Hofstra edged Binghamton by just two points at last year’s CAA Championships to win the conference title for the 10th time in the last 11 years. The Pride will look to keep that streak going in Boston this weekend with expected challenges from the Bearcats and Rider. Old Dominion, which fields a strong squad, isn’t eligible for a title since the Monarchs are departing the CAA.
Who are some of the standouts to watch this weekend? You could start with two of the conference’s returning All-Americans, who will look to go back to Nationals and improve their placing. At 125 pounds, Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno has a perfect record in league competition in 2012-13 after taking eighth at NCAAs in 2012. He is the favorite to capture the one automatic qualifying spot.
Also on the podium in St. Louis was 149-pound bronze medalist Donnie Vinson of Binghamton. The returning CAA Wrestler of the Year has his sights set on a national title to cap off his career.
Vinson isn’t the only Bearcat currently ranked in the top five nationally. His teammate Nate Schiedel has had a banner year at 197. Schiedel is the frontrunner for the CAA crown and hopes to capture a medal in Des Moines.
What Other Returning Champions Are Back?
Besides Bonanno and Vinson, two other 2012 CAA champions return – 133-pounder Scott Festejo of Old Dominion and 141-pounder Luke Vaith of Hofstra.
Festejo will have his hands full with some wrestlers with strong New York ties, including Rider’s Jimmy Morris (a former CHSAA star) and Hofstra’s Jamie Franco. Franco made an appearance at Nationals a year ago, and has rebounded from a slow start to record some solid victories lately, including over nationally-ranked George DiCamillo of Virginia. (There are three automatic qualifying spots at 133).
Vaith will need to contend with a pair of opponents who have wrestled well, especially in conference action – Frank Cimato of Drexel and Chris Mecate of Old Dominion. And while he has seen limited action, Binghamton’s Joe Bonaldi started off the season on a high note, beating a number of tough foes to capture the Binghamton Open crown. He returned to the mat in the final dual of the year and will try to recapture that early season form and take one of the three guaranteed CAA slots in the NCAA field.
Other New York Storylines
Only the champions at 174 and 184 pounds are guaranteed slots at the National tournament. Could Jermaine John fit the bill at 174? How about Cody Reed at 184? Hofstra’s John has put together an undefeated campaign in the conference and was second in the latest CAA rankings behind Old Dominion’s Billy Curling, with James Brundage of Rider in third.
Meanwhile, Reed recorded one of the big upsets in the first round of the NCAAs a year ago when he upended fourth-seed Christian Boley of Maryland. While he hasn’t seen the same level of success down at 184, he knows what it takes to win in March and will be someone to keep an eye on. (Reed is also second in the CAA rankings, behind Rider’s Ryan Wolfe).
Hofstra 285-pounder Paul Snyder was in the midst of a solid senior campaign when he sustained an injury against Cornell. He didn’t return and according to gohofstra.com, he will not compete this weekend. (Zeal McGrew took his place at the National Duals). In any event, look for Binghamton’s Tyler Deuel to be in the hunt with Old Dominion’s Matt Tourdot and Boston’s Kevin Innis at heavyweight after going 5-1 in CAA action.
So, what will we see this weekend? Hofstra has owned this tournament for much of the last decade. Can the Pride ride the production in the lower weights to another title? Binghamton will once again be in the mix, propelled by a probable slew of bonus points from Vinson and Schiedel. And Rider can’t be overlooked, with a solid and balanced lineup. The Broncs had seven grapplers in the top four in the last CAA poll, while Hofstra and Binghamton had five apiece. (Old Dominion led the way with nine). Last year, the team race came down to the wire. It could be that way again.
** According to gohofstra.com, Snyder will not compete.