For the first time in several years, a healthy Eph wrestling team headed to the New England Championships. The championships came at a time in which head coach Mike Whalen thought his team might be ready to peak.
The Ephs wrestled hard and were able to finish second behind Springfield, a great improvement from last year’s seventh place finish. It was this improvement that earned Whalen Coach of the Year honors.
In the 184 pound weight class, Conan Leary ‘02 won the tournament. His first match of the day was against Southern Maine’s Hall. Leary pinned Hall 1:24 into the first period. Next up for Leary was Western New England’s Verrocchi who Leary beat 9-5. Leary then went on to avenge an earlier loss in the season to Coast Guard’s Wagner. Leary was now just two wins away from the New England Championship.
A win against Springfield’s Angerneier placed Leary in the finals. Leary was able to execute the only pin in the final round. He pinned Plymouth State’s Salce to win the tournament.
Leary’s win also proved vital to the team scores. Norwich was beating the Ephs by two points until Leary won the title.
At the 125 pound weight-class, first-year Charles Danhof was unable to place. Danhof was narrowly defeated twice in the tournament by just one point. Senior Matt Gunther wrestled at 133, and he to did not place, either.
After first-year Stu Warshawer went down with a shoulder injury earlier in the season, the Ephs had to forfeit 141 until this weekend. The Ephs sent Michael Reisman, who had not wrestled this year due to knee surgery and only had four practices before the tournament, to the mat. Reisman almost placed. But more importantly, his two victories were both pins. Those pins proved to be crucial to the Ephs placing second.
Senior tri-captain Rob Quan was able to place fourth for the Ephs at 149. Another one of the Ephs’ captains, Glenn Prichett ’00, finished third at 165. In one of the late rounds, Prichett came up big by beating Norwich’s Burgeron, the number three seed. The third Ephs captain Dan DiCenzo ’01 placed fourth.
At 197 Ken Ojukwu ’01 had two pins in the tournament to get himself a finals berth. However, Ojukwu fell just short and placed second. In the heavyweight division, Senior Chris Sweatman placed third. Along with Prickett, Sweatman also delivered a late round victory over Norwich to clinch second overall for the Ephs.
“It was a great tournament for us,” Whalen said. “The teamed earned me that honor. We wanted to finish top three and we did.”