Grapplers sweep tournament to start season

Wrestling opened its 2001-2002 dual-meet season at home on Saturday, squaring off against Trinity, Roger Williams and New York University (NYU) in a tournament that also included Western New England College. Though injuries had hampered its earlier efforts, the team was back at full strength, and proved it on the mat, going 3-0 on the day.

In the first round, Williams defeated conference-rival Trinity 24-16. The Ephs started out with a bang, winning three of the first four weight classes. Tom Prairie ?05 at 125 lbs., Ben Haldeman ?05 at 133 lbs. and Jeff Ishizuka ?04 at 149 lbs. all won convincingly against their opponents.

The Ephs ran into a little trouble in the middle weights, dropping both the 157 lbs. and 165 lbs. weight classes and forfeiting the 174 lbs. weight classes. In one of the day?s biggest upsets, Dan Jacobs ?03 dropped his 141 lbs. match 5-3 against Mark Foresi. After a tentatively fought first period, Jacobs ran into trouble in the second when Foresi nearly pinned him. Jacobs missed qualifying for nationals in the 125 lbs. weight class last year due to a questionable call by a referee.

The Williams victory was secured by the big guys following the forfeit victory of Mike Cirrito ?05 in the 184 lbs. weight class. Captain Conan Leary ?02 dominated his opponent en route to a 7-3 victory in the 197 lbs. division; heavyweight Justin Sullivan ?03 won his match 11-3.

After a second-round bye, Williams faced Roger Williams in the third round, and defeated them by a convincing 28-16 score. The lightweights again put up an impressive performance, as Prairie pinned his opponent in 1:56, and Charles Danhof ?03 pinned his man in 1:17.

The momentum of the match then teetered back and forth for a while, with Williams winning decisions from Josh Weisenbeck ?04 at 149 lbs., Greg Matisoff ?05 at 165 lbs. and Cirrito at 184 lbs. Again, the match was secured by Sullivan, as the Eph heavyweight recorded his first pin of the season, flattening his opponent in the third period.

In the fourth and final round, the Ephs squared off against NYU in a climactic match for the tournament title. Williams won 23-17, in what would be their closest match of the day. Prairie again kicked things off well for the Ephs, pinning his opponent in 3:24. Williams lost the next four weight classes and consequently suffered an eight-point deficit.

NYU team members and fans might have thought the match was won, but forgot about that old Williams tradition of never giving up. At 165 lbs., Matisoff beat his opponent 9-1, and Gus Whyte ?03 followed up with a victory in the 174 lbs. weight class. Cirrito lost his first decision of the day at 184 lbs., and then Leary showed everyone in the gym what leadership was all about, pounding his opponent into the ground 14-6 in the 197 lbs. bout.

This crucial triumph, in combination with a forfeit to Sullivan at heavyweight, secured the Eph victory in the match, the tournament title and an undefeated start to the 2001-2002 season.

Head coach Mike Whalen did not know what to expect coming into the weekend. Several team members were fighting off various nagging injuries and were expected to wrestle through the pain. Also, several of the wrestlers who were just coming off of the football season had very little mat time coming into this tournament.

?This was one of the best team efforts I have seen in my time as coach here at Williams,? said Whalen. ?A lot of guys made personal sacrifices for the betterment of the team, whether that meant bumping up weight classes or wrestling through pain.

?Assistant coaches [Matt] Gunther and [Raphael] Vega have been helping me push the kids in the practice room, and our intensity carried out onto the mat on Saturday. If we can keep the intensity at this level for the rest of the year, we can expect to see some very positive results.?

Prior to the dual-meet, the Ephs participated in the Doug Parker Tournament in Springfield, Mass. In this tournament, Williams was forced to forfeit six weight classes, and ended the day at 13th place out of 18 teams.

The Ephs were short-handed that day because several of the squad?s wrestlers are also on the football team, and were not ready for competition last week.

The team will travel to Boston on Wednesday, and continue their dual-meet season against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Johnson & Wales.

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