At this weekend’s New England Tournament, five of seven Eph wrestlers finished in the top six and received All-New England honors. The wrestlers honored were Dave Roberts ’02, co-captain Glenn Prichett ’00, Conan Leary ’02, Ken Ojukwu ’01 and Chris Sweatman ’00.
Roberts was seeded sixth at 149 lbs., and wrestled a strong tournament to finish fourth. His victories included a 15-0 thrashing of a Western New England College opponent who beat him earlier in the year. Roberts was also unfortunate enough to wrestle the eventual champion twice, losing both times. “Dave wrestled back very well,” commented Head Coach Mike Whalen. “He showed a lot of heart this weekend.”
Prichett also finished fourth, wrestling in the hardest weight class in the tournament. He also exacted revenge on a previous loss, defeating the tournament’s second seed 8-3. Prichett finished fourth for the second consecutive year. “Glenn would done better, but he hadn’t wrestled in almost three weeks and wasn’t in tournament shape,” added Whalen. “I wish he had an opportunity to go to Nationals this year. It’s very frustrating because both Glenn and [co-captain] Rob [Quan ’00] beat guys who went to Nationals.”
Leary lost in the 184 lb. semifinals to top-ranked All-American Lance Baden of WPI, and became the second Eph first-year in two years to place in the top three in New England. Whalen was thrilled with Leary’s performance. “He had a great tournament. He lost 1-0 in the match to go to the finals, and both guys who finished ahead of him graduate. It was a great experience for him and he wrestled the way he’s capable of.”
Ojukwu, the last Eph to place in the top three as a first-year, was looking to improve on last year’s finish. He came extremely close, losing to Dennis Mulvihill from Trinity 9-7 in overtime in a semifinal match. “Many spectators thought that match was the best of the tournament,” said Whalen. Ojukwu rebounded after the loss and finished in third place at 197 lbs. Ojukwu also avenged an earlier loss, to a Norwich wrestler.
Sweatman was narrowly defeated by the defending champion 2-1 in a semifinal match and finished the tourney in fifth place. The semifinal match ended tied at one after three periods. No one scored in the first overtime, so the match went into 30-second sudden-death double overtime. Sweatman lost the coin toss, and was forced to ride Carr from Plymouth State for 30 seconds to win. Sweatman controlled him for 28 seconds but was unable to hang on for the final two, allowing Carr a one point win.
Although he did not receive All-New England honors, John Gogos ’02 also had an impressive tournament. He wrestled in the 157-lb. class despite weighing only 146 lbs., and lost to a senior in the match that determined All-New England status. Whalen was especially proud of his performance. “John wrestled spot-varsity action this year, and he made the most of his opportunity to wrestle New Englands. It really proves that anything can happen if you come in focused and wanting to win.”
Leary is very optimistic about the future. “I feel we did well as a team considering that we were down in numbers. Ken [Ojukwu] had a tough weight class and wrestled the best that I have seen him wrestle all season. Dave Roberts also wrestled extremely well. We’ve certainly improved this season and I’m very pleased that Sweatman, Roberts, Ojukwu, and Prichett all won matches to opponents that they had lost to earlier in the season. I feel that we have a real strong and competitive team, and if we can avoid injuries next season we will have a great year. We definitely have the potential to place top three as a team at the New England tournament next season.”
Ojukwu is also excited about next season. I felt that as a whole the team did very well. Due to an unfortunate variety of circumstances, we were only able to take seven wrestlers as opposed to the ten that would comprise a full team. Our season began very strong. We finished ninth at the Florida College Duals, showing that we deserved to be ranked among the top 25 teams nationally. Unfortunately, as the year went on we lost wrestlers to injury and illness. This caused us to lose meets that we most likely would have won earlier in the season. Several times late in the season we had to give opponents 18 uncontested points before we could even begin the matches. I think the future looks bright for Williams wrestling. We had no seniors this year and realized that as a young team we would lack some of the veteran leadership that can make the difference in close meets. Hopefully the incoming freshman class will bolster our lineup and allow us to better deal with any unfortunate circumstances that may occur. It is very possible that next year we will be able to give the best teams in the area a run for their money.
Whalen was satisfied with the team’s performance. “Given the fact that we had only seven [of ten] wrestlers, it made it difficult for us to do any better than sixth or seventh. The seven guys who wrestled hung together and supported each other. I think we’ve reestablished our team chemistry and I hope we can build on this and take it to the next level. Next year, I hope we can come into the tournament healthy and ready.”