Drexel wrestling bounced back in its first homestand of the season, sweeping the weekend’s matches. In the first match at the Daskalakis Athletic Center this season Dec. 1, the team wrestled hard en route to a victory against the Virginia Military Institute. The Dragons followed up their strong performance with another impressive win the next day against conference rival Hofstra University. This was the Dragons’ first team win over Hofstra since the 1997 season.
The Dragons headed into their first home match of the season looking to get back on the winning track against the VMI Keydets. The team just did just that, putting in a strong performance en route to a 24-14 victory.
The Drexel wrestlers found themselves down early, falling behind 11-0 to start the match. Redshirt sophomore Bryan Sternlieb, wrestling at 184, put the Dragons on the board with a pin at 5:59 cutting the deficit to 11-6. Following Sternlieb, Brandon Palik earned a 14-4 major decision over VMI’s Urayoan Garcia in the 197 weight class. Jon Max Wright dropped a close heavyweight bout by a 4-1 score, which gave the Keydets a 14-10 lead, but Jacob Goodwin answered with a 19-5 major decision at 125 pounds. Goodwin’s win tied the score at 14.
Senior Frank Cimato gave the Dragons their third major decision of the day with a 10-2 victory. Clayton Lutzow at 133 and Shane Fenningham at 149 rounded out the day with wins in their respective matches and secured a Drexel victory. Head coach Matt Azevedo was pleased with his team’s bounce-back performance at home.
“Our guys were refocused and ready to go,” Azevedo said. “It’s always easier to wrestle at home.”
The Dragons were back on the mats Dec. 2, this time against Hofstra. The team had another impressive showing, which ended in a 22-16 victory.
The Drexel wrestlers once again saw themselves fall behind early, with Hofstra earning the first six points of the match. Cimato got the Dragons started with a 10-7 victory over nationally ranked Luke Vaith at 141 pounds, which cut the deficit to 6-3. The Pride’s Matt Spataro followed Cimato with a winning decision at 149, which gave Hofstra a 9-3 lead. At 157, Austin Sommer answered the loss by pinning Hofstra’s Jay Lysne at 1:57, tying the score up at 9-9. From there, the Dragons were able to take control of the match.
Charles Aungst followed Sommer’s strong performance with a victory on an injury default over Hofstra’s Nick Terdick in the 165 class. Sternlieb and Palik also made their marks in the Dragons’ win. At 184, Sternlieb wrestled to a 7-5 decision with a takedown late in the third period to take the match. Palik earned his second major decision of the weekend with a 13-1 effort at 197.
With the win, Drexel completed its first homestand of the season undefeated. While both wins were important for the team, defeating Hofstra was perhaps the biggest victory of the season.
“It’s a big deal,” Azevedo said. “This team has never beaten Hofstra, so for us to beat them, it’s huge.”
Drexel wrestling returned to action Thursday, Dec. 6, when the team traveled to West Point, N.Y., to take on the United States Military Academy.
Army defeated the Dragons 22-15 in a meet that saw Drexel fall behind early. Army has taken the past three meetings between the teams, but Drexel headed into the match with positive momentum. Azevedo was confident that if the team performed to its capabilities, the chances of winning the match would have been good.
“It’s about execution,” he said before the meet. “If we execute, we will be right in the match.”
Unfortunately, this was not the case. Both teams split their first two matches, but Army took control of the meet, winning the next four matches. Cimato fell in decision to Connor Hanafee to start the losing skid, followed by Nicholas Maccini falling in a major decision to Tyler Rauenzhn. Palik and Wright won both of their matches to finish the meet, but it wasn’t enough to give the Dragons the win.