Last weekend, wrestling (12-11) traveled to Worcester Polytechnic Institute for the Div. III NCAA Northeast Regionals. At Regionals, each weight class is grouped into brackets of 16, with wrestlers in each bracket ranked from one to 16. The top three finishers in each weight class go to Nationals. The Ephs were looking to make some noise at Regionals and secure as many as five spots at Nationals, including a repeat trip for heavyweight Tom Foote ’13, who qualified last year but missed out due to an injury. In the end, three Ephs came away with berths to Nationals.
On the first day of qualifying, three Ephs qualified for the semifinals, putting them just one win away from a spot at Nationals. It was no surprise that captain Ces Antista ’13 at 141 lbs., who had the most wins for the Ephs this season with 26, Foote at 285 lbs. and Jorge Lopez ’16 at 149 lbs. all won both their matches to reach the semifinals. Foote performed especially well, pinning his first opponent 1:18 into the match. Tim Garripoli ’16 went 1-1 on the day in the 157-lb. weight class and had an outside shot at reaching Nationals through the consolation bracket. Kaison Tanabe ’13 at 133 lbs. went 1-2 on the day, which unfortunately ended his career at Williams. Daniel Sedeita ’16 and Kyle Gaffney ’15 in the 125- and 165-lb. weight classes, respectively, each went 0-2. John Berry ’16 at 124 lbs. and Anthony Brooks ’16 at 184 lbs., as well as Dan Kurnick ’15 at 197 lbs. all went 0-1 in their matches.
Last Sunday, the second day of the tournament, Williams had three wrestlers qualify for Div. III NCAA Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. All three wrestlers, Antista, Lopez and Foote won their first semifinal match to automatically qualify for the tournament. Due to a minor injury, Foote was withheld from the final, as he qualified for his third straight NCAA championship. The injury does not appear to be serious and should not prevent him from wrestling in the tournament.
Wrestling at 141 lbs., Antista began the day with a dominant win over a strong opponent from Ithaca. Later, in the finals, he faced off against returning All-American and the top-ranked wrestler at 141-lbs. in the country from Springfield College, Joe Grippi. Antista fell by just one point in double overtime. Antista now has his sights set on a potential rematch at Nationals and a shot at the podium.
Wrestling at 149 lbs., Lopez provided the most excitement for the men as he took on Howard Tobochnik from Wesleyan, who had previously beaten him twice already this season. Lopez did not back down, as he showed immense poise in winning a back-and-forth battle with Tobochnik to qualify for Nationals. Lopez later fell in the finals, but he now also prepares for Nationals.
Garripoli, in the consolation bracket, lost his match in his attempt to secure the third spot in the 157-lb. weight class, and therefore will not make an appearance at Nationals.
“The whole team did all the right things leading up to the Regional, and their excellent preparation was revealed by their performance on the mat over the weekend,” Head Coach Scott Honecker said. “It took an upset for Jorge Lopez to qualify for the final and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and he showed he can come up big when it matters the most. Ces and Tom turned in their usual consistent performances to earn their spots, and with both of them having qualified twice before, I know they aren’t satisfied just to compete in the event. All three guys will be dangerous in their respective brackets, and I know they will be focused and wrestling at their best.”
The men put Williams wrestling back on the national map after a disappointing 4-16 finish last season. Antista, Lopez and Foote now look to Nationals in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on March 15 to 16.