Isaiah Bellamy ’18, Carter Armendarez ’18, Dominic Pirraglia ’18 and Devon Carrillo ’17 GR ’18—these were the names that almost dominated the 2017-2018 recap for the wrestling team. With the exceptional efforts from these senior captains, the Cardinals registered another historic and memorable season, etching their names into program history for the numerous records and achievements. However, the excitement also came with new uncertainties: With the departure of the core members, will the team keep up with the momentum they set in the past few years? To answer this question, The Argus is here to recap the past glories and take a look at their prospect in the upcoming winter campaign.
The Past Glory
In the capstone event of the year, Wesleyan finished 18th in the country at the NCAA Championships led by two All-Americans, Bellamy and Carrillo, who finished third and eighth at 285 and 197, respectively. By making into the top-eight flight, both wrestlers earned a deserved place in the All-America team, marking the first time in program history that the Cardinals had two All-Americans in a single season. The third-place finish from Bellamy also set a new record as it was the highest finishing at NCAAs in Wesleyan history.
In addition, Bellamy finished as the No. 1 pinner in the country across all NCAA divisions with 24 pins of his 38-3 record. He was Wesleyan’s second-ever pins leader in the country after Nick Scotto ’13 in 2013. Bellamy also finished fifth in the NCAA for the “Most Dominant Wrestler Award” as well. Carrillo finished third in the country in pins with 21 of his 37-5 overall record.
The team also placed third at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships with six regional placers, three NCAA qualifiers, six All-American Scholars, and another winning dual season at 12-7 defeating numerous top 20 teams. Coach Drew Black finished his 20th season and reached 200 career wins, both huge accomplishments. Additionally, Carrillo boasted a phenomenal overall record of 35-2.
The New Challenge
If there were an Achilles heel to the 2018-2019 Cardinals, it surely is with the departure of these men. Last year’s team was historically good, but all collegiate athletes eventually graduate, and the Cardinals must be ready to match their past success. With only three senior wrestlers on the board, the team is in desperate need for younger wrestlers to step up as potential team leaders to pull off more Carrillo-level success.
The pressure brought by last year’s accomplishments is also going to be a challenge for the team. The fall campaign is a good chance for the wrestlers to improve their forms and find ways to bring up their A-game. However, a slow start could bring more pressure to the young wrestlers, who are trying to prove themselves as the reliable ones. Still, with the experience of Coach Black, this should not be a big issue.
What to Watch For
The team will begin the 2018-2019 campaign on this Saturday at the annual Roger Williams Tournament, where they finished sixth last year. The team is certainly looking forward to establish a momentum at the first event of the year, but since coaches and wrestlers know being highly ranked before Thanksgiving matters little compared to March, we’ll also get a chance to witness the debut of some new faces. The squad of rookies has not only complimented the team dynamic by adding depth to raise the game of upperclassmen, but is also reported to contain much talent. Up next, Wesleyan will be back at the mat on Nov. 17 at the Doug Parker Tournament as the new defending champion. After being crowned at the tournament for the first time in history, the Cardinals will introduce their new squad with the same ambition. The last event to watch for is the RIT Invitational at Rochester Institute of Technology. Wesleyan has established an impressive record at the tournament and managed to earned a second place finish last year.
In general, according to the coaches’ feedback, the core of the team is still intact, as proven by the strong showings in preseason training. Furthermore, the young core has matured since last season. As part of the All-NEWA Honorable Mention list, Amir Daouk ’20 finished the season with a 24-12 record at 125 and Zack Murillo ’19 went 21-7 at 133. James Matias ’19, who was named to the 2015-16 All-NEWA Rookie Team, earned his second consecutive Honorable Mention with a 22-10 record at 141. Elsewhere, Simon Chee ’21 started his freshman campaign with a bang and continued to impress the coaches and the crowd with his tenacity and work ethic on the mat. With other last year’s rookies, the sophomores will bring back the experience of last season to guide them heading into the 2018-2019 slate. Harrison Karp ’21 has expressed a similar attitude.
“I would say my sophomore year has been a lot easier because you know what to expect and can prepare for a challenging season in the best possible way,” Karp said. “Additionally, we have so many experienced returning upperclassmen that have been effective leaders. They really made the fall captains practices both fun and productive which really prepared us for the season.”
Henry Yang can be reached at email@example.com.