To become an elite team, one must beat elite teams to prove you belong. The Binghamton University wrestling team has been flirting with elite status for the last couple of seasons, and it had a great opportunity to achieve its goal over the weekend with two dual meets against top-15 teams. Now that the weekend has come and gone, the Bearcats are still outside the elite realm, but reinforced that they are not far from it.
On Friday night, the Bearcats lost to No. 2 Cornell University 35-3 at the Friedman Wrestling Center, and on Sunday they hosted No. 15 Iowa State University at the West Gym, losing 22-18. Against Cornell, Binghamton (11-5) won just one bout, but that one victory set the wrestling community abuzz.
At 149 pounds, Binghamton sophomore Donnie Vinson, ranked No. 12 in the country, defeated No. 2 Kyle Dake 5-3. Dake won the NCAA title at 141 pounds last season and was also the 2010 Freshman of the Year. With the match tied 3-3, Vinson scored a takedown with 30 seconds left in the match to secure the win. It was undoubtedly the biggest win of Vinson’s career. Vinson also won his match against Iowa State, and now has a 16-0 record in dual meets and a 19-2 record overall this season.
“It was a pretty great feeling,” Vinson said about beating a national champion. “Obviously I had a lot of fans behind me. I knew I could do it, my coaches knew I could do it and with all that support you just have to do it. Can’t let anyone down.”
Binghamton head coach Pat Popolizio attributed Vinson’s success and continued improvement to attitude.
“Belief and attitude, and a lot of confidence,” he said. “And it’s showing when he’s wrestling. That’s exactly what he did against [Dake] and the same thing [Sunday]. He believes he can beat anybody and it’s showing when he’s out there wrestling. He’s got to continue to believe that and continue to do the things he’s doing, and he’ll put himself in a position to compete to win a national title.”
Friday’s team score ended up lopsided in favor of the Big Red, but the dual could have been much closer. Senior Anwar Goeres lost 6-5 at 141 pounds, junior Matt Kaylor lost 4-3 at 157 and junior Justin Lister lost 5-3 to Justin Kerber, who is ranked No. 5 in the nation at 165 pounds.
The Bearcats’ home dual against the Cyclones came down to the final bout at 133 pounds, but BU sophomore Dan Riggi lost 14-3 to Ben Cash. The entire dual was a back-and-forth affair. BU was staked to an early 6-0 advantage after Iowa State forfeited 141, which was the first bout of the dual. Vinson’s win put his team up 9-0. Kaylor was pinned at 157, making the team score 9-6. Lister picked up one of his biggest wins of the season at 165, edging out No. 9 Andrew Sorenson 4-2, extending the Bearcats’ lead to 12-6. ISU’s Jon Reader, No. 1 at 174, won by technical fall over senior Ryan McGarity, closing the gap to 12-11. The Cyclones took their first lead when Cole Shafer earned a 9-2 upset over BU sophomore Nate Schiedel, ranked No. 10 at 184 pounds. Schiedel seemed out of sorts during his match.
“Rough weekend for Nate,” Popolizio said. “He wrestled at Cornell Friday night and didn’t look sharp, and again [Sunday] he didn’t look sharp. So we’ve got to go back and readjust a couple of things, maybe some stuff that’s been preparing him for matches we might have to readjust a little bit. I think he definitely wasn’t himself. He’s capable of doing a lot better than that, and I know he knows that and we’ll get him out of that.”
At 197, BU sophomore Cody Reed battled back from a 6-1 deficit to beat Phil Hawes 9-7 in overtime, giving the Bearcats a 15-14 lead. Both wrestlers appeared to be dealing with leg injuries during the bout. The crowd was ecstatic after Reed’s comeback and it seemed Binghamton had regained the momentum at that point. Popolizio called Reed’s performance “unbelievable.”
“He stepped up,” Popolizio continued. “He got a little injury, he got down early by a lot and came back. He’s got a lot of heart, a lot of fight, he pretty much out-conditioned the guy and believed he was going to win, and did, and that was huge for our team. It put us in a position to win the dual meet. Unfortunately we didn’t.”
The 285-pound matchup was tied 0-0 after two periods, but Kyle Simonson ended up recording a 10-2 major decision over BU freshman Lance Moore. Sophomore Derek Steeley’s 7-6 victory at 125 pounds tied the dual at 18-18 before Cash won the dual for the Cyclones.
“The effort was there. Overall, the guys fought extremely hard. We had a few individual letdowns that could have been a difference in the match, but the guys competed very well against a very tough Iowa State team that’s got a lot of history and tradition,” Popolizio said.
The Bearcats are set to hit the road on Friday for two dual meets, against American University and George Mason University, a fellow Colonial Athletic Association member. The matches are scheduled for noon and 6 p.m., respectively.