For the first time since 2015, and only the second time in program history since joining the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) in 2013, Binghamton has a conference champion. No. 4 redshirt sophomore Lou DePrez avenged a dual meet loss from earlier in the season to knock out No. 15 senior Chris Weiler of Lehigh and claim the 184-pound title at the 2020 EIWA Championships.

“Winning this tournament, it’s so hard to do it,” said Binghamton head coach Kyle Borshoff. “The guys that are winning this tournament, they’re as good as anyone in the country.”

DePrez was the lone Bearcat to lock up an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships at the two-day event, hosted by Lehigh University. After the unexpected indefinite suspension of redshirt senior Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds and the consensus national championship favorite, Valencia did not compete at the Pac-12 Championships on Saturday, meaning he will be ineligible for the NCAAs. With a wide-open race, DePrez now has a legitimate chance to become Binghamton’s first-ever national champion.

“[DePrez] has beaten pretty much every one of the top guys in the country,” Borshoff said. “There’s now only one guy in the country that has a win over us that we don’t alternatively have a win over him. [DePrez] has now been split with a lot of the top guys. He’s got some outright wins over some of the other top guys. I think he’ll go in with a very, very high seed. I would be shocked if he’s not in the top five, and I think he can win the national title.”

Elsewhere at the EIWA Championships, two other Bearcats entered the second day of the tournament undefeated and in semifinal matchups: redshirt sophomore Zack Trampe and senior Anthony Sparacio, Binghamton’s two other reigning NCAA qualifiers. Both suffered losses, with Trampe being defeated in extra time and Sparacio dropping an 8-4 decision.

Trampe won his consolation semifinal and the third-place bout, but there were just two automatic NCAA qualifiers at 133 pounds, so Trampe will be forced to hope for an at-large bid.

“I’m really proud of [Trampe],” Borshoff said. “He was really upset after losing in the semifinals … and he found a way to get through his wrestleback against Penn in a dominating fashion, and then he beat a very, very good opponent from Navy.”

Trampe is currently ranked No. 26 in the coaches’ poll, but he missed a substantial portion of the season because of injury, which may influence his chances of receiving a bid to nationals.

“I’m really hoping that he’s gonna get an at-large bid to nationals,” Borshoff said. “I think that he’s had a great season, he’s got a great win percentage, he’ll have a good RPI, coaches’ ranking, so I think he’s done enough that he should be getting through to the NCAA [Championships] … I’m really hoping for him to get one of those, but nothing’s guaranteed.”

After defeating the No. 1 wrestler in his weight class on Friday, Sparacio had a challenging Saturday. With five NCAA berths at 141, he needed to win just one bout to qualify. After dropping the championship semifinal, he was defeated in the consolation semifinal. In the fifth-place bout, he lost a 3-2 heartbreaker after several rounds of extra time.

“Sparacio left it all on the mat,” Borshoff said. “He’s got a shot at getting an at-large bid as well. I’m proud of that kid, what he did since he got here at Binghamton, [he] came in, transferred to us, believed in what we were doing, bought into the program and did a great job for the past two years.”

Redshirt sophomore Joe Doyle was the only Bearcat to begin Saturday in the consolation bracket, needing to win three bouts to place third and qualify for nationals. He won his first bout of the day but was defeated in the consolation semifinals and the fifth-place bout, placing sixth.

While Binghamton had one of its roughest dual meet seasons in recent memory, the team matched its program-high finish from last season’s EIWA Championships, taking sixth place in the team standings.

“We had a rough dual meet season, obviously — we didn’t win many,” Borshoff said. “We had some things happen within the team where we had different guys than we thought we’d have at this point in the season, and I think that was hard on everyone, me included. We battled through that, we got our guys here and then they performed well, I think they exceeded expectations. We certainly wrestled to a way better team finish than they had ranked before this.”

The four Bearcats to advance to day two of the event were widely expected to lead BU at the event and compete for NCAA bids, but several other members of the team earned critical team points on Saturday. True freshmen Sam DePrez and Tommaso Frezza, two Bearcats not expected to be in the lineup this season, both earned pins at the event.

“[Sam] DePrez scored five points for our team,” Borshoff said. “When you look at the way these tournaments are run, and we talk about this as a team all the time, at this event and the NCAA Championships, bonus points mean everything … Both [Frezza] and [Sam DePrez] did a good job scoring those points.”

While Lou DePrez trains to compete for a national title and All-American recognition, Trampe and Sparacio will hope to hear their names called in the NCAA selection show on Wednesday, March 11. The 2020 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held from March 19 to March 21 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.