Wrestling rebounds from season-opening loss to Lehigh with three individual titles at BU Open

After a season-opening defeat at Lehigh University on Thursday, the Binghamton University wrestling team returned to its winning ways on Sunday, crowning three champions at the annual BU Open in the West Gym.

File photo The Bearcats returned to winning form over the weekend, crowning three individual champions at the BU Open.

“Overall it was a good response to our efforts on Thursday night,” said Matt Dernlan, first-year Binghamton head coach. “And by the depth of the tournament, it was probably one of the most competitive tournaments in the eastern half of the United States, and for us to come away with three champions is something that we can take pride in and make a statement. We did what I challenged our guys to — to build our reputation and represent the University well.”

The event, which drew more than 300 wrestlers from 17 different schools, was also Dernlan’s first taste of coaching in front of the BU home crowd.

Sophomore Joe Bonaldi was crowned the champion of the 141-pound bracket, while seniors Donnie Vinson and Nate Schiedel claimed top spots at 149-pounds and 197-pounds, respectively.

On the way to his first collegiate title, Bonaldi won five straight matches. In the first round, he upset All-American and sixth-ranked Cornell University sophomore Mike Nevinger, 4-3. Bonaldi then secured three further decision victories en route to the final, where he toppled Cornell junior Joe Stanzione in a 6-4 tiebreaker.

“Beating the guy from Cornell was a huge confidence builder for Joe,” Dernlan said. “The whole team knows that Joe is very talented. He works very hard, and he got the outcome yesterday. I was very proud of his effort and his fight, and I think when we talk in March about Joe’s individual season, we will see that this weekend was a big turning point.”

Vinson, who notched his 100th career win on Thursday, now holds a stellar 105-24 record after a 5-0 run at the BU Open. The run included two pins over Rider University freshman Curt Delia and Pennsylvania State University sophomore Seth Beitz. In his final match, Vinson secured a major decision victory over Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania junior Mac Maldarelli, 17-3.

“Donnie doesn’t bow down to anyone,” Dernlan said. “And now people are approaching Donnie Vinson very differently, and guys are targeting him. And he is adapting to that. He has got a very positive approach to it, and he is embracing the challenge. Donnie wrestled exceptionally, and he has brought forward the attitude and effort needed to get those results.”

Schiedel, who needed just four victories to secure his championship, took down All-American and fifth-ranked University of Pennslyvannia senior Micah Burak to finish the tournament in a grand manner. Schiedel is four wins away from achieving the century mark of career victories.

“Nate had probably one of the best weight classes in the tournament,” Dernlan said. “And I think we are seeing a new attitude out of Nate. Being up a weight class from the previous two years, his body, mind and attitude were completely different and that was indicative in the result. He was never in danger — he dictated the pace, he had a game plan and he perfectly executed it throughout every second.”

The Bearcats kicked off their season last Thursday at Lehigh University where the 21st-ranked hosts came out on top, 23-16, winning six out of the 10 matches to hand BU a losing start to its season.

The two teams split the first four bouts, with Binghamton victories coming from senior 125-pound Patrick Hunter and No. 4 Vinson. Binghamton lost the next two bouts via a major decision in the 157-pound match and a pin by 20th-ranked Eric Hess on freshman 165-pound Vincent Grella.

BU sophomore Caleb Wallace brought the Bearcats back into the argument with a pin of his own in the 174-pound match. But the Mountain Hawks secured two out of the last three remaining bouts to win the dual.

While Dernlan said he was pleased with the attitude and effort his team displayed in the weekend’s tournament, he said that it was a completely opposite story on Thursday night.

“Our two talking points are about attitude and effort,” Dernlan said. “That is what I challenge our guys to bring every time because those are the two things you have control over. And on Thursday night, we didn’t see that at any level, and even though we got four wins, the only match we could be proud of in terms of the two areas we talked about was the 197.”

The Bearcats are next scheduled to travel to Cornell University for their second dual-meet of the season. The meet is set to get underway at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Friedman Wrestling Center.