By Betsy Veysman
The Binghamton University wrestling team, currently ranked #23 in the NWCA/USA Today Division I Coaches poll, will put its undefeated record on the line this week against top 10 opponents Oklahoma and Cornell in a pair of duals assistant coach Frank Beasley titled “The Clash of the Titans.”
According to head coach Pat Popolizio, the term is appropriate, given the significance for the Bearcats.
“These are by far the two biggest duals for Binghamton since we’ve been a Division I program,” he said. “We’ve wrestled great teams before but we’ve had holes in our lineup in the past. We know beating those teams is a tall order and everything has to go right, but we believe we have the momentum, mindset and talent.”
The #9 Sooners, led by Binghamton native Mark Cody, are set to take on the Bearcats at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 10 at the West Gym. The event will feature matchups between top 25 wrestlers at four weights, according to the January 3 Wrestlingreport.com rankings:
- 149 Pounds #6 Donnie Vinson (BU) vs. #10 Nick Lester (OU)
- 157 Pounds #6 Justin Lister (BU) vs. #11 Matt Lester (OU)
- 165 Pounds #23 Matt Kaylor (BU) vs. #14 Bubby Graham (OU)
- 184 Pounds #19 Nate Scheidel (BU) vs. #18 Erich Schmidtke (OU)
“I think there are a lot of matches that can go either way,” Popolizio said. “We’ve wrestled some of their guys in tournaments and we know there will be a lot of close ones. We’ll need to win those kinds of matches if we’re going to win the dual.”
The heavyweight tilt between Binghamton freshman Nick Gwiazdowski, currently ranked #18, and Sooner Kyle Colling will be one of interest for New York wrestling followers. According to Popolizio, Colling (Pioneer High) handed Gwiazdowski (Duanesburg) his last loss in high school, a 1-0 defeat in the finals of Eastern States when Gwiazdowski was a junior.
“Nick hasn’t forgotten about that match,” Popolizio said. “He’s quite a competitor and that one stuck with him for a while. He’s looking forward to the chance to wrestle Colling again.”
On Sunday January 15th, the two highest ranked programs in New York State will do battle as Cornell travels down I-81 to meet the Bearcats in a meet that will be part of a basketball-wrestling combination event called “Ball and Brawl”.
“It will be our first ever dual in the Events Center,” Popolizio said. “We’re excited about basketball and wrestling together. The basketball game will be at 2 and then we’ll put the mat onto the court. It’s an opportunity for people to watch really high level wrestling, so we’re hoping for a great turnout.”
The match will begin at 5 p.m. at the Events Center and will be carried live on Time Warner Cable. Admission is free.
Last season when the two teams met in Ithaca, the home team captured a 35-3 victory. While there were some dominant matches for the Big Red, Popolizio noted that Cornell also won the tight bouts.
“We know we have our work cut out for us because Cornell is tough across the board,” Popolizio said. “We may be favored at only three weights on paper – 149, 165 and heavyweight. Last year they won the close matches. They did it again against Lehigh this past weekend. We know we’ll have to win those close ones to close the gap and be successful.”
Binghamton has been quite successful to this point in the season. The Bearcats have been a perfect 8-0 in duals and had a fourth place showing at the Reno Tournament of Champions in December.
“We feel that the season is going very well,” Popolizio said. “We set our schedule to be very challenging this year and we feel that our team has responded quite well so far. When the year started, we wanted to beat teams in the top 25 and become a top 25 team. We’ve done that.”
Binghamton’s ranked wrestlers, Vinson, Lister, Kaylor, Schiedel and Gwiazdowski, have led the charge. In addition, the Bearcats have received strong contributions from others, including 197-pounder Cody Reed.
“Coming out of high school, Cody wasn’t really highly recruited for Division I,” Popolizio said. “He placed once at small school states. But he has done really well and is right on the cusp of being a top 20 kid.”
There are more goals to be achieved, according to Popolizio. Among them are winning the CAA conference, although that isn’t the focus.
“The end of the year is most important,” he said. “We felt that we focused a little too much on the conference tournament last year and fell short at nationals. There’s no reason this team can’t have three All-Americans and finish in the top 15 at nationals. We have the capability to do those things as we continue our growth as a program.”
The “Clash of the Titans” is the next big step.
For more information on Binghamton wrestling, see bubearcats.com and http://bearcatwrestling.blogspot.com/