A difficult season full of surprises, disappointments, and adversity has come to a close for the wrestling team. Last weekend, Wesleyan hosted the NCAA Division III Northeast Regionals, a tournament that allows the top three placewinners in each weight class to qualify for nationals. The Cardinals came into the weekend with high hopes, but no Wesleyan wrestlers were even able to place in the top six, despite the positive momentum that had accumulated at the denouement of the Cardinals’ season. Collectively, Wesleyan only managed to place 14th out of 18 teams.
“We were disappointed in this weekend’s results as a whole,” said 157-pounder Ed Pierce ’17. “I don’t think any of us wrestled up to our potential, but in the end, we can use this as a learning experience to work even harder for next year. Next season, we’ll be back for blood.”
Pierce was one of three Cardinals who experienced more success on Saturday, as he, 165-pounder Taran Carr ’16 and 141-pounder Matt Pelton ’17 were all able to reach the second day of competition by wrestling back in the consolation bracket. Pierce’s punishing leg riding and smart wrestling allowed him to tire out his tougher opponents.
“I felt like I wrestled well,” Pierce said. “I had a couple of good matches here and there, but in the end I know that there are always things I can work on.”
The Cardinals sent nine grapplers to the tournament, and most of them started off their day with a win; among those who advanced to the quarterfinals were 197-pounder Josh Roometua ’16, 184-pounder Simon Levin ’16, 174-pounder Ryan Sblendorio ’15, and 133-pounder James Hamilton ‘16. However, it was the round of eight that spelled doom for Wesleyan, as nobody from Head Wrestling Coach Drew Black’s squad managed to reach the semis.
“We had a fairly disappointing weekend showing as a team,” Pelton said. “About half of our wrestlers were seeded and expected to make it to the second day, but only three of our guys made it.”
Of course, the same issue that has been plaguing the Cardinals all season was apparent during regionals; namely, their youth and overall inexperience.
“As a very young team, we were not expected to have a great turnout, as we only have one upperclassman in our group of starters,” Pelton said. “But we’re expecting to return much stronger next year, as we’ll be retaining our entire starting lineup.”
After a 2012-13 season in which the Cardinals had three national qualifiers and six regional place winners, transitioning to a 7-12 overall meet record with no regional placers has been disappointing. Still, it’s hard not to feel optimistic about the future of wrestling, as the Cardinals have a youthful, talented roster that is hungry for success. With the taste of defeat still fresh in their mouths, the Cardinals enter the offseason with newfound purpose and resolve. There is nowhere to go but up for the wrestlers, and Black’s squad is determined to regain its competitive edge in the NEWA conference next year.