The Binghamton wrestling team couldn’t build on its win over Buffalo, dropping a pair of home matches over the weekend.
The Bearcats (5-13) — who fell, 23-10, to Bucknell and 28-12 to Bloomsburg — will not compete again until the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships on March 8.
Several Binghamton wrestlers faced top-20 opponents, gaining one last round of experience that could point to areas needing improvement.
“It’s a learning situation, heading into the conference tournament,” Binghamton head coach Matt Dernlan said. “Because there are going to be big-pressure situations every round in the EIWA, we’ve got to learn from this experience and transition it over into conference. As much as you talk about [individual weaknesses] in the room, you need to see those weaknesses come to light in competition so the light switch really goes off and you say, ‘Yeah, I really need to improve these things.’”
Aside from making room for such growth and development, the duals featured several impressive individual performances. 149-pound junior Joe Bonaldi’s 2-1 upset of Bloomsburg’s No. 19 Bryce Busler highlighted the weekend. Regulation time expired with the score knotted at one, and the match devolved into a sudden victory period. Bonaldi earned the go-ahead with 14 seconds remaining, securing BU’s first contested win of the dual.
“I was pretty confident going into the match, but I knew I had to do everything right, and I felt like I executed the game plan pretty well,” Bonaldi said. “I just have to keep focused and keep grinding, and I know I have to get to the postseason now.”
197-pound senior Cody Reed (No. 25) also saw success through the weekend. He extended his winning streak to 11 through his match on Friday, scoring six takedowns for a 12-2 major decision.
Come Saturday, however, Bloomsburg’s No. 6 Richard Perry responded to a 1-0 deficit against Reed and earned a 3-2 victory.
“It’s bittersweet, knowing that you’re that close to the top but you want to win those matches — those are the matches you’ve got to win to be All-American and to reach my goal — so it’s definitely heartbreaking,” Reed said. “But I’ve got a couple of weeks to work on some things and win when it counts.”
No. 24 heavyweight junior Tyler Deuel was the only Bearcat to face off against two top-20 opponents this weekend. Though he fell to both Bucknell’s No. 19 Joe Stolfi and Bloomsburg’s No. 17 Justin Grant, exposure to this level of competition is just what Deuel needed, especially to attain the high goals he has set for himself.
“[Deuel has] had a lot of success this year, and he’s improved so dramatically. But on the downside, he hasn’t really seen any of the top talent in the country,” Dernlan said. “So we needed this experience, heading into EIWA, because there’s going to be a bunch of ranked guys there. So even though he didn’t get a win this weekend, I think it was a very valuable learning situation.”
Deuel said he must fine-tune his late-match techniques.
“I wasn’t finishing my scoring opportunities, so there are definitely a couple of key positions I’m going to be working on in the next couple of weeks going into conferences, and just peaking at the right time and hopefully getting that conference title,” Deuel said.
Friday’s dual opened by honoring BU’s two seniors, Reed and 174-pound John Paris, for Senior Night. Paris, the 2011 CAA Rookie of the Year, was a two-year starter who battled with injuries to compete. Reed is a two-time NCAA qualifier and boasts 88 career wins, the second highest of any Binghamton wrestler in the program’s 10-year Division I history.
The contest with Bucknell featured just three BU victories overall. However, two of the matches — No. 32 David White’s against No. 23 Paul Petrov and Bonaldi’s — were intensely close, decided by a matter of one or two points.
“We didn’t execute in short time like we talk about, and that’s where you’ve got to. Against some of the top guys, it comes down to critical moments,” Dernlan said. “We talk about finishing periods, finishing matches, but we just didn’t finish the match [Friday night].”
For its part, Bloomsburg took seven of the nine contested matches after forfeiting the 125-pound class matchup to Binghamton.
Next up for BU are the EIWA Championships on March 8 and 9. The tournament is hosted by No. 2 Penn State but will be held at the Palestra on UPenn’s campus. Contests will last all day with sessions beginning at 10 a.m.