournament while also fielding many individual All-Americans. The Cardinals are certainly not satisfied with their second-place finish at the NEWA Duals but see the tournament as a learning process.
“This minor setback today is just part of the process to winning our region,” Ajayi maintained.
The team will take that mindset into their upcoming dual match Saturday, Feb. 2 at Springfield College, whose team edged Wesleyan by one point in the most recent NEWA Dual Tournament. The result of that meeting will go a long way in determining how much success the team can expect at the conclusion of their season.