After setting a new standard for its program last season with a conference title, the Binghamton University wrestling team fell short of matching last season’s accomplishments at the Colonial Athletic Association Championship over the weekend.
This year, the Bearcats came in second in the team standings and qualified four wrestlers for the NCAA championships. Binghamton accrued 78.5 points over the two-day tournament, which took place on Friday and Saturday at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. Hofstra University won the team title with 94 points. Last season the Bearcats won their first-ever CAA title and qualified a program Division I record six wrestlers for the national tournament.
The team crowned three individual champions. Senior Anwar Goeres (141 pounds) and junior Justin Lister (165) each won titles for the second consecutive year. Junior Matt Kaylor (157) won his first-ever CAA title after defeating Rider’s Ramon Santiago 9-5 in the finals.
“Obviously it’s disappointing not to repeat [as team champions],” said BU head coach Pat Popolizio. “We knew we had a big challenge ahead of us with the conference competition. We needed a couple of guys to come through and place that weren’t expected to place; that didn’t happen, so that took us out of the team race. Our ultimate goal was to qualify as many guys as we could. We knew we had those five returning national qualifiers that had a good shot, and we’re still in good position to get all five there.”
Sophomore Donnie Vinson, who was the No. 1 seed at 149 pounds, was upset in the finals, 5-4, by Rider’s Zac Cibula in a triple-overtime battle. Vinson earned an automatic berth to the national tournament by virtue of the NCAA allocating two qualifying spots for the CAA’s 149-pound weight class. Vinson qualified for last year’s national tournament in the same fashion. He rolled into the finals with an 18-6 victory in the quarterfinals and a 19-second pin in the semifinals. Despite the loss, Popolizio was proud of his wrestler’s performance.
“[Vinson] definitely out-wrestled [Cibula],” Popolizio said. “Obviously the score didn’t go in his favor but Donnie was aggressive the entire match. I think if you put a different ref out there you’re going to see a different outcome. We’ve still got to win those matches when we don’t get the calls to go our way. I think it’s a good match for Donnie to learn [from]. He still has time to improve from now until the national tournament. He might be in that exact same match — different opponent, maybe the same opponent — at the national tournament.”
Fellow sophomore Nate Schiedel, who was the top seed at 184 pounds, suffered a narrow defeat to Hofstra’s Ben Clymer 4-3 in the finals. Schiedel beat Clymer in last year’s CAA finals by the same score.
“In my eyes, [Schiedel] didn’t quite go after the win,” Popolizio said. “He held back a lot — he’s got a lot of ability, a lot of talent, he works extremely hard and he didn’t utilize his tools and wrestle his kind of match. Watching him wrestle, it didn’t look like he believed he was going to win that match.”
Although he didn’t automatically qualify for the national tournament, Schiedel has an overall record of 32-7 and has been nationally ranked by several publications all season long, which puts him in prime position to earn an at-large bid from the NCAA. According to Popolizio, at-large bids will be known by Wednesday night.
Lister, who was the No. 4 seed in his bracket, avenged two of the losses he suffered at the CAA Duals in January. He pinned top-seeded Joe Booth from Drexel University in the semifinals and beat Hofstra’s Paul Gillespie 3-1 in the finals. After a magic All-American run last season, Lister knows what it takes to be successful and is stepping up his game at the right time.
“I think the bigger the match, the better Justin wrestles,” Popolizio said. “He’s a gamer and he loves the challenge. He beat two kids that have a legit shot at placing at the national tournament. He’s got to know after this weekend that he’s good enough to beat anybody in the country.”
Also avenging a loss was Goeres, who beat Hofstra’s Vincente Varela 8-6 to win his second CAA crown. Varela beat Goeres 7-5 at the CAA Duals. Kaylor won his bracket with relative ease, winning his first match 14-4 before his win over Santiago.
“Anwar wrestled with a lot of confidence,” Popolizio said. “I thought he wrestled extremely aggressive. He’s got a lot of great offense that he utilized this weekend and it showed, and if he stays offensive, he’ll win. Matt Kaylor was very consistent. Score-wise, nobody really challenged him. These guys have all been there before, and they’ve got to know they can beat anybody on any given day.”
Sophomore 125-pounder Derek Steeley placed fourth in the tournament. He dropped a tight 6-5 decision to Hofstra’s Steve Bonnano in the semifinals. Steeley beat Bonnano 11-8 at the CAA Duals. Sophomores John Paris (197) and Cody Reed (285) both put forth quality performances for the Bearcats despite each of them bumping up weight classes. Paris placed second, losing 11-2 to Boston University’s John Hall in the finals. Reed beat No. 3 seed Kevin Innis of Boston 5-1 before losing to No. 2 seed Jack Callender of Drexel 8-6 in the semifinals.
Senior 174-pounder Ryan McGarity’s collegiate career came to an end after being knocked out in the consolation semifinals. McGarity lost to No. 2 seed and eventual champion Ryan Patrovich of Hofstra 4-1 in the semifinals. He finished the season with a 30-17 record and an 81-64 career record.
“I know he’s disappointed with [his performance], obviously we are [too],” Popolizio said of McGarity. “The effort’s always been there, so we can’t be disappointed with that. It’s tough to see a senior not accomplish his goals. He had to wrestle a perfect tournament and he didn’t. The things that he’s done for this program are huge. He’s been here for five years. He’s wrestled anywhere from 141 to 184 and he had a lot of success because of his loyalty to the program.”
The NCAA championship is scheduled for March 17-19 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.