The Binghamton wrestling team’s season kicked off at home as it hosted the Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open. Despite some key pieces having graduated last year, the team showed its potential, as well as some rust that needs to be shaken off.
Redshirt junior Frankie Garcia, who wrestles in the 149-pound weight class, made it to the NCAA Tournament last season and is looking to replicate that success this season, but failed to do so yesterday afternoon. Sophomore Hunter Richard of Cornell defeated Garcia by a 7-3 decision in the second round, officially ending Garcia’s day with just 2.5 points.
Early troubles plagued Binghamton throughout the start of the open, but BU head coach Kyle Borshoff was pleased with the way his team battled back and proved itself.
“We learned a lot today and started off well at certain weight classes, but it was very obvious to me that as the tournament went on, we started wrestling better,” Borshoff said. “It’s been a long time since we last competed, and you can tell that the guys are so used to wrestling each other in the room a certain way. When you have competition from other schools, it changes everything, but we made some great improvements.”
Regardless of the sluggish outset to the day, strong placements from several wrestlers demonstrated the persistence and fight that the Bearcats possess. Senior Steven Bulzomi finished in fourth place at 125 pounds, redshirt senior Anthony DePrez placed fourth at 197 pounds and redshirt senior Vincent DePrez ended in second at 174 pounds. However, the most noteworthy win of the day came from redshirt sophomore Audey Ashkar, who placed first at 125 pounds for his first NCAA first-place finish.
“He did an incredible job coming in here and winning the Bearcat open,” Borshoff said. “[Ashkar] has been talking about being consistent in everything that he does, and in his finals match, the consistency that he’s been living in his training and his lifestyle are what got him through that close match, and that’s really what it takes to succeed in our sport.”
Despite the ups and downs of the event, there is still confidence in the air fluttering around the Bearcats’ locker room, and performances like Ashkar’s are capable of driving that optimism. The team graduated several key pieces, including BU wrestling legend and one of just seven wrestlers in team history to win 100 matches, Steve Schneider, ‘18. Even with the absence of athletes like Schneider, Borshoff has nothing but confidence for his team heading into the rest of the season.
“I’m extremely confident in these guys,” Borshoff said. “We’ve talked about it as a team that we want to be a top-three program in the [Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association] and a top-25 program in the nation, something we haven’t done since 2012.”
Binghamton’s home advantage will play a huge role this season, and the Bearcat Open was the first of many important events that will take place on the Bearcats’ home turf. The first event of a season always brings on some jitters, but competing at the Events Center certainly aided the confidence of the Bearcats.
“Being at home is huge for the team,” Borshoff said. “We’re facing eighth-ranked Cornell on Friday here and the EIWA conference championships will be hosted here as well, so the more times we get to compete in this arena, the better it is for team morale and the more comfortable the guys are.”
The Bearcats will continue their schedule with a nonconference matchup at home on Friday, Nov. 16 against Cornell University. The start of the match is set for 7 p.m. from the Events Center in Vestal, New York.