In the final team event of the 2014-2015 wrestling season, three Cardinals finished among the top-six wrestlers in their weight class at the Northeast Regional Tournament this past weekend. The tournament, hosted by Roger Williams University, took place last Saturday and Sunday. Wesleyan had nine wrestlers compete, led by captain Ryan Sblendorio ’15 who finished in third place in the 174-pound weight class. Sblendorio, who went 4-1 over the weekend, earned a spot in the NCAA Division III Championships. The championships will be held in two weeks in Hershey, Penn.
Sblendorio, who began to the day in the fifth seed in his weight class, jumped to a quick start. He defeated University of Southern Maine’s Matthew Wheeler via pin. He then followed up with a win over the weight class’s fourth seed, William Burns of Norwich University. With the victory over Burns, Sblendorio earned a berth in the tournament semifinals, with an automatic bid to NCAAs and an appearance in the finals on the line in his next match. However, RWU’s Dan Ressler narrowly edged Sblendorio by a 5-3 margin, and in the process, secured a berth at the NCAA tournament.
Sblendorio then faced two make-or-break matches to continue his season. He proceeded to pin his next opponent, Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Justin Marsh, with a first period pin, earning a right in the third-place bout with a second chance to secure an invitation to NCAAs. Sblendorio proceeded to dominate his opponent with a 10-3 victory, and will advance to championship competition.
Isaiah Bellamy ’18 narrowly missed out on an NCAA bid in his first collegiate season. Finishing in fourth place in the 197-pound weight class, Bellamy was defeated in overtime in the third place match to Springfield College’s Hunter Ayen, who Bellamy had defeated earlier in the tournament by an 11-1 margin. Although he fell narrowly with a trip to NCAAs on the line, Bellamy has three more years to build upon his promising first campaign. Bellamy finished the competition with a 3-2 record.
Matt Pelton ’17 also had a top-6 finish for the Cardinals, ending the weekend at 3-3. Contending in the 141-pound weight class, Pelton won his first match before being defeated via technical fall in his second match of the competition. He proceeded to win his next two matches, with hopes for an NCAA bid still alive. However, Pelton suffered a pin in his next match and then fell in the fifth-place match.
Although captain Chris Siracusa ’16, who recently returned from injury, did not place in the tournament, he finished with two hard-fought victories.
“I’d say this season was motivational,” Siracusa said. “I was wrestling my best before getting caught by the JWU kid, and seeing Ryan Sblendorio make it to nationals showed me how possible it all is…. I’d say the season was an eight out of ten. We didn’t finish as well as we hoped, but as a young team, [we] learned a lot…. To find success, we must learn from this season and improve where our game is weakest.”
The team finished in 11th place out of 18 competing teams in its final event of the season. This marked a three spot improvement from last year, when Wesleyan finished 14th overall. This tournament signaled the end of the wrestling season for all Cardinals except Sblendorio. Younger members of the team, such as first-year wrestlers Bellamy and Carter Armendarez, and sophomores including Pierce and Frank Crippen, are poised to become the building blocks for years to come.