After an outstanding regular season for the Binghamton wrestling team, redshirt sophomore Lou DePrez became just the second Bearcat in program history to win an Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Associate (EIWA) championship. Ranked No. 4 in the country, he seemed primed to make a run at the 2020 NCAA Wresting Championships in March.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic preventing the event from taking place, DePrez was recognized as a first-team All-American by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), becoming the first Bearcat since 2012 to earn that award. In recognition of his many accolades throughout the 2019-20 campaign, DePrez has been selected as Pipe Dream’s Male Athlete of the Year.

“[DePrez] had a tremendous season this past year,” said Binghamton head coach Kyle Borshoff. “It was one of the best seasons of any wrestler in Bearcat history. If [DePrez] had a chance to compete at the NCAA’s, I am confident he would have brought a national title home to Binghamton. We are lucky that we have him for two more seasons and are looking forward to the future.”

DePrez opened his season with a championship at Binghamton’s annual Jonathan Kaloust Bearcat Open, upsetting the No. 2 ranked wrestler in the country in the title bout. On New Year’s Day, DePrez won one of the top regular season tournaments in the country, the Southern Scuffle. He picked up another top-10 victory in the finals, avenging an earlier season loss to North Carolina State’s redshirt freshman Trent Hidlay.

“[I learned] mostly just to treat everyone the same, not to put anybody on a pedestal and just wrestle my match,” DePrez said. “I know I’m always gonna have tough matches throughout the year, since we wrestle such good competition.”

The Bearcats as a team had a rough time in dual competition, primarily due to injuries, but DePrez served as a mainstay in the lineup as he prepared for a postseason run.

“For duals, scoring as many points as I can is not only good for me, but it’s good for the team,” DePrez said. “We did have a lot of injuries, and it kinda just shows how good our team is rounded and how tough we are, battling through those … We did place sixth at the EIWAs, tying last year’s finish.”

The primary reason for Binghamton tying its program-high finish at the EIWA Championships was DePrez’s individual title. He entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and the clear favorite and did not disappoint as the event progressed.

“Going into the tournament, I knew I had two pretty tough guys that I wrestled in the semifinals and finals … one [of whom] I had already lost to,” DePrez said. “I knew I could beat them both, I was pretty confident going in because I knew how hard I’d trained and what my skill set was.”

DePrez beat fellow NCAA qualifier junior Chris Weiler from Lehigh in the EIWA title bout and eventually earned the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. In what was a wide-open 184-pound bracket in which DePrez had competed well against the majority of his top opponents, he had a legitimate chance to win the first national championship in program history.

“I pretty much wrestled everyone except [redshirt senior Taylor Lujan of Northern Iowa], and he took some losses to people that I had already wrestled,” DePrez said. “I felt fairly confident. I knew it was gonna be a tough tournament, but I knew my position in the tournament was a good spot and I think if everything went well I would’ve wrestled a guy I had already beaten in the quarters and then the one seed in the semis. To me I think I could’ve won the tournament.”

Unfortunately for DePrez, the NCAA Championship was canceled just days after the selection show, and he and teammate redshirt sophomore Zack Trampe were robbed of a chance to compete for the ultimate prize.

“It is what it is, but at the same time it was a little sad because I put a lot of work in to try to get this outcome, accomplish my goal, and I couldn’t compete to have a shot at doing that,” DePrez said. “I got a ton of support, I got a ton of texts. Everyone knew it kinda sucked, but we’re all going through the same thing so everyone just kind of came together.”

Fortunately for DePrez and Bearcat wrestling fans, he has two years of eligibility remaining. For his remaining years as a Bearcat, BU will have a national championship contender wrestling at 184 pounds.

“I have two years to accomplish my goals, so I just gotta get after it now,” DePrez said.