As the new kids on the block, the Binghamton wrestling team wasn’t projected to do too well at the conference championships last weekend.
The Bearcats (3-8) peaked at the right time, though, and earned a seventh-place finish and a pair of automatic bids to the NCAA championships.
“We were confident in our training plan … with the expectation that we would have our best performance top to bottom as a team, collectively and individually, coming into this weekend. And we got that result,” BU head coach Matt Dernlan said. “We obviously greatly exceeded the expectations of everyone else, but we did expect to have that type of performance.”
Junior 125-pound David White, who took fourth for his ticket, and senior 197-pound runner-up Cody Reed will travel to Oklahoma City for the NCAA tournament. Reed’s appearance will be his third consecutive at the NCAAs.
“David White was seeded sixth, he got fourth; Cody Reed was seeded fifth, he got second. And the two weight classes they were in were by far the deepest and the toughest of the tournament,” Dernlan said. “So for them to jump and exceed their seed and wrestle higher than expectations … they wrestled and competed better than they have all season.”
The NCAA will announce its at-large berths for the heavyweight division on Wednesday, and junior Tyler Deuel could receive a bid to join his two teammates in Oklahoma City. Deuel left the weekend with a sixth-place finish after recording two pins on Saturday and being edged out of fifth with an 8-7 bout against the No. 5 seed. There were only five NCAA berths allotted to the heavyweight class.
Those who made it to Sunday’s brackets in addition to Reed, White and Deuel were unseeded sophomore 165-pound Vincent Grella and eighth-seeded 184-pound Caleb Wallace. Both finished the tournament in eighth place in their respective weight classes.
“We had the potential, but also we went in there with the attitude,” Dernlan said. “I kept telling the guys these past two weeks, ‘This is the tournament: No one is going to hand anything to you. No one’s going to give you a gift, and don’t expect anything to come easy.’ Our guys went out with that attitude, they were aggressive, they got their points and they really earned what they got.”
Reed’s weekend opened with a major decision in the first round, 14-5, before his second round bout against the No. 4 seed extended to an extra period. Trailing in regulation’s final seconds, Reed surged for a takedown before securing his win by fall in overtime, his first pin of the season.
On Sunday, he continued his success in the semifinals, recording a 5-2 decision over the ninth seed. Come the finals, however, second-seeded Jace Bennett of Cornell managed to get the better of Reed just before the match’s closing seconds. Reed had jumped to a 4-3 advantage off a late takedown, but Bennett produced a reversal to get up, 5-4, leaving no time for Reed to come back.
White opened his tournament competition with an 8-2 decision in round one before falling to the third seed in round two. In the consolation round, White ousted eighth-seed Sean McCabe of Rutgers, 3-2, to get back in the swing of things. He continued on the next morning with a 10-2 major decision in the consolation bracket and a win by forfeiture in the consolation semifinals.
For a team in transition, the weekend’s success meant more than just proving its place in a new conference. It also meant proving its growth.
“I think it was a really big statement going into the EIWA tournament for the first time — it’s the second toughest conference in the country — and to actually place more people in the EIWA tournament than we did at the CAA tournament last year. I think that’s a pretty significant accomplishment,” Dernlan said.
With just the NCAA tournament remaining, the season is over for the majority of the team. But at least two members of Binghamton’s starting lineup will continue on to the national championships March 20-22 with at least as much expectation to exceed projections as they did in the EIWA Championships.