Head to Hofstra for EIWA championships

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Hofstra University will host the 2018 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships this Saturday and Sunday, March 3-4 at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex. 

The 114th edition of the EIWA Championships, featuring wrestlers from American University, The United States Military Academy (Army West Point), Binghamton University, Brown University, Bucknell University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Drexel University, Franklin and Marshall College, Harvard University, Hofstra University, Lehigh University, The United States Naval Academy (Navy), University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Sacred Heart University, begins its two-day, four-session championship at 11 a.m. on Saturday with first round action in both the championship bracket and first round action in the wrestle-backs at 2:15 p.m. Session two begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday with quarterfinal action with the second round of wrestle-backs starting at 7:30 p.m.

Session three begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday with semifinals with third round wrestle=back semifinals starting at 11:45 a.m. and seventh-place matches at 12:35 p.m. Session four, the final session, begins at 3 p.m. with first, third and fifth-place matches. The EIWA received 47 allocations to the 2018 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio from March 15-17.FloWrestling will stream the 2018 EIWA Championships from start to finish. FloWrestling will also provide live brackets (arena.flowrestling.org/) and Hofstra will also provide bracket updates on EIWA Championships Central on GoHofstra.com (GoHofstra.com/EIWA)

In addition, on Sunday at 2:30 p.m., the EIWA Hall of Fame, Class of 2018 inductees will be introduced and recognized prior to session four. Please contact Jim Sheehan, Senior Sports Information Director at Hofstra University, for media credentials at (516) 463-6764.

Here is the 2018 EIWA Championships preview, written by EIWA Sports Information Director John Aadland.

The nation’s oldest college wrestling tournament convenes for the first time at Hofstra University. The team title and the individual weight classes are at stake; awards for outstanding wrestler, most career points, and best pinner will be presented; the coaches will vote for the best amongst themselves and the officials will vote for the most sportsmanlike team. The EIWA championship tournament is also a qualifier for the NCAA Championships to be held in Cleveland in two weeks. Forty-seven automatic qualifying bids will be locked in; it’s the last opportunity for wrestlers not receiving the automatic bids to make their case for the handful of at-large bids to be extended next week.

The Big Red of Cornell have now won 11 consecutive team titles. To put that in perspective, their unprecedented run now equals the next two longest streaks combined. The Lehigh Mountain Hawks, seven times a runner-up during this span, look to mount another assault and claim the top spot. Both teams lost multiple stars to graduation after last season, but both have rebuilt through a combination of recruits and roster depth. It’s doubtful that any other team can challenge for the team title.

Last year Princeton staged a strong contest for second place, but injuries have depleted this year’s Tigers’ lineup; while they have contenders for several individual titles it appears unlikely that the winning team’s colors will be black and orange. Navy fields a veteran squad that could challenge for a high team place; Army’s recent upset of the Midshipmen in the Star Dual makes a case for the Black Knights. The Drexel Dragons may have two finalist-level seeds and boast the depth needed to make a strong run. Binghamton and American round out the group that could battle for third and possibly move higher if things break the right way.

The weight-by-weight preview:

125       NCAA bids: 1               

Defending Champion: Darian Cruz, Lehigh

Defending EIWA and NCAA champion Darian Cruz returns seeking his third title; he is the only undefeated wrestler in the tournament. Two former third place finishers, Drexel senior Zach Fuentes and Cornell sophomore Noah Baughman, seek to pull off the tournament’s biggest upset. Other returning placewinners are Army’s Trey Chalifoux, 5th (has a win over Fuentes), and Princeton’s Matteo DeVincenzo, 8th. Junior Joe Nelson has won Binghamton’s starting job but faced only Fuentes amongst the top contenders. Another junior, Harvard’s Nolan Hellickson, has enjoyed a sound season.

The lightest weight class generally is host to a large influx of newcomers and this year is no exception. The best of the freshmen appear to be Gage Curry, American, who could grab a seed as high as fourth; he has a recent win over Fuentes. Aslan Kilic, Navy (a win over Curry) and Ryan Burns, Sacred Heart round out the rest of the best freshmen. 

133       NCAA bids: 3               

Defending Champion: Scott Parker, Lehigh

This weight class boasts two returning junior finalists:  champ and All-American Scott Parker and 125 runner-up Josh Terao from American. But the top seed should go to Drexel freshman Austin DeSanto, whose fine inaugural season includes a sudden victory win over Terao and the highest rankings in this weight class. Both DeSanto and Parker were injured at the Southern Scuffle but have since returned to action. Any one of the three could find themselves on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon.

Cornell’s Chaz Tucker could be the best of the rest. A junior, he’s a former Top 50 recruit who missed his first two seasons with injuries. A defensive specialist, he keeps things close and winnable. Binghamton’s Jacob Nicholson looks to place in his second and final tournament. The best of the freshmen appear to be Army’s Lane Peters, Navy’s Cody Trybus and Penn’s Gianni Ghionne. 

141       NCAA bids: 4               

Returning Champion: None

Spend some time learning to pronounce Diakomilhalis because you’ll be hearing it a lot over the next few years. Yianni D. justified his high recruiting ranking by stepping right into Cornell’s lineup and has lost just once. The other top seeds will probably go to Bucknell senior Tyler Smith, a two-time placewinner, and Lehigh freshman Luke Karam. Navy junior Nicholas Gil rounds out the top four; he placed sixth two years ago.

Other returning placewinners are Pat D’Arcy of Princeton, a placer at 125 and 133 who’s trying his luck at 141 for the first time; Hofstra’s Vinny Vespa, fifth at 133 last year; and Harvard’s AJ Jaffe, seventh last year. American will send freshman Kizhan Clarke; Binghamton junior Joe Russ seized the Bearcats’ starting job; two other talented freshmen are Drexel’s Julian Flores and F&M’s Brett Kulp. 

149       NCAA bids: 4               

Returning Champion: Matthew Kolodzik, Princeton (141)

Sophomore Kolodzik, last year’s 141 champ and All-American, moves up and tops this deep weight class. He’s the highest-ranked wrestler at this weight but not invincible, as Brown sophomore Zach Krause demonstrated in a dual four weeks ago. The other top seeds probably go to three juniors:  American’s Michael Sprague (looking to improve from fifth last year), Lehigh’s Cortlandt Schuyler (who has a win over Sprague), and Cornell’s Will Koll (who joined the starting lineup in January and has a win over Schuyler). At press time Navy hadn’t decided between senior Corey Wilding and sophomore Jared Prince; either fits right in with that group.

Others in contention for medals (in no particular order) include Harvard sophomore Hunter Ladnier, a surprise runner-up last year; Binghamton junior Frank Garcia; Brown’s Krause, of course; senior Jacob Macalolooy of Columbia, eighth last year; either Drexel freshman Trevor Elfvin (with a win over Schuyler) or fellow rookie Evan Barczak; and Penn senior Joe Oliva. The blood round is the second consolations and some good wrestlers won’t advance to the medals.

157       NCAA bids: 6               

Returning Champion: None 

This weight has many contenders but no clear favorite. Princeton junior Mike D’Angelo, third last year, is at the head of the rankings, closely followed by senior Markus Scheidel of Columbia. D’Angelo recently won their dual matchup in overtime; Scheidel is a three-time placewinner and the runner-up back in 2014. Next is probably Drexel senior Garett Hammond (a transfer from Penn State who went down with an injury early last year), followed by three-time placewinner Zack Davis of Navy; Brown senior Justin Staudenmayer, fifth two years ago; and Lehigh junior Ian Brown, seventh two years ago. Cornell fans will be watching transfer Fredy Stroker, who joined their team in January. 

Also in this deep field are freshman Eric Hong of American, sophomore Lucas Weiland of Army, sophomore Tristan Rifanburg of Binghamton, freshman Brock Wilson of Harvard, senior Joe Velliquette of Penn, and Sacred Heart’s Paul Klee. As with 149, some good wrestlers won’t be on the podium.

165       NCAA bids: 6               

Returning Champion: None 

The class boasts a veteran field and, once again, no clear favorite. The top four appear to be Princeton senior Jonathan Schleifer, a two-time fifth place finisher, down from 174; Cornell junior Jon Jay Chavez, a former Top 50 recruit in his first full season; Lehigh’s unpredictable junior Gordon Wolf, fifth at 174 two years ago; and Penn’s May Bethea, up from 157 where he was sixth in 2016. Bethea is on a run of 12 straight victories, including one in sudden victory over Schleifer, and has never looked better. Not to be left out are two more seniors:  Army’s Andrew Mendel, third and fifth the past two years; and Navy’s Drew Daniels, fifth last year.

Also seeking hardware are junior Jon Viruet of Brown, sixth last year; Binghamton senior Vincent DePrez; Bucknell junior DJ Hollingshead, down from 174; and sophomore Ebed Jarrell of Drexel, also down from 174.

174       NCAA bids: 5               

Former Champion: Jadeen Bernstein, Navy (2015)

Returning Champion: Brandon Womack (165)

The top three at 174 are probably former champ and three-time placewinner Bernstein of Navy; last year’s 165-pound champ and All-American Brandon Womack, a junior from Cornell; and last year’s top seed at 157, sophomore Jordan Kutler from Lehigh. Kutler has the highest ranking, Bernstein has the title at this weight, Womack has the more recent title. Kutler has beaten Womack; Bernstein has not wrestled the other two.

One notch down but looking to move up are three-time fourth place finisher Tyler White of Columbia; two-time placer Josef Johnson of Harvard; last year’s seventh place finisher, Ben Harvey of Army, who just edged Bernstein in the dual with Navy; two-time seventh-place finisher Austin Rose of Drexel, up from 165; and eighth-place finisher Anthony Lombardo of Binghamton. Freshman Bryce Rogers of Brown and sophomore Sage Heller of Hofstra are also in the hunt for medals. 

184       NCAA bids: 7               

Returning Champion: None

Cornell freshman Max Dean, brother of four-time EIWA and two-time NCAA champ Gabe, will try to keep the family dynasty alive at 184. Ranked ahead of him is Lehigh junior Ryan Preisch, up from 165 and 174 where he earned third- and second-place medals, respectively. Preisch missed close to two months with a mid-season injury, missing a highly-anticipated matchup with Dean; he hopes to regain top form in time for the tournament. Also aiming to claim the big trophy are Navy senior Michael Coleman, runner-up last season who has lost to Dean; and three-time place winner Steve Schneider of Binghamton. 

Additional returning placewinners are seniors Alex DeCiantis, Drexel, sixth; Joe Heyob, Penn, seventh; and Harvard’s Kanon Dean (cousin of Cornell’s duo), eighth. Three more EIWA wrestlers have been in the national rankings:  they are Brown junior Christian LaFragola, who owns a win over Coleman; Army sophomore Noah Stewart; and Bucknell sophomore Drew Phipps (who has very quietly posted wins over Stewart, LaFragola, and Harvard’s Dean). 

197       NCAA bids: 6               

Defending Champion: Frank Mattiace, Penn

Be forewarned about the third of Cornell’s standout freshmen, Ben Darmstadt; if you look away during one of his contests you might miss something you’ll regret not seeing. Thirteen times this season he’s pinned an opponent in the first period. Last year’s champ, Frank Mattiace of Penn, is the only wrestler with a win over Darmstadt this season; in a recent re-match the Big Red came out on top. Princeton’s Patrick Brucki has drawn support in the rankings for much of the year and upset Mattiace two weeks ago. Then there’s American senior Jeric Kasunic, a two-time placewinner who rides a 20-match winning streak into Hempstead and is ranked high in the national polls. Bucknell’s Tom Sleigh, runner-up a year ago, was injured in his first action in November and will not return for this tournament.

Others wishing to make a statement include Army junior Rocco Caywood, sixth last year and the owner of a pin of Darmstadt, accomplished early last season; and Navy senior Steban Cervantes, eighth a year ago. Drexel junior Stephen Loiseau, fifth among EIWA ranked 197s, seeks his first medal. Hofstra junior Nezar Haddad needs to pull an upset or two to stand on the podium in his home arena. Lehigh freshman Chris Weiler (wins over Kasunic, Loiseau, and Caywood) recently claimed the starting spot for the Mountain Hawks. 

285       NCAA bids: 5               

Defending Champion: Garrett Ryan, Columbia 

Two-time placewinner Michael Hughes of Hofstra returns from a year layoff to top the rankings among EIWA grapplers; he would dearly love to win a title at home as a senior. Blocking his path is defending champ Garrett Ryan, another two-time placewinning senior. In between the two stands Jordan Wood, the third of Lehigh’s top freshmen. Hughes has a win over Ryan; neither has wrestled Wood. 

Two placewinners return from the 2016 tournament:  juniors Antonio Pelusi of Franklin & Marshall, fifth, and Jeramy Sweany, Cornell, sixth. American senior Brett Dempsey and Brown junior Ian Butterbrodt have appeared in the rankings. Princeton sophomore Christian Araneo, who missed five weeks following a December injury, makes his first appearance at EIWAs, as does Army plebe Robert Heald. Navy is still deciding between senior Austin Faunce and sophomore Andrew Piehl.