To say it was a tough start would be an understatement.
The Drexel wrestling team struggled in their opening match against South Dakota State University Nov. 22. The match was held in the Daskalakis Athletic Center, but home field advantage didn’t really apply. The Dragons were unable to feed off their home crowd, like they would have hoped they could. The toughest part of this match was the injury that occurred during the very first match between the Dragons’ 125-pound wrestler and the South Dakota State wrestler.
The match between the two 125-wrestlers started off like any regular match. Drexel’s own Zack Fuentes came out of the gate ready to wrestle. He took on his man head on with a great deal of toughness. Fuentes, a redshirt freshman, did exactly what you would have wanted to see from a freshman: he was tough and wrestled cleanly, giving himself a chance to win his first ever match. Unfortunately for Fuentes he would have to forfeit the match after suffering an apparent elbow injury.
The injury definitely hurt the team not only because they watched one of their own being taken off the mat with an injury that could end his season, but also because of the time it took to get the match back on track.
Once Fuentes was taken from the match, head coach Matt Azevedo gathered his wrestlers and tried to get their heads back into the match. The next match was the 133-pound division, featuring Drexel’s Kevin Devoy Jr.
Devoy wrestled his opponent hard and would come away with a much needed victory for the Dragons, winning 7-2. Franco Ferraina, would wrestle next in the 141-pound division, where he would defeat his opponent in overtime by a margin of 6-1. Ferraina, wrestled extremely well in his match and during this point in the match his victory was important because it would give the Dragons an overall lead over the Jackrabbits. Unfortunately, however, the rest of the match would go South Dakota State’s way.
During the 149-pound match, Mathew Cimato lost a tough match by a score of 9-1. Cimato wrestled well but it was obviously not his day, as his opponent wrestled with extreme toughness. Noel Blanco would wrestle next in the 157-pound match. Unfortunately for Blanco, he would be facing an opponent who was nationally ranked, losing by way of a fall.
Nick Elmer, a redshirt freshman weighing in at 165 pounds, wrestled well and kept his match close, but he unfortunately would not be able to pull out the victor, losing a 4-3 decision. Stephen Loiseau (174), Alex DeCiantis (184) and Joshua Murphy (197) would all have close matches, but would be unable to come up with victories.
The last match of the night was well-wrestled by Joey Goodhart, who displayed a lot of heart against his opponent. Anyone wrestling in the 285 weight class needs to be tough and if this match is any indication of what Goodhart can bring, then he should be winning a majority of his matches this season. Unfortunately, Goodhart’s opponent beat him in overtime, but that is not to understate the toughness and hard wrestling that he displayed.
After the match Azevedo was upset with his team; he wanted more from his guys. He said that, overall, he was disappointed with the lack of toughness and heart his wrestlers had wrestled with.
It was important for his wrestlers to raise their level of toughness quickly, as the Dragons would travel to The Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania for the Keystone Classic Nov. 23.
The Dragons made Drexel proud in the Keystone Classic. Devoy was able to wrestle his way into the top spot of the 133-pound division. This was a great achievement for a wrestler, who is making it easy for the rest of us to think of him as a lock against any one opponent.
In addition to Devoy’s top-place finish, both Mathew Cimato (149), and Noel Blanco (157) earned fifth place finishes, which were very impressive. Both Dragon wrestlers displayed great amounts of toughness and heart while they wrestled, and although they didn’t finish in the top spot, in a match like the Keystone Classic where there are many high-quality wrestlers, fifth place finishes are extremely impressive.
The match against South Dakota State was an unfortunate match because of the loss of Zack Fuentes, and also because of the overall team effort. However, the turn around that the Drexel wrestlers were able to have in the Keystone Classic was impressive and bodes well for the rest of the season.
The Dragons will return to the mat Saturday, Dec. 6, when they travel to Evanston, Illinois. Drexel will be wrestling against Davidson College, Northwestern University and Eastern Michigan University. It will be a tough road trip and the Dragons will definitely need to show how tough they can be during these matches.