After a long season and a lot of hard work the Drexel University wrestling team competed in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championship matches. These matches are the most important matches for the year for the Dragons. It marks the end of the season for many and opens the door to the NCAA championship for a few.
The Dragons have not always been a part of the EIWA conference; the choice to move there was head coach Matt Azevedo’s. He believed that if this team could wrestle in the EIWA, which is a much tougher conference than their previous one, then they could send more wrestlers to the NCAA championship. While it is a great feat to place in the EIWA championship, the main goal for every wrestler is to go to the NCAA championship to challenge the nation’s top wrestlers.
The EIWA championship matches are a part of a two-day series. The Dragons sent their starting wrestlers to the championship, and five Dragons were able to advance to the second day of competition.
You could tell each of the five Dragon wrestlers were motivated to place and have a chance to move on to the NCAA championship. No one looked more motivated, however, than No. 2 ranked Kevin Devoy Jr. Devoy who was thrown in against tough competition, and his matches reflected that. In the first match of day two, Devoy was able to beat his opponent with a last second reversal, winning the decision 3-2. Devoy then had to move on and face the No. 1 ranked opponent for the 133-pound division.
Coach Azevedo spoke about Devoy, “Making the NCAA tournament last year, I think really motivated him, and this year that’s not enough he wants to be Top 8 in the NCAA championship; he wants to be an All-American.” Devoy wrestled hard and showed some incredible heart. He was tied with his opponent, Mason Beckman, for the majority of the match. Tied at 7-7, the match went to an ultimate tiebreaker where Devoy won because he was awarded an extra point for his riding time. With the final score, 8-7, Devoy was crowned as the EIWA 133 pound champion, and is moving on to the NCAA championship.
No. 8 ranked David Pearce moved on to day two of competition and put forth a great effort in the 141-pound division. In his first match of day two, Pearce wrestled in a close match against No.4 ranked Jordan Laster of Princeton University. The match was close but Pearce would ultimately fall to Laster in a 3-2 decision.
The next match for Pearce was a victory over Jeff Canfora who was ranked No. 7 in the 141-pound division, from the University of Pennsylvania. Pearce found a way to win this match in a 4-3 decision, giving himself a chance to capture third place in the 141-pound division. Unfortunately, Pearce fell to No. 5 Tyler Smith of Bucknell University, in a 9-8 decision. Even with the two losses, Pearce was able to capture fourth place and secure himself a spot in the NCAA championship.
No. 4 ranked Matthew Cimato found himself competing in day two, after a great day one performance in the 149-pound division. Cimato was unable to defeat No. 1 Christopher Villalonga from Cornell University, losing a 3-1 decision.
In his next match, however, Cimato put forth a great effort to defeat Lehigh University’s Drew Longo, for a majority 12-4 victory. In his last match of day two, Cimato defeated No. 5 Victor Lopez, of Bucknell, with a 5-3 decision, capturing third place in the 149-pound division and a bid to the NCAA championship.
Noel Blanco, ranked No. 7 in the 157-pound division, wrestled with great heart. As a senior in his last championship matches, Blanco wanted to extend his season for a few more weeks. Blanco was defeated in his first match of day two in a 3-2 decision, against No. 6 John Boyle, from American University. Blanco came back and beat No. 8 Brooks Martino, from UPenn, with a 4-2 decision. In Blanco’s final match to secure a third place finish, he beat No. 2 Mitchell Minotti, from Lehigh University, by way of a medical forfeit. Blanco won the third place finish in the 157-pound division, and a bid to the NCAA championship, where he will compete for the last time as a Dragon.
The final Dragon to place in the EIWA championship was No. 8 Zack Fuentes, in the 125-pound division. Fuentes has battled back from an elbow injury sustained in his very first match of the season. Fuentes was able to win a majority 10-0 decision in the first day of competition to give him a place in the second day. Fuentes’ first match of day two was against No. 5 William Watterson from Brown University, who was able to win a toughly fought 2-1 decision. The last match for Fuentes was No. 6 David White from Binghamton University, who overtook Fuentes and won a close 4-2 decision.
Fuentes still placed eighth in the EIWA championship, giving the Dragons a total of five wrestlers who placed, and four of which will be competing to be All-Americans in St. Louis March 19-21. Coach Azevedo’s decision to move the Dragons to a tougher conference looks to have paid off. Each Dragon, even those who did not place, wrestled with great heart and toughness, something they picked up wrestling tough competition all year. For the four Dragons wrestling in the NCAA championship, there is nothing they haven’t seen yet, and they should be well prepared to make a run at becoming All-Americans.