Williams sent 10 wrestlers to the NEWA conference tournament Saturday and Sunday at Trinity. The tournament was an opportunity for the wrestlers to qualify for the NCAA Div. III National Championships: The winner of each weight class in the meet receives an automatic bid, while the competition as a whole also allocates four at-large bids. Entering the tournament, the men were ranked fourth in New England, but they were able to come away with second place in the tournament.
Springfield took home top honors in the meet, earning 141 points to Williams’ tally of 107. Four Ephs earned bids to the NCAA Championships, as two won their weight classes and two finished second in their weight classes and received at-large bids.
Ces Antista ’13 dominated the 141 lb weight class, overcoming Joe Grippi of Springfield for the second time in the tournament in sudden death overtime. Antista’s victory earned him an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
“Ces wasn’t able to compete for a month prior to the [New England] championships … and Ces was able to overcome that obstacle through his tremendous mental toughness and perseverance,” said Head Coach Rich Hasenfus.
Tri-captain Corey Paulish ’11 also earned an automatic bid after winning the 149 lb weight class. After losing to Thomas Webster of Johnson and Wales, Paulish fought to the third-place match through the wrestle-back bracket of the tournament. He faced Webster again, this time overcoming him 13-1. Paulish went on to beat Ryan McGilvray of Springfield 6-2 in the championship match. With his victories this weekend, Paulish passes Carl Breitenstein ’10 for the most wrestling victories in Williams history.
In the 197 lb weight class, tri-captain Ryan Malo ’11 beat Travis Spenser of the University of Southern Maine to earn a spot in the final. Malo lost 4-3 in the final, but earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as a result of his impressive season.
Tom Foote ’13 also earned an at-large bid to the NCAAs after wrestling his way into the final in the 285 lb weight class with a perfect record. The final went into overtime, but Ron Fusco of Springfield overwhelmed Foote to claim the weight class.
Mike Lomio ’14 also had an impressive weekend, earning a third-place finish in the 184 lb weight class. After losing in the quarterfinals, the rookie went on to win his next two matches. As a result of this comeback effort, Lomio was named Co-Rookie of the Year in the NESCAC. “He is only going to get better and better,” Hasenfus said. “Mike doesn’t even realize his potential right now.” Kyle Martin ’12 also recovered from an early loss to place sixth overall in the 165 lb weight class.
At the end of the first day, Williams trailed Springfield by just 17 points, and all 10 wrestlers had a shot at the podium in their respective weight classes. On the first day, Paulish benefited from a first-round bye and advanced to the semifinals due to an injury forfeit. Antista won his first two matches by pin, demonstrating his dominance despite nagging injuries throughout the season. Malo cruised through in his first day of competition easily. The Eph won his first match with a third-period pin and advanced through his second match 10-1. Foote was also successful on the first day, defeating his opponent Humphrey Swift from Johnston and Wales in just 2:56. Lomio’s first-day performance qualified him for the semifinals in the 184 lb weight class, as the rookie defeated Springfield’s Nicholas Camera in a tight 3-2 match.
Malo, Paulish, Antista and Foote will represent the Ephs on March 11 in the NCAA National Championships, which will be hosted by the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
As the men head to NCAAs, Hasenfus reflected on their season. “In general, I think we are right where we should be and our focus [for NCAAs] will be polishing up the things we already know,” he said.