The Binghamton wrestling team walked away from Saturday’s Colonial Athletic Association Championship with two individual titles, four NCAA Championship berths and a runner-up finish for the third-straight year.
With 67.5 total points, Hofstra captured the conference crown for the 10th time in 11 years.
“I think we were probably one performance away from just a fantastic performance, but I think we competed very well,” Binghamton head coach Matt Dernlan said. “And we competed at our highest level when it mattered most, which is what we were pointing to, so I was really happy … It was a team effort, and we knew … that’s what it was gonna take.”
Redshirt senior 147-pound Donnie Vinson, 184-pound junior Cody Reed, 125-pound senior Derek Steeley and 197-pound redshirt senior Nate Schiedel punched their tickets to nationals and led the Bearcats to a 54-point finish, tying them with Rider for second place.
No. 4 Vinson tore through his opponents to defend his conference title and garner the championship’s Most Outstanding Wrestler honors for the second consecutive year.
Carrying the No. 1 seed, Vinson received a bye in the quarterfinal round and made quick work of Boston University junior Nick Tourville in the semifinals, pinning the No. 4 seed in 1:15. He then cruised to a 15-0 technical fall victory over second-seeded Old Dominion freshman Alex Richardson in the finals to secure the title.
Reed joined Vinson as the only other Bearcat to take first place at the championship, earning a come-from-behind overtime win against top-seeded Rider freshman Ryan Wolfe in the finals.
Reed knocked off unseeded Boston sophomore Alex Najjar 3-2 in the quarterfinals and pushed past No. 3 ODU redshirt freshman Austin Coburn 5-2 in the semis to set himself up for a finals match with Wolfe, who toppled Reed 7-4 during a regular season meet in January.
With an automatic NCAA berth given to only the title winner in the 184-pound weight class, the second-seeded Reed found himself trailing Wolfe 5-3 and the clock ticking down on his chance at a return to nationals. But with less than five seconds remaining, Reed garnered a takedown to push the match into overtime. He notched another takedown early in overtime to end the round and secure the title and a ticket to the NCAAs.
“It’s one of those clichés. That’s why you wrestle every second of the match. Good things happen,” Dernlan said. “[Reed] just kept going after it against a guy that had beat him fairly soundly earlier in the year … He knew … that he had to win [to earn an NCAA berth]. And so he had to … deal with that pressure, put it in proper perspective, and obviously he took that pressure and used it in a positive way to push him to his best performance of the year.”
But perhaps the most surprising performance of the weekend came from Steeley, who tore his hamstring in early February, an injury so bad, according to Dernlan, that the senior found himself sidelined and unable to live-wrestle until the day before the team left for the championship.
“It would’ve been very easy for him to just throw in the towel and say, ‘My career is over,’” Dernlan said. “I mean because the nature of the injury was such that I even kind of thought like his career was over, but he was determined not to let it happen, and he said ‘No, I’m gonna deal with the pain, I’m gonna push through.’”
With the top three wrestlers from the 133-pound weight class given automatic NCAA bids, Steeley punched his ticket with a second-place finish. After pinning his way to a victory in the quarterfinals, the third-seeded senior earned a 7-4 win over No. 2 seed Rider sophomore Jimmy Morris in the semifinals before falling in the final round to the No. 4 seed.
No. 5-ranked Schiedel earned Binghamton’s second runner-up finish and his fourth-straight NCAA berth. BU sophomore heavyweight Tyler Deuel rounded out the Bearcats’ top finishers for the weekend with a fourth-place performance, wrapping up his season with 18 wins.
Forty additional NCAA at-large berths are scheduled to be announced Wednesday, with the championship set for March 21-23 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.