Ed note: This review of the D-3 National championships in LaCrosse, WI this last weekend was written by mjayt and originally sent in to Speak Up.
With all the athletic press recently (and deservedly so) going to the Eph Men’s basketball team’s run to the final four…… what sort of went by unnoticed was the continued lack of love/respect the Williams wrestling team and New England wrestling in general gets on the national stage.
The Ephs sent 4 wrestlers to the University Of Wisconsin Lacrosse this past weekend for the D-3 National Cahmpionships. I should say that we qualified two and had two others go as “at large picks”. That in itself begins the lack of respect that our region gets in this sport. To qualify for the nationals in NE, you must win your weight bracket or be lucky enough to get one of the the four at large picks the conference gets. There are only 10 weight brackets in college wrestling, so those ten conference champions go and the coaches vote in 4 others. Many of the midwest conferences get their top two or three placers in each weight class into this event. Thus, Wartburg College of Iowa qualified all 10 of their wrestlers and eventually won their 3rd national championship in the past 4 years and 5th in the last 8 years). Take nothing away from Wartburg….they are loaded with talent from top to bottom, but you obviously have a better chance to score more team points, with more wrestlers in the field. The Ephs had hoped to qualify 6 or 7 of their wrestlers this year and make a bit more noise on the national scene, but injuries just derailed their goals (both for a repeat NE title….finishing 2nd to Springfield, and a potential top 10 national finish).
The lack of respect for our NE/Williams guys translated to the seeding and formation of the brackets at the Nationals. Senior Corey Paulish who was a 3 time National qualifier, NE conference champion at 149 lbs., and All American in 09 as a sophomore (finishing I believe 4th) was given a pigtail match (a preliminary round just to earn a place into the championship draw against a 3 time national champion, who eventually won the bracket)….for his first match! Corey lost that match and had to battle back through the long consolation bracket, eventually losing in the round that would have made him an All American for the second time.
Sophomore Ces Antista, who also was a NE Conference Champion and carried a 25-2 record into the nationals was paired against the #1 seed and returning national champion (and eventual champion again this year) in the first round. Ces battled hard and even put this stud to his back at one point, but lost the match on points. Already nursing an injury, Ces lost in the consolation bracket as well.
Ryan Malo at 197, who was coming into this event as a two time national runner-up and ranked 2nd in the country for much of the last 2 years, was given a 4th seed in this tournament which meant that he had to face the #1 seed Byron Tate from Wartburg in the Semi-Finals (the guy who he has lost to twice in the last two years). Malo had not been as all world dominating as the year before when he set national records for pins in a season, but he is still a big time stud.
I suppose one can argue that Antista needs to prove himself more on the National stage and got a poor draw related to that lack of experience, but Paulish and Malo (#1 and #2 all time in victories at Williams) have proven themselves against this level of competition, and deserved more respect in the formation of the draws. It’s a little bit of a chicken or an egg thing in as long as NE keeps getting the short end of the stick on the number of qualifiers they get into this tournament, it’s going to be difficult to ever improve their overall showing as a team or region…..and thus, garner more respect in the seeding process.
Obviously Iowa, Wisc, and other midwest states, look down their noses at wrestlers from New England in the same way Baltimore natives would look at lacrosse players from the midwest. But, there is allot of great wrestling in this part of the country (and places not far away…upstate NY, NJ, and PA etc….) and it’s time for some respect!
Oh yeah…..The Williams Wrestling Team topped their national best team GPA from a year ago with an impressive 3.57. Take that Wartburg!!!