Coming into the season, most of the Wesleyan wrestlers figured that they would face some adversity; with only four upperclassmen on the roster, competing in the tough New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) can be a tall task. But just as Coach Drew Black had predicted at the beginning of the season, the underclassmen have seen tremendous growth due to their significant contributions on the varsity mat.
“As a freshman class, we are looking very strong all around with lots of depth in the upper weights,” said 141-pounder Matt Pelton ’17.
Pelton has experienced success in his first year on the team, placing third at the Williams Invitational and fifth at the Rochester Institute of Technology Invitational over winter break. However, he acknowledged some of the problems that the Cardinal grapplers have faced.
“We have slim pickings in the lighter weights with only four guys from 125 to 141,” Pelton said. “Even so, everyone is wrestling well and stepping up to finish out the season strong.”
157-pounder Joe Koshakow ’17, another freshman standout, also wasted no time in crediting his peers.
“Ed Pierce is doing real well and stepping up by bumping up to 157, and Pelton has been really solid all season at 141,” Koshakow said. “Frank Crippen is also doing well stepping up at 133. I also placed fourth at the RIT Invitational, which was pretty exciting.”
The Cardinal grapplers finished strong in the individual tournaments, placing fifth out of 11 teams at the RIT Invitational and third out of the nine teams at the Williams Invitational. However, the team has had a less than ideal start to the dual meet season, going 4-7 in the last three meets. Despite the disadvantage of sporting such a young squad, there have been flashes of brilliance throughout the Cardinals’ 2013-14 campaign, including a 2-1 showing from 184-pounder Simon Levin ’16 at the Trinity duals tournament.
“When I was wrestling, I just wanted to take it one match at a time, one move at a time,” Levin said. “I wasn’t thinking about getting bonus points until I got a takedown. I liked how I stuck [to that philosophy] during my matches.”
Levin dealt a dominating 7-0 victory over his Trinity opponent and recorded a pin to win his Worcester Polytechnic Institute match. For his final bout of the day, he was tasked with battling David Welch, a nationally ranked wrestler from Roger Williams, to whom he lost 9-1 in a tough struggle.
“When I wrestled [Welch], I just wanted to wrestle,” Levin said. “I wasn’t worried about anything, and there wasn’t any pressure on me. I think I maybe could have opened up more against him in the first period, as I started out a little apprehensive, but overall, I think it was a good experience wrestling a 184-pounder like that.”
Levin, Koshakow, and Pelton haven’t been alone in finding success. Captain Ryan Sblendorio ’15, Keonmin Hwang ’16, and Alex Cannon ’14 all placed third at the Williams Invitational in their respective weight classes; James Hamilton ’16 was a runner-up at both the RIT and Williams tournaments. Eight of ten Cardinal grapplers placed in the Williams Invitational, and Wesleyan recently finished seventh out of 14 teams at the annual NEWA duals, posting a 2-2 record on the day.
“I go into each match confident that I’ve trained harder than the guy across from me,” Ed Pierce ’17 said. “Winning these close matches confirms [that idea].”
As the younger faction of the team continues to work hard and assert itself, the Cardinal wrestlers have maintained their competitive edge in the NEWA conference. They look to continue bringing the intensity as they prepare to wrestle versus Springfield College on Saturday, Feb. 1.