Dake, Nevinger, Santos, Bonanno, Vinson Among New York Representatives on the NWCA All-Academic Team

 
 
The National Wresting Coaches Association (NWCA) released the 82-member Division I All-Academic team for the 2012-13 campaign, including several New York wrestlers.

Four-time national champion Kyle Dake was one of four NCAA titlewinners on the squad (along with Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple, Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry and Penn State’s Quentin Wright). Joining Dake was fellow Big Red All-American Mike Nevinger.

Santos, Photo by BV

Another wrestler who stood on the podium in Des Moines, Columbia bronze medalist Steve Santos, made the squad, along with his teammates Jake O’Hara and Josh Houldsworth. The Lions were 28th in the team GPA standings (3.0212).

Also chosen for the team were a pair of 2012 All-Americans and current graduate students – Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson and Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno. The Pride 125 pounder, working toward his MBA, was ranked third on the individual academic list with a 3.77 grade point average.

Rounding out the Empire State representatives are Billy Watterson, a former Section 1 standout now at Brown and Section 3 star Ryan LeBlanc, who wrestles at Indiana.

For the full release, see here.

NWCA All-Academic Team – (Wrestlers with Connection to New York)

Donnie Vinson (Binghamton, 149 pounds) – Masters (Student Affairs)

Billy Watterson (Brown, John Jay HS, 125 pounds) – History

Jake O’Hara (Columbia, 157 pounds) – Financial Economics

Josh Houldsworth (Columbia, 165 pounds) – Financial Economics

Steve Santos (Columbia, 149 pounds) – Financial Economics

Mike Nevinger (Cornell, 141 pounds) – Mechanical Engineering

Kyle Dake (Cornell, 165 pounds) – Development Sociology

Steve Bonanno (Hofstra, 125 pounds) – Accounting (MBA)

Ryan LeBlanc (Indiana, Morrisville Eaton HS, 165 pounds) – Fitness Specialist

Check Out Video Interviews With All Five All-Americans From NY Schools And More from the NCAAs

 
 
Check out video interviews with NY wrestlers at the NCAA tournament, including all five All-Americans from New York teams (Kyle Dake, Steve Bosak, Nahshon Garrett, Steve Santos and Mike Nevinger) and more.

 

Kyle Dake After Making History

 

Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett “Content But Not Satisfied” With Third Place at the NCAAs

 

Damion Hahn on Cornell’s Medal Round Performance at NCAAs

 

Steve Santos Takes Third at 149 For the Highest Columbia Finish Ever

 

Cornell’s Mike Nevinger Takes Fifth Place at NCAAs After a 9-2 Victory

 

Steve Bosak Finishes Off Three-Time All-American Career With Third at 184

 

Mike Nevinger – All-American Again After Five Straight Consolation Wins

 

Hofstra’s Jamie Franco – Two Straight in Overtime at the NCAAs

 

Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno After Upsetting #10 Seed in the First Round (Day 1)

 

Harvard 2012 All-American Steven Keith (Shoreham Wading River) After a First Round Pin (Day 1)

 

Photo by BV

 

 

Winning Words: Garrett, Bosak, Santos and Nevinger on Being All-Americans

 
 
All four of the New York wrestlers taking part in the medal rounds on Saturday morning finished their seasons on a winning note, with third place showings for Nahshon Garrett at 125, Steve Santos of Columbia at 149 and Steve Bosak at 184.  Mike Nevinger grabbed fifth at 141 as the Big Red had at least four All-Americans (along with finalist Kyle Dake) for the ninth consecutive campaign.  Here’s a little more on the performances of each of those wrestlers this weekend.

Nahshon Garrett, 3rd at 125

The freshman from California finished off a tremendous first season for the Big Red with a third place finish at the NCAA tournament, beating two higher seeds on Saturday to get there.

Garrett in 3rd Place Match, Photo by BV

In his first match of the day he surrendered a pair of takedowns in the first and trailed 4-2 after that stanza against the fifth-seed, Jarrod Garnett.  Heading into the third, the Virginia Tech grappler led 9-6, but the Big Red freshman took control from there, immediately getting the escape and a takedown to knot the match at 9.  From there, he was dominant in the top position, riding his opponent out and racking up three near fall points along the way for the final 13-9 margin.

He then squared off with the tournament’s top seed, Alan Waters of Missouri.  The pair met twice earlier this season, with the Tiger wrestler coming out on top on both occasions.  But Garrett said he felt confident this time.

“Honestly, I knew his game plan and I knew what he was going to do,” Garrett said. “He was sitting on a knee like I knew he would. He wrestled tough, but I knew what I had to do. I figured I would ride him out. I’d been doing so well this tournament riding people out, I felt I could do that if I didn’t score points at all before that. He’s obviously really good on top. The last couple of times we wrestled, I didn’t really know how to get out. But no one was able to ride me this weekend.”

The match went as Garrett expected. After a scoreless initial period, Waters selected the down position and Garrett took control.  The California native not only rode Waters out, but also registered a pair of near fall points near the end of the second to take a 2-0 lead.

In the third, Garrett quickly escaped and tacked on a late takedown.  With riding time added, the Cornell wrestler triumphed 6-1.

The victory cemented Garrett in the Cornell record books for another reason – he’s now the Big Red single season leader in wins with 43. Who were the former holders of that mark with 42? Cam Simaz and Garrett’s current coach Mike Grey.

When Garrett was told about that achievement, he smiled.

“We were just talking about me one upping him because he took sixth his freshman year,” Garrett said of Grey. “Now that I have that record over him, it’s pretty sweet.”

So is the bronze, although Garrett admitted he has plenty left to achieve.

“[Third place] isn’t what I came here for,” he said. “I’m very content with it right now, but I’m not satisfied. I’m not going to be satisfied until I get that title.”

Mike Nevinger, Fifth at 141

Mike Nevinger said his goal coming into the tournament was to be a national champion after taking seventh a year ago.  After losing in the first round on Thursday to Virginia Tech’s Zach Niebert in overtime, which he called “heartbreaking”, he said he knew he had to put it all together to get back on the podium, both for himself and for his team.

Nevinger Takes 5th, Photo by BV

He did just that, earning fifth on Saturday with a victory over North Carolina’s Evan Henderson.

“I think it’s just toughness,” he said. “Obviously, you’re just crushed after that first loss. But you just have to regroup and know that you’re a good enough wrestler to go out there and be an All-American. You just have to go out there and wrestle. Don’t make excuses for yourself, just come back strong and go from there.  I just needed to go out and wrestle smart and wrestle my match. If I keep it tight and wrestle tough on top, I’m going to come out on top.”

In his first bout on Saturday, Nevinger was defeated by the top seed, Hunter Stieber of Ohio State.  However, in the fifth place bout, he began strong with a takedown and three back points to take a 5-0 advantage into the second.  The former Letchworth star extended his lead in the second with another takedown and after an exchange of escapes in the third, Nevinger walked away with a 9-2 win and a fifth place medal.

Nevinger went from seventh as a sophomore to fifth as a junior.  He’s looking for more in his final season as he said his goal is to be a national champion.

“All areas could use improvement,” he said.  “I definitely have to get more attacks going on my feet and work on my baseline ‘D’ like always. I know I have a lot of things to work on this summer so I can come back stronger next year.”

Steve Santos, Third at 149

Steve Santos became the highest finisher in Columbia wrestling history on Saturday when he took third at 149 pounds.

“It was a great accomplishment as an individual and for our program. It just feels awesome,” Santos said. “Columbia has a long history of wrestling and a great core following. To represent Columbia like that is a great feeling.”

Santos After Taking Third, Photo by BV

In his first contest of the morning, his opponent, Scott Sakaguchi of Oregon State struck first with a takedown, but Santos managed an escape to trail 2-1 after the opening stanza. Santos imposed his will in the second period, riding the Beaver wrestler for the entire two minutes.  In the final period, Santos took down and got right to his feet, reversing his opponent and riding him out for a 4-2 victory (with riding time) and a spot in the bronze match.

In that third place tilt, Santos once again took control, this time against last year’s NCAA runner up Dylan Ness of Minnesota.  He entered the second with a 4-2 lead and over 1:40 riding time.  In the third, Santos immediately took Ness down to increase his advantage to 6-2.  The Gopher escaped late, but the Brick, New Jersey native completed his Columbia career with a third place medal.

“I knew he likes to roll around like that, but I’m just as good in there,” Santos said of the unconventional Ness.  “I kept solid; I knew I didn’t want to let him wrestle his match. I kept my position and when he showed any vulnerabilities, I just attacked right away.”

Steve Bosak, Third at 184

It might not have been the perfect ending that Steve Bosak said he was looking for, but he finished his career on a high note by taking third place on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett.

Bosak, Photo by BV

After a scoreless first period, the four-time All-American from the MAC chose down against Bosak.  However, he never came close to escaping and was warned for stalling twice, resulting in a point for the Big Red.  There was no further scoring in the third after Bosak took neutral and the Cornell 184-pounder collected a 2-0 victory with riding time to add a bronze medal to his 2012 national championship and 2011 fourth place showing.

“I was proud of how I wrestled and finished out. I feel good,” Bosak said right after the match, adding that his ultimate goal was to repeat as an NCAA champion.

“When the seedings came out, I felt disrespected,” he said of getting the #4 spot in the bracket. “I was unsure why the seeding committee did that, but when it came down to it, I knew I had to wrestle everyone anyway to win it.”

In his first bout of the morning, Bosak came out on the offensive, getting in deep on a shot early that was defended by his opponent, Jimmy Sheptock of Maryland.  However, the Big Red senior did put points on the board in the opening stanza with a takedown and then remained on top for the remaining 50 seconds of the first.  A Bosak escape in the third was the only other scoring in the bout as the Big Red senior finished off a 3-0 decision.

Cornell assistant coach Damion Hahn said Bosak will be extremely hard to replace for his squad.

“It’s emotional because we’ve been together for a long time,” he said of the 184-pounder. “He’s one of the Cornell greats. He did a phenomenal job this weekend. I know a national title is what he wanted. He fell a little short, but I don’t think anybody could be more pleased with his performance. He is a competitor, he has heart, he has every intangible thing you could want in a wrestler.  He will be greatly missed, no doubt about it.”

NCAA Session 3: Cornell's Garrett Upsets McDonough, Joins Dake, Bosak and Santos in the Semis

 
 
4-for-4 for New York.  In the Friday quarterfinals, Columbia’s Steve Santos and the Cornell trio of Nahshon Garrett, Kyle Dake and Steve Bosak all punched their tickets to the semifinals while solidifying All-American status.  They won’t be the only Empire State wrestlers in action in the evening, however, as the Big Red’s Mike Nevinger (141), Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson (149) and former Brockport standout Christian Boley (Maryland, 197) will compete in the Round of 12, looking to make the podium.

 

Binghamton:

Vinson, Photo by BV

Donnie Vinson continued his run through the consolations, beginning the morning with a victory over Michigan State’s Dan Osterman before an impressive 12-0 major over Michigan’s Eric Grajales.  197-pounder Nate Schiedel also got off to a winning start on Friday when he handled UTC’s Nik Brown.  In his second contest, he took an early lead against Iowa’s Nathan Burak, however, the Hawkeye followed by hitting a headlock and registering the fall.

133-pounder Derek Steeley was eliminated in the morning session with a loss to Maryland’s Geoff Alexander.

Upcoming Match

149: Donnie Vinson vs. Scott Sakaguchi (Oregon State) – Round of 12

 

Buffalo:

John-Martin Cannon endured a significant injury in his first match of the tournament, a victory over 12th seeded Mathew Miller of Navy.  He continued to battle, beginning his consolation action on Friday with a 3-2 tiebreaker win over Cal State Bakersfield’s Bryce Hammond.  After finishing regulation knotted at 1 and a scoreless sudden victory period, Cannon notched a reversal to move ahead 3-1.  Hammond later escaped, but it wasn’t enough.

Cannon next took the mat against Ohio’s Cody Walters.  The Bobcat got on the board first with a first period takedown and the wrestlers later traded escapes, resulting in a 3-1 decision for Walters.

 

Columbia:

Steve Santos became the school’s first All-American since Matt Palmer in 2007 when he defeated Air Force’s Cole Von Ohlen in the quarterfinals.  The Columbia senior avenged a loss to Von Ohlen at last year’s NCAAs.

The Ivy Leaguer took a 4-1 lead into the third period, where he brought his riding time advantage to over two minutes.  However, late in the stanza, his opponent escaped and then picked up a takedown with less than 20 seconds to go to make it 4-4 on the scoreboard.  Santos’s riding time was the difference in the 5-4 decision.

EIWA finalist Matt Bystol and senior Stephen West each collected a victory in their first trip to the NCAAs, before completing their seasons on Friday.

Upcoming Match

149: Steve Santos vs. Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State), Semifinals

 

Cornell:

Garrett, Photo by BV

The Big Red wrestlers combined for a 5-0 record during Session 3, including a sweep of quarterfinal matches by Nahshon Garrett, Kyle Dake and Steve Bosak.  Garrett took on three-time NCAA finalist Matt McDonough of Iowa at 125 and fell behind 2-0 on a late first period takedown.  However, he got a key escape with just seconds left in the period to trail 2-1 after the opening stanza.  Garrett selected bottom and after McDonough notched just over a minute of riding time, the Cornell freshman got out to tie the score at 2.  Going into the third, the Hawkeye chose down and Garrett put on a dominant performance from the top position, riding the two-time NCAA champion out and forcing overtime.  (Garrett wound up with 58 seconds of riding time).

Garrett wasted little time in the sudden victory period, going on the offensive and earning the takedown to win a dramatic 4-2 match.

“I wasn’t nervous,” Garrett said. “I was much more excited than nervous. I didn’t think any of the pressure was on me.  I just went out there and wrestled.  I shot a couple of doubles earlier and got to his body. That last one [in sudden victory] was just a matter of strength and finishing.  It was just an awesome experience.”

There was far less drama for Kyle Dake at 165, as he controlled his bout against Virginia’s Nick Sulzer from the opening whistle.  Dake had his way in all three positions as he triumphed 13-0 in a match that was never in doubt. The win ensured that Dake will be a four-time All-American, although he’s shooting for loftier goals.

Steve Bosak made it two wins for the Big Red over the Hawkeyes on Friday morning when he defeated Ethen Lofthouse at 184.  After a scoreless first, Lofthouse chose bottom and Bosak went to work, remaining in control for the entire two minutes.  In the third, Bosak escaped quickly and added a takedown. With riding time tacked on at the end, the final score was 4-1.

Mike Nevinger made it three in a row in the wrestlebacks with a fall against Chris Mecate of Old Dominion in his opening action on Friday, followed by a 7-2 win over Missouri’s Nick Hucke later on.  The latter win avenged a loss to the Tiger at the Grapple at the Garden.

Upcoming Matches

125: Nahshon Garrett vs. Jesse Delgado (Illinois), Semifinals

165: Kyle Dake vs. Tyler Caldwell (Oklahoma St), Semifinals

184: Steve Bosak vs. Ed Ruth (Penn St), Semifinals

141: Mike Nevinger vs. Mark Ballweg (Iowa), Round of 12

 

Hofstra:

Steve Bonanno and Jamie Franco began Friday with victories in the wrestlebacks.  Bonanno topped Cal State Bakersfield’s Tyler Iwamura 7-4 while Franco triumphed in overtime for the second straight time when he reversed North Carolina’s Joey Ward in the tiebreakers to win 3-1.  Both completed their NCAA runs in the next round, however as Minnesota’s David Thorn topped Bonanno and Central Michigan’s Scotti Sentes defeated Franco at 133. Luke Vaith also completed his season on Friday, against Missouri’s Nick Hucke.

 

Additional New York Natives in the Field

Boley, Photo by BV

Christian Boley of Maryland collected a pair of victories on Day 2 to earn a spot in Session 4 Friday evening.  He first upended Arizona State’s Jake Meredith 6-3 before over Phil Wellington of Ohio.

Upcoming Match

Christian Boley (Maryland) vs. Blake Rosholt (Oklahoma St), Round of 12

On to the Next Goal: Columbia's Steve Santos Wins EIWA Title and is Now Focused on the NCAA Podium

 
 
On Feb 16, Steve Santos scored a dramatic takedown and back points in the waning seconds of the third period to defeat Penn’s Andrew Lenzi, 7-4, in a bout he trailed most of the way.

A rematch seemed imminent when the EIWA Tournament brackets were released with Santos as the top seed and Lenzi in the eighth spot. Could Lenzi finish off the upset this time?

Santos never gave him a chance. Late heroics were unnecessary as the Columbia senior got out to an early lead and then made quick work of the Quaker with a second period fall.

“I was really looking forward to improving on my performance,” Santos said. “It was a totally different match. I was able to get a takedown and a couple sets of back points to build up a lead before the pin.”

Photo courtesy of Brock Malone/Columbia Athletics

“Steve had a couple of close matches in February so I’m sure some people in the weight thought they had a shot at him,” said Columbia head coach Carl Fronhofer. “He was pretty dinged up then, but we finally got him healthy at the right time. Steve’s pretty hard to beat anytime. But he’s really hard to beat when he has extra motivation like he did [against Lenzi].”

Extra motivation was also there for his next bout with Cornell’s Chris Villalonga in the semifinals, the wrestler who topped Santos in the EIWA third place bout in 2012.

“I was looking forward to facing him again,” Santos said. “It’s always good to get revenge for a loss. I wasn’t able to wrestle him in the dual meet this year because I was still injured, but he’s had a good season. Getting the win was a big confidence boost for me.”

Villalonga got on the board first with a takedown, but Santos controlled the latter portions of the match, something Fronhofer said has happened many times over the years.

“Without question, his work on top in that match was key,” Fronhofer said. “But Steve’s good in every position. The thing is, if you look at his matches, they’re all pretty competitive for the first three or four minutes. But at the four-minute mark or so, the tide turns in his favor. He just has another gear to go to that I think some guys have a hard time keeping pace with.”

That trait has helped Santos compile a 26-2 record this season and the EIWA championship over Army’s Daniel Young. And, according to Fronhofer, this was one of the reasons Santos made an instant impact for the Lions as a highly-touted rookie out of Brick, New Jersey.

“He was thrown right in there as a freshman and he could compete with the best right away,” Fronhofer said. “He didn’t always win, but you know you have a special kid when he’s in every match. He’s a guy who doesn’t care how good you are. He wrestles his match regardless of who you are. He’s always had the ability to finish matches strong. Sometimes early in his career, he’d be down big after the first period and still come back to win or at least make it really interesting.”

“As a freshman, I made up for inexperience with being able to wrestle hard and wearing guys down,” Santos added. “Just having good conditioning and really being able to win that third period really helped me have some level of success right away.”

But on top of that seven-minute intensity, Santos had another characteristic from the start that the head coach said set the captain apart.

“Steve doesn’t get scared or nervous; even at the beginning of his career that was true,” Fronhofer said. “He’s just excited to compete. That’s an attribute that can’t be overstated in its importance.”

“Generally, I love to compete, especially in big matches,” Santos said. “I’m always excited to have a chance to knock someone off. I feel like I generally keep my cool and don’t take myself out of matches no matter what the score is because I’ve come from behind to win so many times.”

He certainly has embraced some big moments in the past. He has beaten some highly ranked competitors such as Mario Mason when he was in the nation’s Top 10, Donnie Vinson (twice) and David Habat.

His victory over the Edinboro grappler was a part of his run at the NCAA tournament last year, in which he came within one victory of making the podium, dropping a 5-0 decision to Oklahoma’s Nick Lester in the Round of 12.

“I was definitely upset about my performance,” Santos said. “The goal is always to be an All-American and a National Champion. I came close to the first one but didn’t get it. Right after that match, I thought about having only one chance left. I went right to work. I put in a lot of time this summer thinking about reversing some outcomes and getting on the podium this year.”

Much of that training came with frequent workout partner (and fellow two-time NCAA qualifier at 157) Jake O’Hara. In addition, the presence of former All-American Adam Hall in the Columbia room played a key role.

“Having someone on [Hall’s] level definitely helped me a lot,” Santos said. “He’s able to share his experiences and the fact that he’s still training hard for his own personal goals pushes everyone harder. It brings a whole extra level of competitiveness to our team.”

That team improvement was evident this past weekend. The Lions had three conference finalists (Santos, plus Matt Bystol and Josh Houldsworth, who took second at 133 and 165, respectively). That trio plus O’Hara, who grabbed fourth at 157, secured four bids at the NCAAs for Columbia. (174-pounder Stephen West could make it five Lions heading to Des Moines, as he is a strong candidate for an at large bid and will find out his fate on Wednesday).

“I think the program has really turned around since my freshman year,” Santos said. “We had a really small team then and every year it has grown and we’ve made progress. Having four NCAA qualifiers and possibly five is a great thing and shows all the hard work this team has put in.”

There are a lot of reasons for the results, but Fronhofer pointed out that Santos and his classmates are one of them.

“Steve is a true pleasure to coach,” Fronhofer said. “He and the rest of our senior class did a lot to shape the culture of Columbia wrestling. It’s a special group to me because it’s the first class I had a chance to help recruit as an assistant. All eight of them are still on the team and will be graduating. Those guys as a whole will definitely be missed. Steve is a leader among leaders. He’s quiet; he doesn’t say too much because he doesn’t need to. All the guys should strive to have a work ethic like him in the wrestling room and in the classroom. If guys follow what he does, they’ll be successful.”

Santos was successful at the EIWAs, making the finals for the first time and earning the championship. He said that was one of his senior year goals and with that checked off the list, making the medal stand at NCAAs is next.

He ended the campaign as the nation’s fifth ranked wrestler in both the Coaches’ Panel and the RPI. That will likely translate into a seed that should put him in good position to end his career on a high note. Fronhofer believes it could be a very high note.

“Steve’s goal has been a National Championship from the start of the year,” Fronhofer said. “He has the experience and the ability to get it done. It’s clearly a loaded class like the middleweights usually are and there are some uber talented wrestlers. We’ll have to have a good gameplan and he’ll have to wrestle smart to get there.”

Santos believes he’s prepared for his last few days as a college wrestler, before likely staying in New York City to work in the finance field.

“I think that I’m really starting to peak at the right level,” he said. “I had a break in the middle of the season when I was hurt and it took me a little while to get back. But my performance at EIWAs gave me a lot of confidence. I come from a wrestling family and have been competing since elementary school. I know I’ve worked hard toward my goals and I think I’m ready for the big matches.”

He’s ready. Whoever steps on the mat with him better be ready too – for seven full minutes.

——————————-

Steve Santos wished to thank his parents for all their support. “My mom and dad took me to all those tournaments, pushed me and gave me the opportunities to do something I love.”

He also wished to thank his coaches and Columbia wrestling for “providing me with everything I needed to compete at this level and being a huge part of my success.”

EIWA Preview: Can Cornell Make It Seven In a Row? Who Will Star For Columbia and Army?

 
 
Wrestlers and coaches always emphasize that what counts the most is performing in March.  Well, March is upon us.  This weekend, wrestlers from all six Division I schools in New York will try to earn their spots at the 2013 NCAAs in Iowa with strong showings at the EIWA, CAA and MAC Championships.  The following is a look at the EIWA event, which will be held at Rutgers University. (We will discuss the other tournaments separately).

Note: We may provide a live blog of all mats at the EIWAs, as we did last year. Please check back at LIVE BLOG link.

Returning EIWA National Champions:

Kyle Dake, Cornell (2012 Champion at 157, now at 165)

Steve Bosak, Cornell (184)

Returning EIWA All-Americans:

Mike Nevinger, Cornell (141)

Steven Keith, Harvard (All-American at 133, now at 141)

Walter Peppelman, Harvard (157)

Robert Hamlin, Lehigh (184)

Micah Burak, Penn (197)

 

Cornell has won six EIWA crowns in a row.  Will the Big Red make it seven?  The squad certainly has the firepower to do it, but has a few more question marks than in recent years. There are a number of teams who have the balance to make legitimate runs at the big trophy. Cornell, Rutgers and Navy all have seven wrestlers pre-seeded in the top 4 of their weights, while Lehigh has five such grapplers, all pre-seeded in the top 2.

Let’s take a quick weight-by-weight look at what we’ll see in New Jersey on Friday and Saturday:

125: (Four automatic bids to NCAAs)

Photo by BV

Nahshon Garrett, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, has had a stellar freshman campaign.  Currently ranked sixth nationally, he will be the top seed.  One of his few close victories this year was an overtime battle with former EIWA runner up Mark Rappo of Penn.  The two are favored to meet again in the finals on Saturday although some other wrestlers, such as Joey Langel of Rutgers, could throw a wrench in the works.

NY Storyline(s):  Garrett has beaten everyone he’s faced all year – except the #1, 2 and 3 grapplers nationally (Alan Waters, Matt McDonough and Nico Megaludis).  The first time Garrett and Rappo met this season, the Penn grappler wrestled much of the bout on one knee to counter Garrett’s quickness.  However, the Cornell rookie’s mat wrestling led him to victory.   We think it will again.

133: (Two automatic bids)

This weight has only two automatic qualifying spots, the fewest of any class in the conference.  The race for those slots seems wide open.  Perhaps the favorites are Vinny Dellafave of Rutgers and Randy Cruz of Lehigh, the top two pre-seeds.

NY Storyline(s): Jordan Thome wasn’t pleased with his seventh place finish at the 2012 EIWAs but wrestled well at the NCAAs, picking up a pair of victories. He is a multi-time national qualifier and will no doubt push to finish his career at the season’s biggest event.  Cornell’s Bricker Dixon had an effective weekend at the National Duals Regional in Ithaca, topping a pair of solid wrestlers in Jamie Franco of Hofstra and Shawn Nagel of Nebraska.  He also has a quality win over Lehigh’s Cruz. The pair could meet in the semifinals. 

Matt Bystol of Columbia dropped to 133 in early February and won four of five contests, according to the NWCA Scorebook, including a decision over Dixon.  The way this weight class is, any of those Empire State grapplers could make the finals and get tickets to Iowa.

141:  (Seven automatic bids)

While 133 offers just two guaranteed berths to Des Moines, 141 has seven.  And that’s an accurate reflection of the quality of this class. Leading the way are a pair of returning All-Americans, Mike Nevinger and Steven Keith.  Nevinger, the runner up at the EIWAs last year at this weight, registered two wins over Keith earlier this season.  The Harvard wrestler and Long Island native has been very impressive lately, however, including victories over a pair of contenders, CJ Cobb of Penn and Anthony Salupo of Lehigh in February.  (Cobb topped Nevinger in dual meet action).  Not to be forgotten are Trevor Melde of Rutgers, Richard Durso of Franklin and Marshall and another New Yorker – Connor Hanafee of Army.  The former CHSAA star can battle with anyone, as he did while making the medal stand at the Southern Scuffle.

NY Storyline(s):  New York should be well represented here.  We see a trio of Empire State high school stars – Nevinger (Letchworth), Keith (Shoreham Wading River) and Hanafee (Monsignor Farrell) all heading to Nationals after high podium finishes.

149: (Four automatic bids)

Last year’s EIWA finalists, Shane Welsh of Lehigh and Kevin Tao of American, are back, as are the third and fourth place finishers – Chris Villalonga of Cornell and Steve Santos of Columbia.   The return of those medalists should make for an exciting class.

NY Storyline(s): Santos and Villalonga split a pair of bouts a year ago, but didn’t meet in the dual between their teams in 2013.   If pre-seeds hold, they could square off in the semifinals.

However, another Empire State resident has the potential to take the title as well – Daniel Young of Army.  The Black Knight didn’t qualify a spot for the conference, but he has some significant victories, including over All-Americans Cam Tessari of Ohio State and Derek Valenti of Virginia. (He’s also topped Tao and Villalonga this season and earned the third pre-seed as a result).  We expect to see all three make the trip to Des Moines.

157: (Five automatic bids)

Photo by BV

Scott Winston of Rutgers has been an EIWA finalist each of the past two years.  He isn’t the top seed, however. In fact, he’s pre-seeded at number four.  That’s largely because of accomplished grapplers in this class ranked high nationally – Walter Peppelman of Harvard and Joey Napoli of Lehigh. Meanwhile, Columbia’s Jake O’Hara and Navy’s Bobby Barnhisel have also appeared in the polls during 2012-13.

NY Storyline(s): O’Hara won a pair of matches at Nationals last year and is looking to improve upon his 2012 fifth place showing at EIWAs. Cornell’s Jesse Shanaman has had an up and down season but had Peppelman on the ropes as time expired in Cambridge.  His defense and toughness on the mat give him the ability to pull some upsets and grab a qualifying spot.

165:  (Five automatic bids)

Kyle Dake is a two-time EIWA champion and a three-time NCAA champion.  This bracket is reasonably filled with solid wrestlers, but none on Dake’s level.

NY Storyline(s): Dake is, of course, the big one.  But Army’s Paul Hancock has been solid as a rock all year long for the Black Knights.  He has compiled a 28-9 record and placed at the challenging Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. We expect to see both make the trip to the Midwest in a couple of weeks. The question is whether Josh Houldsworth of Columbia (pre-seeded at #7) can join them as a possible sleeper.  The Lion wrestler has won nine of 11 bouts in 2013, with his only setbacks coming to Penn’s Casey Kent, the #3 preseed, by a 1-0 score and by fall to Dake.

174: (Four automatic bids)

Like at 133, there isn’t a clear favorite at this weight.  Mat Miller of Navy, Greg Zannetti of Rutgers, Nate Brown of Lehigh and Stephen West of Columbia have all had very strong seasons.   All are in the top 21 of the final Coaches’ Panel rankings.

NY Storyline(s): Can Stephen West get his first bid to the NCAAs?  The Columbia coaching staff was surprised he was not awarded an at-large bid to the NCAAs a year ago after a solid campaign and a fifth place EIWA showing. He has followed up with a better senior season and hopes to represent the Lions in Iowa.

Last year’s 165 pound bronze medal match at EIWAs featured an overtime win for Army’s Coleman Gracey over Cornell’s Marshall Peppelman.  Peppelman recently got the starting nod for the Big Red after a season-long battle with freshman Duke Pickett while Gracey didn’t take the mat for the Black Knights until the second half of the campaign.  Neither wrestler is pre-seeded in the top five, but both are capable of strong runs this weekend to earn return trips to the NCAA tournament.

184: (Five automatic bids)

Will we get to see another installment of Steve Bosak vs. Robert Hamlin?  The past two seasons, the two-time All-Americans have met for the EIWA crown.  Both times, the Lehigh grappler used late heroics to take the title. The two are on another collision course and this one could have major implications for not only the team race but also for seeding in Des Moines.  Presumably neither wants to be in the path of Penn State’s Ed Ruth.

NY Storyline(s): Bosak is a national champion but hasn’t collected an EIWA title.  Can he add that honor to his resume this weekend in New Jersey?

197: (Five automatic bids)

Cam Simaz stood on top of the podium at this weight for the past four years. The last three times, his titles came at the expense of Penn’s Micah Burak.  Now as a senior, the Quaker is the favorite to finally get over the hump and take first place.

NY Storyline(s): Jace Bennett is one of the more exciting upperweights to watch in the nation.  27 of his 38 matches have ended as bonus point affairs – some for and some against.  Nick Mills came tantalizingly close to qualifying for nationals two years ago at the EIWAs and has one last chance this weekend.  On the other end of the spectrum, this will be the first shot for Army freshman Bryce Barnes, who has 22 victories in his rookie campaign. A year ago, Army’s Derek Stanley rode a great conference tournament to the NCAAs at this weight.  Barnes could do the same.

285: (Four automatic bids)

Photo by BV

This is one of two classes without a top 20-ranked wrestler (along with 133).  So, who will emerge?  Both Stryker Lane of Cornell and Dan Miller of Navy have placed at EIWAs in the past. Meanwhile, Billy Smith of Rutgers and Blake Herrin of American have both been consistent and effective throughout the campaign and as a result entered as pre-seeds number one and two. 

NY Storyline(s): Colin Wittmeyer of Army has placed in the EIWA tournament in the past.  After spending the early part of the season at 184, he recently has seen action at 285 and enters in the ninth spot.

Cornell’s Lane sustained an injury during the Harvard meet, but came back on the mat to register a late reversal and near fall to clinch the dual victory for his team.  He returned several weeks later and fought through the pain to ensure the Big Red went to the second weekend of the National Duals in Minnesota.  The number three pre-seed, he should be back and ready for Cornell.

For the pre-seeds for this year’s tournament, see here.

Cornell's Kyle Dake Earns Ivy League Wrestler of the Year; Nahshon Garrett Named Top Rookie

The All-Ivy Teams were announced on Wednesday and New York was well represented.

Cornell picked up the two big individual awards when senior 165-pounder Kyle Dake won his first Ivy League Wrestler of the Year Award and 125-pounder Nahshon Garrett earned Rookie of the Year honors.  It was the fifth consecutive time that a Big Red team member won the Wrestler of the Year trophy.

Photo by BV

Dake has been dominant throughout his 28-0 season, including pinning all five of his Ivy opponents, while Garrett also registered a 5-0 mark in conference action with four of those victories by bonus points.

Both Dake and Garrett were unanimously chosen to the All-Ivy first team.  Other New York wrestlers joining them were Cornell’s Steve Bosak (184) and Jacob Aiken-Phillips (285), Columbia seniors Steve Santos (149) and Stephen West (174) and former Shoreham Wading River High School star Steven Keith (Harvard, 141).

Quite a few wrestlers with ties to the Empire State made the All-Ivy second team as well.  They include Cornell’s Chris Villalonga (149) and Stryker Lane (285) and Columbia’s Jake O’Hara (157) and Matt Bystol (133).  In addition, Syosset’s Steven Graziano (Penn, 285) and Carmel’s Ryan Osleeb (Harvard, 133) also earned spots on the squad.

For the full list of the first, second and honorable mention All-Ivy teams, see below:
FIRST TEAM ALL-IVY
*Nahshon Garrett, Cornell (Fr., 125 – Chico, Calif.) – Rookie of the Year
*Jeff Canfora, Penn (So., 133 – East Hanover, N.J.)
Steven Keith, Harvard (Sr., 141 – Shoreham, N.Y.)
Steve Santos, Columbia (Sr., 149 – Brick, N.J.)
*Walter Peppelman, Harvard (Sr., 157 – Harrisburg, Pa.)
*Kyle Dake, Cornell (Sr., 165 – Ithaca, N.Y.) – Wrestler of the Year
*Stephen West, Columbia (Sr., 174 – Fresno, Calif.)
*Steve Bosak, Cornell (Sr., 184 – State College, Pa.)
*Micah Burak, Penn (Sr., 197 – Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Jacob Aiken-Phillips, Cornell (So., 285 – Lawrenceville, Ga.)

SECOND TEAM ALL-IVY 
Mark Rappo, Penn (Sr., 125 – Holland, Pa.)
Matt Bystol, Columbia (Jr., 133 – Libertyville, Ill.)
Ryan Osleeb, Harvard (So., 133 – Carmel, N.Y.)
C.J. Cobb, Penn (So., 141 – Williamstown, N.J.)
Chris Villalonga, Cornell (Jr., 149 – Totowa, N.J.)
Jake O’Hara, Columbia (Sr., 157 – Mountaintop, Pa.)
Casey Kent, Penn (Fr., 165 – Norristown, Pa.)
Ian Korb, Penn (So., 174 – Cincinnati, Oh.)
Ophir Bernstein, Brown (So., 184 – Allen, Texas)
James Fox, Harvard (So., 197 – Plainfield, N.J.)
Stryker Lane, Cornell (Sr., 285 – Redvale, Colo.)
Steven Graziano, Penn (Jr., 285 – Syosset, N.Y.)

HONORABLE MENTION ALL-IVY
Jeff Ott, Harvard (Fr., 125 – Chelmsford, Mass.)
Bricker Dixon, Cornell (So., 133 – Kansas City, Mo.)
Mike Nevinger, Cornell (Jr., 141 – Perry, N.Y.)
Zach Bintliff, Princeton (Sr., 149 – Gladstone, Mo.)
Jesse Shanaman, Cornell (Jr., 157– Blairstown, N.J.)
Giuseppi Lanzi, Brown (Jr., 165 – Amsterdam, N.Y.)
Cameron Croy, Harvard (Jr., 174 – Brentwood, Tenn.)
Canaan Bethea, Penn (Jr., 184 – Trenton, N.J.)
Jace Bennett, Cornell (So., 197 – Amarillo, Texas)
Nick Gajdzik, Harvard (Fr., 285 – Rochester, Mich.)

* Unanimous selection

Binghamton's Donnie Vinson Takes Second at the Midlands Tournament at 149 Pounds

Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson has accomplished quite a bit in the past few years.  A third place finish at the NCAA tournament. The CAA Wrestler of the Year honors. A win over Cornell’s Kyle Dake.

But there was a wrestler who got the best of Vinson in both his sophomore and junior seasons – Columbia’s Steve Santos.

This weekend, Vinson got another chance at Santos and took full advantage. In the semifinals of the prestigious Midlands tournament, Vinson topped the Lion wrestler, 6-1.

In the finals, Vinson dropped a 3-1 decision to Virginia Tech’s Nick Brascetta, who had an extraordinary tournament, defeating former All-Americans Nick Lester of Oklahoma and Montell Marion (a post grad from Iowa) prior to the title bout.

Against Vinson, Brascetta jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period with a takedown with less than 45 seconds left. The wrestlers traded escapes in the second and third periods to result in a 3-1 decision for the Hokie wrestler.

Vinson was the only finalist from the New York State Division I squads at the 50th Annual Midlands, but not the only placer. Santos took fourth at 149 while Buffalo had a pair of medalists – Mark Lewandowski (sixth at 165) and John-Martin Cannon (fourth at 174).

 

Head Coach Carl Fronhofer Previews the 2012-13 Columbia Lions

In 2011-12, Carl Fronhofer’s first season as head coach, Columbia took third place in the Ivy League (losing a 19-18 nailbiter against second place Penn) and sixth at the EIWA tournament.  The Lions sent three wrestlers to the NCAA tournament, where Steve Santos came within one win of becoming an All-American at 149 and 157-pounder Jake O’Hara and now graduated heavyweight Kevin Lester each won a pair of matches.

What’s next for the Ivy League squad in 2012-13?  Fronhofer gave New York Wrestling News a preview of what to expect in the upcoming campaign, beginning with a weight-by-weight look at the team.

125 Pounds – Former Section 1 standout Penn Gottfried returns after taking last season off with a shoulder injury.  He’ll be in a battle with Robert Dyar, who won 16 matches last year, for the starting role in 2012-13.  Adding depth is California state champion Johnson Mai.

Coach Fronhofer: “Penn and Dyar are pretty competitive in the room and at this point, it’s hard to tell what will happen.  Penn’s rehab went great and his arm is strong.  But, he’s only been back on the mat for a couple of weeks.  I think it’s close enough between those two guys that I’ll remove myself from that situation and see how it plays out. As for Johnson Mai, he’s a tremendous athlete who is very skilled.  He’s good enough to find ways to win.  But he’s probably at least a year away from getting big enough to compete nationally.  It’s similar to Dyar when he first came in – he needed time to grow enough to compete at 125 pounds.”

133 Pounds – The departure of starter Kyle Gilchrist, who went 27-15 a year ago, leaves a spot that several wrestlers are hoping to grab.

Coach Fronhofer: “It’s definitely wide open. We have Andrew Grabfelder, who was a starter earlier in his career.  He took a year off, was injured when he came back and is a senior now.  If he can stay healthy and keep it together, he can do well.  We also have some young guys from Ohio – Ryan Murdock and Angelo Amenta who are pretty talented kids who work hard.  Also add in California freshman Joe Moita.  This is the most wide open race for a starting spot in our lineup this year.”

141 Pounds – Last season, Matt Bystol, Ryan Ponte and Elijah Sullivan all manned the 141-pound spot at times, until Bystol earned the nod down the stretch.  He and Ponte will be back, with Sullivan taking the year off. But it may be a three-way race again as Top 100 recruit Alec Mooradian, a Michigan native, will also look for time.

Coach Fronhofer: “We had several wrestleoffs last year at 141 and it went in circles. When the dust settled, it was Bystol who won the job.  He was really steady and consistent and that’s why he found himself in the lineup at the end of the year.  Ponte will battle with him again and so will Mooradian.  [Mooradian] was a four-time state finalist and a three-time champion and lost only a few matches in his entire high school career.   He’s tough and he’ll be fighting for the spot too.”

149 Pounds – Unlike the first three weights, 149 isn’t up for grabs.  Four-year starter Steve Santos will be back a year after making the Round of 12 at the NCAA tournament.  Santos has racked up several impressive victories during his career, including wins over Mario Mason, Donnie Vinson and Edinboro’s David Habat.  In 2011-12, he compiled a 26-11 record and took fourth at the EIWA tournament before winning three bouts at nationals.

Coach Fronhofer: “Last year, Steve was solid.  When he was a freshman and sophomore, he was a little inconsistent. He took some bad losses here and there.  But if he continues to be consistent, he’s a top 10 guy in the country and is capable of more than that.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he took top four at NCAAs this year.  He has what it takes to be an All-American.”

157 Pounds – Like Santos, fellow senior Jake O’Hara got his hand raised at nationals in 2012.  The Pennsylvania native won two matches in St. Louis to cap off a 30-victory campaign.  According to Fronhofer, he and Santos will be the team captains and are the leaders of the squad who “take care of business inside and outside the room and do everything right”.

Coach Fronhofer: “Jake made a big leap last year.  I think the difference between Jake as a sophomore and as a junior was pretty astronomical.  It’s a credit to him.  He works very hard – he stays the course and gets better every day.  I think having [assistant coach] Adam Hall [an All-American at Boise State] to work with was very beneficial.  Without question, Jake’s goal is to be on the podium in March.  There’s no doubt in my mind that he can do it.  The middle weights are always loaded but you have to show up and wrestle.  He’s capable of placing at the NCAAs.”

165 Pounds – NCAA qualifier Eren Civan graduated and a number of young wrestlers are lining up to take his spot.  Michigan native Josh Houldsworth, who started at 141 as a freshman in 2010-11, is moving up a few weights while 2012 spot starter Adam Fondale is in the mix with sophomore Eric Fajardo.

Coach Fronhofer: “Josh Houldsworth is pretty tall and we always thought he could grow. We’ve gotten such consistent work out of Steve [Santos] and Jake [O’Hara] that we asked Josh to move up and he’s making that move. Fondale won about 20 matches last year, wrestling in duals, opens and all over the place. Fajardo is a super talented kid who did a lot of judo growing up.  He didn’t have the pure wrestling experience of a lot of other guys, but he’s a great athlete who has developed well.  He took second at the FILA Junior Nationals this spring in Greco and has made some big gains in a short time.”

174 PoundsStephen West joined the lineup as soon as he arrived at Columbia and is ready to enter his fourth year as a starter.   Despite 33 wins last season, he didn’t receive a bid to the NCAA tournament and looks to qualify for nationals and more in his final season in a Lions singlet.

Coach Fronhofer: “It was almost unbelievable that [West] wasn’t at the tournament last year. It was shocking to me after he qualified a spot for our conference and placed only one spot out [of automatic qualifying]. He had the most wins at the weight in the country.   He was completely devastated – we all were.  But he has the right attitude about the sport and life and he snapped out of it pretty quickly and went back to work in the spring and summer.  He has the right focus.  I assume that in March he’ll be competing at a pretty high level nationally.  He’s shooting to be an All-American. He has the experience, the athleticism and the skill set that makes it possible.”

184 PoundsShane Hughes came in as a freshman and racked up 22 wins.  He was an exciting wrestler to watch, recording 11 pins and going for big moves at 184 pounds.  Several other freshmen, such as Zack Hernandez, Austin Coniker and Chris Loew are also listed at the weight.

Coach Fronhofer: “Shane is definitely very dangerous in certain positions.  To make a jump this year, he’ll have to be more consistent and tighten up his game a little bit.  You can’t put the reins on guys like him because part of why he’s good is that he’s so open.  But he’ll have to improve a little on fundamentals and managing matches to take the next step.”

197 Pounds – In 2011, Nick Mills made Second Team All-Ivy at 184 pounds and took fifth at EIWAs.  He began last season at the same weight and then transitioned to 197, going 12-15 overall.

Coach Fronhofer: “Nick had a rough year last year. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and was trying to figure out how to compete that way.  If he does that, he’ll be back in a position to get to the NCAA tournament. He’s a great athlete and physically can compete with anyone.  Chris Manna and Matt Idelson are two other guys who will be at that weight.  They haven’t figured out a way to beat Mills yet, though.”

285 PoundsWyatt Baker notched a 13-5 record in his first year with the Lions while backing up NCAA qualifier Kevin Lester.  He was busy in the spring and summer competing in the international styles.  Baker represented the United States at 120 kg in Greco Roman at the Junior World Championships in Thailand, taking 10th place.  The native Californian is looking to make his mark in the EIWA and nationally in his initial campaign as a starter.

Coach Fronhofer: “Wyatt has made a huge leap.  He’s a kid that comes from Servite, a major football factory and he was a big time football player.  He only wrestled a few months of the year.  He has a tremendous attitude – he’s a happy kid that gets the most out of every situation.  I think it’s really hard to start right out of the blocks at heavyweight, so he was in a good position last year to come in and develop with Kevin Lester here.  Having that year of development plus the great summer he earned by making the World Team really benefitted him and we expect him to compete at a high level right away.”

A Few More Questions . . . 

What do you feel were the biggest things you took away from your first year as the head coach?

Coach Fronhofer:  I think I learned about managing the guys.  It’s a bit of a balancing act.  A guy like Stephen West probably wrestled too many matches last year.  He’s just so tough and so consistent, you can lose sight of the fact that he could use some time off.  I think you learn as a head coach when to put the hammer down and when to pull back a little bit; how to manage individuals and keep the team’s best interest in mind.  The decision making process is constantly evolving.

I also got to see that as a head coach you manage to wear a lot of hats at once.  You have responsibilities to the team, the administration, the parents, recruiting, alumni and so on.  You’re constantly learning on the job as you go through different experiences.

What goals have you set for the team for 2012-13?

Coach Fronhofer: I think we’ve done some great work in the offseason.  You saw our guys wrestling a lot of freestyle and Greco.  Our attitude is that if there’s a wrestling tournament, we’re going.  We’re passionate about the Olympic movement in our country and we’re going to wrestle as much as we can.

I think our goal as a team at the EIWA tournament is to finish top 3.  After that, I think we’re capable of sending six-plus wrestlers to the NCAAs.  We have a few guys with very high level individual goals.  They expect to become All-Americans and their goals are to win national titles.  We can achieve some big things this year. I’m always excited in the fall, preparing for what’s coming next.  We’re really looking forward to getting started.