EIWA Wrestling Championships Tournament Preview by John Harmon
EIWA Tournament Preview by John Harmon
DATE: 3/6/2008 5:38:00 PM
By John Harmon
There has been a trend in recent years for teams to put together a string of championship teams in the EIWA. Penn won the title from 1996-1999, and Lehigh won from 2002-2006. In 2007 Cornell won their first title since 1993, and shows no signing of giving it up without a fight any time soon.
The EIWA Championships are about more than a team title, of course, and ten individual championships are up for grabs, along with 47 invitations to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo. two weeks later.
Five champions return from 2007, and one of them is sure to lose, as Steve Anceravage of Cornell has moved up a weight class, to challenge Navy’s Matt Stolpinski at 174. Josh Glenn of American, who is also a defending NCAA champion, returns at 197. Jordan Leen of Cornell moves up to 157 to attempt his second championship and Ed Prendergast of Navy returns at heavyweight.
Two champions from 2007 who were expected to return will not be on the mats. Louis Caputo of Harvard (184), was injured in January and will not be defending his crown, and Matt Dragon of Penn (157) spent the season rehabbing from surgery and is deferring his eligibility.
Cornell brings a host of talented wrestlers into the competition, led by Anceravage and Leen. Freshman Mike Grey has been an inspirational addition to the squad at 133, where he is ranked #1 in the EIWA and as high as #2 nationally. Another blue chip freshman, Mack Lewnes, has lost only two bouts all season at 165 and seems sure to challenge for the championship at 165. Yet another freshman, D. J. Meagher, is competing in the very deep 149-pound weight class and is capable of pulling off one or more upsets.
One of the amazing stories about the Cornell squad involves sophomore Justin Kerber, who spent most of the season backing up Anceravage at 174. Kerber compiled a very respectable 22-9 record, mostly by entering open tournaments. But Taylor Moore, the starter at 197, was injured late in January, and Kerber decided to challenge a couple of teammates for the right to become the starter at 197. He won the challenge and has responded by going undefeated in six bouts, which includes defeating the #2 and #3 ranked men at the weight.
But the Big Red hav also suffered their share of adversity this season, starting with the loss of 125-pound star Troy Nickerson to surgery early in the season. His replacement is senior Mike Rodriguez, who has served in a backup role for most of his collegiate career. Rodriguez has been inconsistent at times, but his true potential may have emerged recently when he rolled up a 14-4 win over Rollie Peterkin of Penn, ranked #1 in the EIWA at the time.
More adversity came at heavyweight as 2007 runnerup Zach Hammond was injured in a late –season dual meet, bringing his season to an early end. His replacement is Maciej Jochym, a talented freshman who brings a 21-10 record into the tournament.
Adam Frey, runnerup at 133 as a freshman in 2007, has moved up to 141, where he has been battling the scales most of the season. It is uncertain whether he will compete in the 2008 tournament.
Two teams, Penn and Navy, appear to have the best chance of upsetting the defending team champion.
The Quakers are solid across all weight classes, and could place all ten wrestlers.. Rollie Peterkin (125) and Cesar Grajales (149) are arguably their best competitors. Peterkin was a backup to EIWA champion Matt Eveleth last season and will make a bid for his own title this season. Grajales was third at 141 as a freshman, but was slowed by injuries in 2007. Senior Rob Hitschler has emerged as a leader at 157, and Zach Shanaman has been a steady force at 165. Jeff Zannetti and freshman Scott Giffin have been sharing duties at 174, while senior Lior Zamir has been nationally ranked at 184. Sophomore Thomas Shovlin, sidelined by injuries his freshman year and much of this season has come on strong at 197. Trey McLean, a transfer from the Air Force Academy, has seen considerable success at heavyweight.
Navy is led by two defending wrestling champions, Matt Stolpinski at 174 and Ed Prendergast at heavyweight. Both have over 30 wins this season, and Prendergast is one of the pin leaders in the conference.
The Mids are also solid from top to bottom, and it’s possible they could qualify at least eight wrestlers.
Talented Joe Baker, who was an NCAA Qualifier a year ago, returns at 133, Freshman Bryce Saddoris , with 30 wins to his credit, has had an outstanding season at 149. Casey Caldwell has come on strong at 184, with Matt Parsons, who spent most of the season at 184, moving back to 197, where he placed a year ago. Senior Spencer Manley spent most of the season at 149, but moved up to 157 when beaten out by Saddoris.
Here is a look at the tournament by weight class:
125-- The upset of Peterkin by Rodriguez makes seeding here somewhat of a challenge. Peterkin has been ranked Top 10 nationally most of the season, and has defeated the only other serious challenger, Fernando Martinez of Army, 8-2. Martinez and Rodriguez have not met. Columbia’s Brandon Kinney, who placed third in 2007 by beating Martinez, defeated Rodriguez 3-2. Princeton freshman Tony Comunale, who has defeated Kinney 4-1, but lost to Rodriguez 9-8 looks like a possible NCAA qualifier, as does sophomore Jake Bucha of F&M, who has an 8-3 win over Comunale.
133-- This is a very deep weight class, and it would not be surprising to see the coaches select two wild cards here. Grey, who is ranked Top 4 nationally, will be the unanimous choice for #1 seed, followed by Seth Ciasulli of Lehigh. Bucknell’s David Marble is a returning NCAA Qualifier who has beaten Navy’s Baker, also a returning qualifier, 8-5 back in November. Brown’s Jeff Schell owns a 3-2 win over Whitt Dunning of Army, who has 23 wins this season.
141-- Army’s Matt Kyler, a returning finalist and one of the leading pinners in the EIWA this season, is the likely #1 seed. He will be challenged by Kyle Borshoff of American, a returning NCAA Qualifier, who has defeated high-scoring Steve Adamcsik of Rutgers 8-4. Freshman Corey Jantzen of Harvard missed much of the season with an injury, but returned to action for the last weekend of the season with two impressive wins. His credentials are solid, and is capable of upsetting one or more wrestlers seeded above him. Rick Rappo has been a steady performer for the Quakers, while Frey, who was a finalist at 133 a year ago, has seen limited time in competition this season, and is a somewhat unknown quality. ESU senior Sean Carr, who owns a 7-4 win over Kyler, is a potential NCAA qualifier.
149-- Harvard’s J. P. O’Connor was second to Leen at 149 a year ago, and his record is 21-1, so he will be the #1 seed. Trevor Chinn of Lehigh, second two years ago, beat Grajales in overtime on the last day of the dual meet season, so he will be seeded #2. Saddoris is a mat-savvy freshman with 30 wins who is capable of upsetting anyone seeded above him. Meagher is also a freshman who would be seeded higher but for a close 2-1 loss to Saddoris, and is also a threat to finish higher than his seed. Keep an eye on Bucknell freshman Kevin LeValley, who posted a 9-0 shutout of Saddoris back in November, as well as an 8-4 win over Navy’s Spencer Manley (now moved up to 157).
157-- As a returning champion who has defeated every conference opponent he has wrestled, Leen get the #1 seed. The rest of the weight class is wide open, with returning NCAA Qualifier Dave Nakasone of Lehigh, 8-0 against EIWA opponents, the likely #2 seed. Penn’s Rob Hitschler looks like the #3 seed despite an early season 6-5 loss to Chris Norrell of Rutgers. Manley, the All-Academy champion, moved up from 149 for the last few weeks of the season.
165-- Fans can look forward to a great finals bout between Mike Cannon of American and Cornell’s Lewnes, both projected as probable All-Americans this season. Cannon was runnerip To Anceravage a year ago, and will cop the #1 seed, although Lewnes has been ranked a bit higher in some national polls. Bucknell sophomore Andy Rendos, third as a freshman, is back, and will be seeded third. Penn’s Shanaman looks like a probable NCAA Qualifier.
174-- Regardless of who gets the top seed, a finals bout between Anceravage and Stolpinski will be eagerly awaited by fans, and virtually certain to happen. Franklin & Marshall will be bidding to have their first NCAA qualifier in ten years, as Justin Herbert, one of the conference leaders in pins, along with Anceravage, takes the mats. Herbert has a sparkling 23-2 record, with one of his losses coming at the hands of Stolpinski. Lehigh Freshman Alex Caruso looks like a probable NCAA Qualifier, and so does fellow freshman Scott Giffin of Penn, if he can beat out senior Jeff Zannetti for the right to represent his team.
184-- It looks like Army senior Scott Ferguson will get the top seed, as he owns a win by fall over Lior Zamir of Penn. Arnone will be in the hunt for a title, but will likely be seeded third because of a 4-3 loss to Zamir. The battle for the fourth qualifier slot will be intense, between Navy’s Casey Caldwell, Brown’s Matt Gevelinger, and Bucknell freshman David Thompson. Gevelinger has defeated Thompson (5-2), who has defeated Caldwell in overtime.
197-- Glenn will be the unanimous choice for top seed, but the rest of this weight class is wide open. Kerber’s story has already been related above. It appears that wrestlers ranked #2 - #6 are pretty evenly matched. Columbia senior Nick Sommerfeld has lost to Kerber in overtime, but owns a 6-5 win over Branden Stearns of Brown. Lamar Brown of Rutgers has a 10-3 win over Stearns, but lost 7-4 to Army’s Richard Starks, who lost 3-2 to Thomas Shovlin of Penn. Shovlin’s only conference loss was 3-2 to Kerber, so he may get the #3 seed.
285-- Navy senior Ed Prendergast will be the unanimous choice for #1 seed. The next three seeds are up for grabs between Trey McLean of Penn, Nathan Thobaben of Army and Levon Mock of Brown. Mock owns a 12-3 win over McLean in the finals of the Keystone Classic. McLean beat Thobaben 11-4 in a dual meet, as well as a 13-6 win over Hammond in the bout where Hammond’s season was ended by injury. Thobaben has a win by fall over Mock in the opening round of the Brockport Invitational back in November, but has losses to both Chris Birchler of ESU and Jochym. Mock has a late-season pin of Jochym to his credit.
Those who like to plan ahead will be interested to know that that the 2009 EIWA Championships are tentatively scheduled for Penn.