The Binghamton University wrestling team is continuing to make strides toward becoming one of the top 25 teams in the nation, which the team proved with its performance over the winter recess. Since the Penn State Open on Dec. 5, the Bearcats have won six of the seven dual meets they competed in, pushing their record to 11-3, and they are currently among six teams listed as receiving votes in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll.

Binghamton is fresh off of hosting the 42nd annual New York State Championship over the weekend at the West Gym. The two-day tournament concluded with the Bearcats as the team champions as they tallied 149.5 points, while crowning four champions. They edged out Columbia, which totaled 132.5 after leading the team standings after the first day. Binghamton finished in fourth place in last year’s tournament.

“It’s great to host this event,” said Binghamton head coach Pat Popolizio. “Obviously every team in New York State [was] here competing. It’s pretty prestigious.”

Junior Matt Kaylor won the 157-pound title with a 14-6 victory over Eduardo Delgado of Hunter College in the finals. Fellow junior Justin Lister posted a 4-2 decision in the 165-pound final over Columbia’s Eren Civan. Sophomore Nate Schiedel’s 6-3 win over Hofstra’s Ben Clymer in the finals earned him the 184-pound title, and sophomore Cody Reed took the 197-pound title with an 8-6 win over Cortland’s Jared Myhrberg.

On Dec. 12, the Bearcats won a pair of duals at Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, N.Y., defeating Army 22-13 and Ohio University 17-16. Three weeks later on Jan. 2, Binghamton fell to University at Buffalo 24-12 at the West Gym. Lister and switched weight classes for this dual meet, with Lister moving up to 165 and Kaylor moving down to 157. They have not switched back since, and the move benefits both wrestlers, according to Popolizio.

“Weight management was part of it,” he said. “Kaylor was a little undersized at 165 and Lister was a little bigger for 157, so the swap had to do a little with weight management. They’re both making the adjustments. Hopefully we’ll get everyone in gear toward the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament, but they’re on track. It’s not going to happen overnight, but in another month or so they’ll be fine.”

Sophomore 125-pounder Derek Steeley made his Binghamton debut on Jan. 8 at Columbia University. A former Oklahoma high school state champion, Steeley made an immediate impact, pinning his opponent at the 1:57 mark. The Bearcats topped the Lions 29-13 in front of a large contingent of Binghamton alumni. Steeley provides a big lift to the lineup at a weight class where the Bearcats struggled to find consistency.

“We knew the situation,” Popolizio said. “We didn’t have a lot of depth at 125. We needed someone that could come in right away and be eligible to compete, and doing a lot of homework we found a kid in junior college that was eligible and knew that he could step in and be competitive right away.”

Senior 141-pounder Anwar Goeres, who was sidelined for about a month due to an injury, returned to the lineup against Columbia and earned a 9-3 decision. He went 2-1 at the CAA Duals and finished in seventh place at 141 pounds at the NYS Championship.

“He’s making strides,” Popolizio said. “He had a little letdown [on Saturday], but at the end of the day he needs to decide what he wants to accomplish, and everyone in Division I college wrestling is going to be hurt at some point in the season. Some guys just have to wrestle through it, and if he wants to accomplish something at the end of the year he’s going to have to wrestle through these minor injuries. Some injuries are tougher than others, but it’s something he’s going to have to man up and do.”

The Bearcats took a trip to George Mason University on Jan. 15 for the Colonial Athletic Association Duals. Binghamton, the defending CAA champions, won all three of its matches, including a 23-15 victory over Hofstra University, which was ranked No. 25 in the nation at the time. It marks the second-straight year BU toppled Hofstra, this after nine straight losses to the Pride. Binghamton edged Rider University 18-17 and beat Drexel University 22-12.

Sophomore Donnie Vinson, currently ranked No. 13 at 149 pounds, went 3-0 at the CAA Duals and sports an unblemished 14-0 record in dual meets this season. Schiedel, ranked No. 11 at 184 pounds, also went 3-0 and is 11-2 in dual meets. Both wrestlers have been flourishing in their second year with the program.

“Donnie is wrestling the best I’ve seen him in his career,” Popolizio said. “He’s wrestling with a lot of confidence, he’s wrestling very aggressive, and a lot of it goes back to the way those two [Vinson and Schiedel] trained. Schiedel’s having a lot of success; those guys are consistent. They come into the practice room, they work and anybody that puts the time and energy that those guys are doing, they’re going to win, and that’s what they’re doing now and they’re having fun doing it.”

Binghamton has a pair of challenging dual meets on tap this weekend. They are scheduled to wrestle at Cornell University on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Cornell is the top ranked team in the nation. The Bearcats are also scheduled to host No. 12 Iowa State University on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the West Gym.