Not only was last Thursday the beginning of the long-awaited round of 64 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but it also marked the first day of the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which featured two BU wrestlers who qualified for the elite competition: senior Steve Schneider and redshirt sophomore Frankie Garcia.
Entering as the No. 13 seed in the 184-pound weight class, Schneider traveled to Cleveland, Ohio for the last competition of his collegiate career. Garcia, on the other hand, made his NCAA debut, qualifying as a sophomore in the 149-pound weight class.
On Thursday, Schneider took down his first opponent, UPenn senior Joe Heyob with a 4-1 victory that allowed him to advance to the round of 16 on Thursday night. Taking on No. 4 seed redshirt senior Pete Renda, Schneider could not replicate his earlier successes and fell to the NC State wrestler in a 9-0 major decision. Despite the defeat, Schneider moved on to Friday’s competition in the consolation bracket.
Garcia also went 1-1 on the day, but due to a 7-0 major decision loss to his first opponent of the morning, No. 7 seed Northwestern freshman Ryan Deakin, Garcia moved into the wrestlebacks for his second matchup on Thursday. In the alternate bracket, which competed for the third-place title, he was able to defeat Air Force’s senior Dane Robbins in a close competition that ended in sudden victory. With the win, Garcia was able to move forward in the consolation bracket on Friday as well.
“[Garcia] continues to grow as a wrestler,” said BU head coach Kyle Borshoff. “He’s exciting to watch. I had a number of coaches come up to me from other schools and say how apparent it is that the effort he puts in and how hard he wrestles, and it’s pretty neat for me as a coach to have one of our athletes being noticed by a number of other schools’ coaches.”
Friday’s competition was not as successful as Thursday’s had been for the Bearcats, although both Schneider and Garcia put up a good fight.
Schneider, in the wrestlebacks consolation bracket, took on Brown’s junior CJ LaFragola, and despite being seeded higher, Schneider fell to LaFragola, 5-3.
“I think [Schneider] competed well and wrestled hard, but at the end of day we got knocked out and he’s a tough person so he’ll use this experience to build himself up and get better and move forward in whatever he wants to do next,” Borshoff said.
Garcia, taking on No. 9 seed Max Thomsen, fell to the University of Northern Iowa redshirt sophomore in a 14-4 major decision match.
“We’ve got some things to clean up with [Garcia] but he’s got two years left, so getting the experience of being here and wrestling is invaluable,” Borshoff said. “This is going to be something that Frankie builds on over the next couple of years.”
Schneider, who graduates in May, ends his Bearcat career with an impressive 108 career wins, three NCAA Championship appearances and a four-time Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) place winner, the most of any wrestler in BU program history.
“[Schneider] was the first four-time EIWA place finisher for our school, three-time national qualifier and we went out of the tournament today and it was hard,” Borshoff said. “It’s always hard when you lose here. You do so much during the year and over your career and you put so much effort and time into this sport and then when you lose it’s always hard.”