c/o Annabelle Miller

c/o Annabelle Miller

The men’s wrestling team sealed the closing stages of this season with a ninth-place finish out of 19 teams at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships. The tournament, held Saturday, Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26 in Portland, Maine, saw Marco Gaita ’23 earn his 100th career win as a Wesleyan wrestler and seal a dramatic win in overtime to take a spot in the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships, which will take place this weekend from March 10 to 11. 

The tournament also featured excellent performances by a number of other Cardinals who placed, including Aaron Goldman ’23, who finished in fourth in the 157-pound weight class for the second season in a row; Max Martinez ’25, who placed sixth in the 141-pound class for the first time in his career at regionals; and CJ Shea ’25, who placed seventh in the 149-pound weight class.

Gaita will make his third appearance at Nationals after sealing his third-place finish in the 174-pound weight class against NYU’s Jason Geyer. The wrestler emphasized what it meant to head into the final matches of his wrestling career as a senior. 

“I thought it was a super emotional tournament for everybody too, especially as a senior going into it knowing very well this is going to be my last day of wrestling ever,” Gaita said. “I got into the sport to have fun. I wanted to—if this was my last one—go out having fun, and it took the nerves away.” 

Gaita kicked off the tournament with a 5–4 win over Springfield’s Brayden Grim before taking down Williams’ Dante Gurbrod by 4–3. After a hard fight in the semi-finals, where he was defeated by the top seed, Michael Ross, Gaita made it to the third-place match after defeating Coast Guard’s Danny Gibson 8–6. Despite heading to overtime in his match against Geyer to determine third and fourth place, Gaita was able to secure his spot at Nationals.  

“The third-fourth match is always intense, because [it’s] one loss away from ending my wrestling career and one win away from qualifying and going to Roanoke, Virginia,” Gaita said. “I ended up wrestling this kid from NYU, Jason Geyer, who I believe at the time was ranked sixth in the country. So I knew it was going to be a close one.” 

While Geyer got the first takedown, Gaita came back with a quick takedown, tying it up. Though the two went into overtime, Gaita was able to cement his victory and earn his hundredth career win for the Cardinals. 

“It felt like I was pretty dominant and just found my flow state and l felt really good out there, was super calm,” Gaita said. “What’s interesting is we have more All-Americans in Wesleyan wrestling history than a hundred wins, so that match meant a lot to me.”

Behind Gaita’s performance, Aaron Goldman ’23 was the second-highest finisher for the Red and Black. He highlighted the high energy of the team at the Regional Championships after preparing intensely for the two weeks leading up to the tournament. 

“Everyone understood the stakes of where we’re at,” Goldman said. “And so it kind of felt odd walking in the wrestling room, ’cause you walk in and there’s a buzz in there, so it was really good.” 

Goldman spoke about his fourth-place finish at the tournament and ending his wrestling career on a bittersweet note. 

“I came in a lower seed, like eighth, seventh seed, and I got fourth, which was exciting,” Goldman said. “It’s also sad. I’m no longer a wrestler. But it was good, it’s really fun to make it to those rounds because the stakes of regionals [are high, and] each round the stakes get higher.” 

Among non-placing Cardinals, there were a number of impressive moments. Greg Fischer ’23 sealed a pin in the back draw for the 125-pound weight class. Shailen Savur ’25 secured a major decision 10–1 victory in the open round of the 133-pound weight class. Jack Reusing ’25 took a 7–6 victory in the back draw of the 165-pound class, and Dean Omirly ’25 was a winner by pitfall and later by pin in the back draw in the 197-pound class.

“It was a really good moment as a team,” Gaita said. “Regionals is always extremely emotional. Watching my teammates Greg and Aaron have their final matches in their career [was] really emotional for everyone there.” 

Overall, the Cards scored 56.5 points as a team. Goldman reflected on seeing the team support him after going out at Regionals and what wrestling has meant to him.  

“I started wrestling before I hit puberty. I was a kid, and I spent 10 years in the sport, and I am now a full-grown adult,” Goldman said. “I think I became a person I’m proud of because of wrestling, so it’s a little bit hard to let go of. I remember when I lost my third-fourth place match. It was very upsetting for me, but what was more upsetting was, half the team, I turned around, they were crying for me because the people that you work hard with every day understand how much it means to you. So it’s a wonderful experience because you put so much of your heart into it, but that’s also why it’s terrible when it’s over… you know, you want to achieve more.”

Shea expressed the importance of the senior class to the program, and how their absence will be felt next year.

“It’s sad for sure, especially because those guys were the head honchos in terms of running stuff,” said Shea. “It definitely won’t be the same. It looks to be a daunting task in terms of taking over where they left off and filling their shoes. [They’re] all great guys [who] contribute so much, and I’ll definitely miss them.”

As Gaita heads to Roanoke, VA for the national DIII tournament to close out his wrestling career, he hopes to finish strong and leave it all on the mat. 

“This is my last career, at least my last collegiate career wrestling match ever, last tournament, and it’s been a long journey since I was five years old, so this is gonna mean a lot to me,” Gaita said. “I feel like I’m really hitting my stride right now, wrestling better than I ever have.”

Going forward, the Cardinals are optimistic about what’s to come for this team’s future.

“I think we’ll have a really solid next year,” Shea said. “Even this year, I don’t feel like our dual record really was representative of how good we were. I think, with the exception of two [or] three teams, every one of our losses easily could have [gone] the other way. So flipping those really close results into Ws next year would be nice.” 

Goldman enthusiastically echoed the sentiment, and is excited to watch the team continue to grow.

“I’ll be here for regionals next year to come watch just ’cause I’m so pumped,” Goldman said. “I think we’re gonna be great next year.” 

Jem Shin can be reached at jshin01@wesleyan.edu

Erin Byerly can be reached at ebyerly@wesleyan.edu