On a night dedicated to bidding farewell to its three senior wrestlers, the Binghamton University wrestling team thrashed Colonial Athletic Association-rival Old Dominion University, 29-9, to round off the regular season.
It was business as usual for the No. 19 Bearcats as they brushed aside the No. 23 Monarchs with ease, with wins in seven of the 10 matches.
“I thought our team wrestled extremely well,” BU head coach Pat Popolizio said. “We were very aggressive. Looking at all the matches, because we wrestled that way, it gave us an advantage. Overall I was extremely pleased and proud of what the lads did.”
125-pound junior Derek Steeley set the tone early on with a 7-5 victory over No. 29 Justin Robinson. After dropping the next two matches at 133 and 141 pounds, BU restored parity as No 4. junior Donnie Vinson secured a 15-5 major decision victory against Brennan Brumley at 149 pounds.
That victory kick-started the Binghamton rout as the Bearcats took five out of the remaining six matches, which included a pin by senior Justin Lister at 157 pounds, ranked No. 9 in the country. The pin marked Lister’s 100th career victory.
“Lister was wrestling a second-string kid, but I thought it was pretty fitting for him to go out with a pin in a home dual,” he said. “You can’t really write a better story script like that than this one.”
Before the meet got underway, Lister, Kaylor and senior Mike McKeever were honored by Binghamton University as part of the Senior Night festivities.
Like Lister, No. 25 Kaylor impressed in his last regular season meet, notching a 8-2 decision over No. 21-ranked Tristan Warner.
“Kaylor wrestled a kid that was ranked higher than him in the country,” Popolizio said. “He went out there and dominated the entire match. He pretty much wrestled a perfect match.”
With the victory over ODU, Binghamton ends the regular season with a record of 15-4 in dual meets. In an already record-breaking season, the team set another landmark by setting the record for the highest single-season winning percentage (.789) in the program’s history.
Popolizio’s squad has responded positively since a narrow loss to American University on Feb. 3 by winning the remaining three meets of the season.
The head coach said that he believes his team will benefit from its drive and winning mentality during the postseason.
“The will to win in this team is pretty high,” Popolizio said. “We have battled past different dual meets this season. We have had some losses, and we have turned it around right away the following match, or even on the same day. When it comes to the national tournaments and the conference tournaments, all of that is going to play out and work in our favor.”
With momentum on their side, the Bearcats are now looking forward to hosting the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Tournament in less than two weeks.
“It is going to be an exciting conference tournament,” Popolizio said. “We have got three nationally ranked teams [in the conference]. Our campus will play a big part as well. We don’t have to travel. But at the end of the day, we still have to go out and be at a high level to have a chance to win.”
In terms of preparation for the tournament, Popolizio said he is encouraging his wrestlers to believe in themselves and maintain the form and confidence they have shown throughout the season.
“Everybody has to be sharp,” he said. “Intensity has got to be high. And focus has to be 100 percent. Right now this is when all the national champions step it up and get super focused. So there is no room to be nervous or stressed out. This is where you’ve got to trust and have confidence in the training that we’ve done and the schedule that we’ve put together.”
The CAA Championship is set to kick off at 9 a.m. on March 3 in the West Gym.