When asked about winter sports, most people will express their love for ice hockey and basketball, but very few of them will mention wrestling. The sport (scholastic wrestling) remains mysterious because it receives less coverage, and the Wesleyan team receives less attention since they usually play away. However, the Cardinals wrestlers show the same Wesleyan spirit as other popular winter sports. As the NCAA dual meet season kicked into high gear over the break, Wesleyan wrestlers continued their sensational season by making a couple of impressive performances and sharpening their fine forms.
To start, the Cardinals traveled to Trinity for a series of dual matches which took place on Sunday, Jan. 21.
For those who are new to the sport, it is important to notice the differences between the dual meets and team tournaments. Dual meets force teams to prepare differently, and they receive surprising results. While tournaments highlight the individuals, dual meets require the full commitment of every member of the team. The score of each meet is made up of the total points earned by each team. This not only changes the psychologies of athletes but also shakes up coaching techniques. To put it simply, teams look to accumulate points as a whole in dual meets.
On the day, the Dirty Birds were led by James Matias ’19 (141), Dominic Pirraglia ’18 (174), Devon Carrillo ’17 (197) to arrive at two wins and one defeat. The Cardinals opened play by cruising past the Bantams by a 33-11 score before being edged by 18th-ranked Roger Williams, 22-18. In the final match of the day, however, Wesleyan did not repeat the same mistake. It took the Cardinals a while to get into their rhythm, but they eventually defeated WPI 22-21 as Carter Armendarez ’18, Carrillo, and Matias picked up wins and Pirraglia and Carrilo pinned their opponents. As a result, the team improved their ranking from 20th to 18th in the division.
Then, on Jan. 12 and 13, the Cardinals carried on their winter journey by going 2-3 in dual matches at the two-day Budd Whitehill National Duals. At Lycoming College, the dual meet attracted a number of stronger teams to attend with their great forms. Competing at 125 pounds, Amir Daouk ’20 highlighted the event for the Red and Black as he earned placement on the All-Tournament team. And, as usual, Carrillo and Isaiah Bellamy ’18 gave a lot of confidence to the team by both going a perfect 5-0 on the weekend. However, the two losses on Day 1 placed Wesleyan into the 9th-12th place bracket for Day 2, and while the team regained some strength, it left the meet ranked 10th.
Back on the road next weekend, the Dirty Birds hopped over to Providence, R.I. for the New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) Dual Championship Tournament at Providence Career & Technical Academy. After being narrowly edged by Coast Guard in round two and losing to Southern Maine, 18th-ranked Wesleyan went 2-2 on the day, and seventh place overall out of 16 teams.
In the first round, Wesleyan coasted to victory in a uneventful game against Trinity (43-5). Simon Chee ’21, Carrillo, and Bellamy each pinned their opponents at 184 (4:26), 197 (3:42), and 285 (1:42), respectively. Wesleyan then faced Coast Guard, which was a thrilling encounter, though ultimately a bitter defeat. The Cardinals earned as many as five wins but, unfortunately, they fell behind with a final score of 22-23. This unfortunate outcome had clearly affected the team’s mood in the following crucial game where they lost against Southern Maine despite the wins picked up by Ed Pierce ’18, Armendarez, Pirraglia, Carrillo, and Bellamy. In the last match against Springfield, decent displays from Matias, Pierce, Pirraglia, and Carrillo helped the Cardinals lead by one point before Bellamy finally sealed the win with a 5-2 decision.
As the new semester starts, Wesleyan wrestlers will finally return to Freeman Athletic Center this Saturday for another match against Springfield College. Now is the time to familiarize yourself with the wrestling team and to offer your unwavering support. The team is confident that this home game will serve as a reinvigorating reprieve, and allow them to get things back on track as they head down the season’s home stretch.
Henry Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org