Wrestling (16-3) successfully defended its New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) championship title this past weekend, cruising past second place Springfield and third place finishers Wesleyan and Johnson & Wales en route to victory. The Ephs soundly defeated their opponents, finishing with 128 points, 28 ahead of Springfield and 33.5 ahead of Wesleyan and Johnson & Wales. The victory cements Williams’ No. 1 status in New England and their place as one of the best teams in the country; the men are currently ranked 17th nationally by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
Ryan Malo ’11 led the way, winning all four of his matches and pinning Nick Cambi of Roger Williams University in just 4:11 in the 197 pound weight class final to win his second consecutive New England championship. Malo’s dominance of the competition class, in which he is 68-6 on the season, has made him All-American for the second straight year, guaranteed his spot at Div. III nationals and earned him the title of Co-New England Outstanding Wrestler of the Year.
Malo was joined in the finals by Ces Antista ’13, Tom Foote ’13 and co-captains Carl Breitenstein ’10 and Dylan Rittenburg ’10. Antista, wrestling at 133, fell in an early match, but worked his way through the consolation bracket to earn a rematch in the final. The talented first-year wrestled well, but fell to Grippe 7-4.
Wrestling at 141, Rittenburg suffered a similar early loss to Trinity’s Jacob Gire. Again demonstrating the Ephs’ tenacity, Rittenburg wrestled his way back to the top to face off against Gire again in the semifinals. This time, Rittenburg triumphed 8-6 over his opponent. Unfortunately, Rittenburg then fell 6-2 to Southern Maine’s Matt Ulrich in the final round of competition.
Breitenstein repeated the course set by both Antista and Rittenburg. Falling early in the 157 pound weight class, Breitenstein returned to defeat Springfield’s Joe Archambeau 7-3 in the semifinals but succumbed to Bridgewater State’s Frank Cammisa in the finals.
The Ephs also saw strong performances from Nate Shippee ’10, George Sullivan ’11 and Corey Paulish ’11. Shippee, wrestling at 184 pounds, had to forfeit his fifth place match for medical reasons, leaving him with a sixth place finish. Sullivan brought home a fifth place trophy at 174 pounds, while Paulish finished the 149 pounds weight class tournament in third.
Tom Foote ’13 surprised the crowd with his exceptionally strong performance, winning his first three 285 pound weight class matches before losing to Joe Sacco of Western New England College. Foote battled back, defeating Trinity’s Greg Vaughn 5-3 to force a rematch against Sacco in the finals. Despite wrestling well, Foote lost to Sacco to bring home a second place finish.
Paulish and Breitenstein join Malo in representing Williams in the NCAA Tournament, while Antista was named the first alternate for the tournament team. This is the first time in school history that Williams has sent three wrestlers to the national tournament.
“We had a great tournament this last weekend,” Ritternberg said when asked to comment on the team’s success. “It was great to see the work we put in all season pay off.”
The three qualifying Ephs will have a week to prepare before they head to Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the NCAA Div. III Championships March 5-6.