Wintry storms might be arriving in Middletown, but the tough winter weather has yet to blow away our Cardinals wrestling team. On Sunday, Feb. 17, men’s wrestling embarked on a trip to Trinity to compete at the New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) Futures Tournament. The tournament saw some incredible performances, especially from some of the squad’s younger members.
At the tournament, first-year Tucker Kirchberger led the day with a third-place victory and 5-1 record in the 165-pound class. Kirchberger had already established his dominance in the ring, earning eight victories throughout his rookie season. However, Kirchberger usually competes in the 157-pound class; this match offered Kirchberger some difficulty as he competed against slightly heavier opponents.
After starting the day with a bye and a pin in his first match, Kirchberger bounced back by earning two tough, decisive victories in the consolation bracket. He then followed the two victories by pinning down Williams’ Stephen Willis in a minute and 12 seconds. His wins kept on coming, with a 12-6 decision victory against Johnson and Wales University’s Christophe Behen, and finally, a pin of Castleton’s Enrico DeBernado in just 20 seconds.
The rest of the team had less success at the tournament, with first-year Greg Fischer (125) losing a tough match in the first round and a second in the consolation bracket. In the 133-pound bracket, Kasim Khan ’21 also lost his first-round match but managed to secure a win in the consolation bracket. Fellow sophomore and 133-pound bracket member Andrew Hennessy lost both of his matches during the tournament. Up the weight classes in the 285-pound bracket, Owen Verespy ’22 went 2-2 with a loss in the first round and two wins in the consolation bracket before falling in sudden-death overtime. Also in the 285 bracket, senior Karl Seitz was defeated in the first round while Krzysztof Nizielski ’20 fell in the second after a bye in the first. These Cardinals met in a matchup in the consolation bracket, with Nizielski taking the victory before losing his next match by pin.
Most recently, the Cardinals traveled to Providence on Sunday, Feb. 24 to compete at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, hosted by Johnson and Wales. The Red and Black ended with an 11th-place finish in the 17-team field. While the team’s finish didn’t make the top half of the ladder, there were some very exciting victories from our fighters.
The Cardinals entered the NCAA Regionals with six nationally-ranked wrestlers: Zack Murillo ’19 (125), Tristan Stetson ’20 (133), James Matias ’19 (141), Shane Ross ’19 (149), Roy Forys ’20 (165) and Simon Chee ’21 (197). The competition featured some of the best wrestlers in the nation, including five 2018 All-Americans and sixteen top-ten nationally ranked wrestlers. Coming into the match, Murillo, who was third seed in weight class, ranked the highest among all Wesleyan competitors. He started the day strong with a Major Decision victory in the first round, but followed it with a much closer match in the second round against Roger Williams’ Kaiser, barely escaping a 4-2 sudden-death match. Murillo would then face a familiar opponent in the semi-finals, University of Southern Maine’s Peter del Gallo, the seventh-nationally ranked wrestler who fell to Murillo earlier in the season. Murillo, once again, came out of the matchup victorious, this time in a 2-1 decision. In the final match, Murillo fell 5-3 in a sudden death overtime against the number-one ranked wrestler in the country, Johnson & Wales’ Jay Albis. Nevertheless, Murillo’s spectacular run led him to finish second-place in his weight class as well as a bid to the NCAA Championships.
Meanwhile, Chee finished the day in fifth place and came out as the Cardinals’ second-best performer. Chee absolutely dominated the 197 class in his first two matches of the day, including an impressive 44-second pin against Norwich University’s Satchell Stauffer. However, Chee eventually fell in the semifinals against Johnson & Wales’ Michael DiNardo and then again in the consolation semifinals.
Forys, who entered the day with 31 victories and ten pins, won his first match by forfeit. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in his second match and was unable to compete for the rest of the tournament. Forys has had an impressive breakout season, after earning the title of “Most Outstanding Wrestler” at the Doug Parker Invite earlier this season and has been seen as one of the team’s strongest players.
While this may be the end of wrestling for many of the Cardinals, we can look forward to seeing what accolades Murillo will rack up as he competes in the NCAA Division III National Championships in Roanoke, VA on March 8-9.
Franklin Ribli can be reached at email@example.com.