Wesleyan Wrestling Finishes Season at NCAA Championships

by Patrick Moriarty, Assistant Sports Editor

The Wesleyan wrestling season came to a close on March 16 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships. Making the trip to represent the Cardinals were Howard Tobochnik and Jefferson Ajayi, both ’13, as well as freshman standout Josh Roometua. A top-eight finish in each weight class is enough to garner the title of All-American, but this year no Cardinal wrestler reached such level of notoriety.

The team finished tied for 52nd out of 64 teams, with Iowa’s Wartburg College walking away with this season’s championship title. Though the trip was long, and the results not precisely what the grapplers had envisioned, the tournament served as an admirable culmination of another amazing season for the program and highlighted a handful of individual accolades for Cardinal wrestlers.

Wesleyan finished its season with a 15-7 record, including victories over familiar NESCAC foes Trinity College and Williams College. The Cardinals suffered all seven defeats at the hands of opponents who were ranked top-10 nationally at the time of their matches. It was an improvement upon last year’s 11-6 record, and this team came close to repeating the performance of Wesleyan’s 2011-2012 regional championship campaign. This year, in a larger and more competitive Northeast Region—as opposed to simply New England—Wesleyan placed a solid fourth of 18 teams with 91 points, just five points behind third-place Ithaca.

The 2012-2013 season marks the close of what has been the most impressive four years in the Wesleyan wrestling program’s history. The past four seasons have totaled a 53-23-1 record, almost a .700 winning percentage. The team also has been consistently ranked nationally with solid performances at regional tournaments both individually and collectively.

“I’m really happy with the season,” Ajayi said. “I wasn’t the best as far as how Regionals and Nationals went, but the team has broken many records and has had one of its best seasons to date. My [senior class] is also the best wrestling class to ever come through Wesleyan. So looking back, I’m pretty proud of that.”

Nick Scotto ’13 ended his season with a 30-7 record, 21 pins, and a fifth-place finish at the Northeast Regional Tournament. Scotto’s 21 pins led the nation in all three divisions at the time of regional tournaments, an amazing feather in the cap for a senior who has shown immense dedication for four seasons.

Tobochnik finished his career as an Academic All-American with a 34-4 record and third-place finish at Regionals. His trip to Nationals served as a fitting reward for his four years as a leader both in the classroom and on the wrestling mat.

Two other team members, Ajayi and Kyle Roosa ’13, helped lead the historic senior class during the 2012-2013 campaign. Ajayi finished with a 31-5 record, a second-place finish at Regionals, and another trip to the NCAA National Championships. In his junior season, Ajayi finished seventh in the 184-pound division and earned the title of All-American. Roosa finished the season with a 28-4 record and a fifth-place finish at Regionals. He ended his Wesleyan career with 106 wins, including preseason matches. He was a two-time New England champ at 174 pounds and NCAA qualifier in both 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Though Wesleyan is losing a formidable crop of wrestlers due to graduation, the emergence of young talent is grounds for optimism. Roometua qualified for the NCAA Championships at 197 pounds in his first year of competition. Not to be outdone, his classmate James Hamilton ’16 accumulated a 22-13 record on the season at 125 pounds. If history is any indicator, the future of Wesleyan wrestling looks bright, and the team can be happy with another successful season in the books.