The Drexel University wrestling team ran into some tough opponents this past weekend. They dropped the final three matches of the season, but each meet was against an incredibly tough opponent. The Dragons faced No. 23 Rutgers University, No. 10 University of Nebraska, and neighboring rival the University of Pennsylvania. Even though the season was coming to an end this was the toughest stretch the Dragons faced all year. It was definitely an important stretch, however, as it allowed the team to begin to get into championship form.
The match against Rutgers had some pre-match festivities, as seniors were honored on senior day. Noel Blanco and Bryan Sternlieb were recognized for their achievements on and off the mat, and while this was a small ceremony it still filled all fans and team members with emotion. Unfortunately for the Dragons, the Scarlet Knights ended those ceremonious emotions quickly.
The first match was in 133-pound division. Kevin Devoy Jr. was able to continue his dominant season, as the No. 15 Devoy defeated his No. 17 ranked opponent by a 4-2 decision. While Devoy was able to give Drexel an early lead, Rutgers quickly turned around and took the lead right back. In the 141 and 149 weight class, Andrew Mauriello and Matthew Cimato had to go up against the No. 9 and No. 18 ranked wrestlers in their respective weigh classes. Mauriello lost by fall at the 2:52 mark, and Cimato lost a majority decision, 9-1.
Blanco was not given an easy match, as he was matched up against the No. 13 ranked wrestler in the 157-pound weight class. Blanco lost by way a technical fall, which brought the Rutgers lead to 15-3. Nick Elmer wrestled with toughness to beat his opponent in the 165-pound division to quell the Rutgers streak. In the 174-pound division, Stephen Loiseau wrestled hard, bringing his match into sudden victory where he would unfortunately drop the match by a 2-0 decision.
Alex DeCiantis wrestled an exciting match in the 184-pound class, which went to two overtimes. DeCiantis was able to defeat his opponents in the closing seconds of the second overtime, winning a 4-2 decision.
The Dragons dropped the next three matches unfortunately and lost the match to the Scarlet Knights, 28-9. Rutgers is one of the tougher opponents Drexel has faced this season. The next match against No. 10 Nebraska, however, proved to be an even tougher task.
The Cornhuskers have eight wrestlers on the squad that are ranked, but as Coach Matt Azevedo constantly explains upsets and tough, hard-nosed wrestling are how matches are won. The Dragons definitely were going to need a few upsets to defeat the vaunted Nebraska lineup.
Drexel, unfortunately could not manage an upset, in fact Nebraska found a way to upset the Dragons in the 133-pound match. After Tanner Shoap was defeated by No. 11 Tim Lambert, No. 15 Devoy faced an unranked opponent. Devoy has become a staple of consistency for the Dragons, even if a match is going poorly it is usually Devoy who finds a way to be spark plug, winning his matches with tough wrestling. Nebraska’s Eric Montoya found a way, however, to upset Devoy, beating him with a 3-1 decision.
Mauriello lost in the 141-pound division to his No. 8 ranked opponent. Mauriello wrestled with heart but lost by fall at the 2:20 mark. Cimato found a way to give the Dragons their one and only win, upsetting his No. 20 ranked opponent, Justin Arthur, in the 149-pound division. Cimato was able to control the match and win the decision, 6-4.
Cimato’s win was the only win for the Dragons in this match. Each wrestler wrestled with toughness and with their hearts but the Cornhuskers were able to find ways to win. Loiseau had a notable match in which he wrestled his No. 1 ranked opponent in the 174-pound weight class, Robert Kokesh, to the four-minute mark. Loiseau lost the match by a fall, but for a freshman to take on a No. 1-ranked opponent and wrestle him for four minutes shows heart and determination.
Heart and determination is exactly what the Dragons needed as they took on their neighboring rival Penn. The winner of this match would not only come away with bragging rights, but also the Abner’s cheesesteak trophy.
The match began with the 125-pound division, where Zack Fuentes took on Jeremy Schwartz. Fuentes was able to defeat Schwartz by a 4-0 decision. In the 133-pound division, No.15 Devoy saw his winning ways come back to him after winning his match over No. 18 Caleb Richardson by a 7-3 decision.
Drexel dropped the 141 pound match, as David Pearce was unable to out dual his man, loosing a 5-2 decision. In the 149-pound division, redshirt freshman Geoffrey Verallis was tasked with taking on No. 8 C.J. Cobb. Verallis lost the match and the lead for Drexel with a 20-7 majority decision. Verallis wrestled hard and showed some great heart, but could not over come the experience of his opponent.
In the 157-pound division, Blanco was able to give the Dragons another win regain the lead by defeating his opponent tough fought 15-10 decision. The Dragons, however, could not hold on to that lead as they would drop the next four matches in the 165, 174, 184 and 197 weight classes.
Losses in the four previous matches would cost Drexel the overall match, but heavyweight Joey Goodhart would not let that affect his individual performance. Goodhart’s match took more than eight minutes to conclude, however, it would conclude at the 8:17 mark as he was able to win by fall.
The final overall team score was 21-15, as Drexel dropped their final match of the weekend and finished the season with an 8-14 record. In the grand scheme of things, the record is not an important part of wresting, what is instead important is that each wrestler comes away ready to participate in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championships.
Coach Azevedo has explained that wrestling is an individualistic sport, “there are no teammates that you can pass a ball to.” The regular season is important for wrestlers to become better individually so that they can compete with the best of the best in the championships.
There is no doubt that the EIWA conference gives each Dragon the opportunity to improve on their skills and wrestle against top tier opponents. It also allows the Dragons to get a feel for who they may be wrestling against on March 6 and 7 when they head to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to participate in the EIWA championship matches.