For Drexel wrestling seniors Alex Rinaldi, Michael Gomez and Kyle Frey, Feb. 11 will always carry special significance. On that day, these three athletes took to the mat in the Daskalakis Athletic Center for the last time in the colors of Drexel University. Their opponents of the day were the visiting George Mason University Patriots, who were dispatched by a Drexel side that has struggled for consistency under the tutelage of first-year head coach Matthew Azevedo.
Buoyed by a two-match win streak against traditional powerhouses Boston University and Brown University, Drexel lost its next outing to Rider University by a narrow 15-18 decision. The Dragons’ fourth loss of their conference schedule and ninth loss for the season seemed to fire up Azevedo’s side, as was evidenced by an improved performance on senior night against the visiting Patriots.
A win by Frey in the day’s opening match against George Mason’s Adam Barnette set the tone for the home side as his three-minute, 18-second pin pushed the Dragons into an early lead. The Patriots replied with wins in the 125- and 133-pound categories before capitulating to a relentless Drexel team. Wins by Rinaldi in the 174-pound category, junior Frank Cimato at 141, sophomore Shane Fenningham at 149, sophomore Austin Sommer at 157 and freshman Nick Becattini at 184 put the match beyond the reach of George Mason. Becattini continued his good form this season with his second pin of the year in five minutes and 33 seconds against the Patriots’ Ryan Hembury.
The team’s win took Azevedo’s overall record for his first season to 7-9 while the Dragons’ Colonial Athletic Association record improved to two wins and four losses. The disappointing overall classification masks impressive individual performances by Cimato (18-10, 6-1 CAA), Frey (23-5, 6-1 CAA) and Sommer (5-2 CAA). These Dragons now stand at first, second and fourth place, respectively, in the CAA standings.
The Dragons needed more of their wrestlers to pull through Feb. 16 as they traveled to Piscataway, N.J. to take on Rutgers in search of a morale-boosting win heading into the CAA tournament in a few weeks.
Although head-to-head wins all-time are at 11 apiece, it is fair to say that the Scarlet Knights have had the better of the recent encounters between the two storied programs. On a two-meet winning streak in matches against Drexel, Rutgers came into the match buoyed by the knowledge that they walked away with a lopsided 39-6 win the last time the two teams met. Drexel’s sole victories on the day came courtesy of Cimato at 133 pounds and Brandon Palik at 197 pounds.
Coming into the match 12-8 overall and 5-1 in the competitive Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, Rutgers presented a tall order for the visiting Dragons on senior night.
That tall order turned out to be too tall for the Dragons as they fell to the Scarlet Knights 24-9 in their final dual match of the season. Drexel was only able to come away with three victories in the 10 matches on the night, with two stars and a freshman highlighting the mat.
No. 18 165-pounder Joe Booth was able to dominate Doug Hamann of Rutgers, giving the Dragons their second victory on the night in his first match since returning from an injury he sustained in practice. In the heavyweight battle, No. 19 Frey topped the Scarlet Knights’ Dan Hopkins in a close battle by escaping control once for the 1-0 win. In the first match of the night, freshman 125-pounder Franco Ferriana won a sudden 5-3 victory over Vincent Dellefave of Rutgers.
Despite the loss in their final regular-season dual match, the Dragons are well prepped for the CAA Championships in Binghamton, N.Y. March 3 as they have five individuals ranked in the top four of their respective weight classes in the conference.
The future looks bright for Azevedo’s young squad.