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This is part of WIN’s on-going preseason look at all ten NCAA-qualifying conferences/tournaments.
Click here to read WIN’s other conference previews.
EIWA Qualifying Tournament for the NCAA:
March 8-9, 2013 @ Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J.
Last Year’s EIWA Finish in Princeton, N.J.:
1. Cornell, 151.5; 2. Lehigh, 149; 3. American, 103; 4. Penn, 94.5; 5. Navy, 85; 6. Columbia, 78.5; 7. Rutgers, 74.5; 8. Harvard, 59; 9. Army, 57.5; 10. Brown, 48; 11. Princeton, 44; 12. Franklin & Marshall, 29; 13. Bucknell, 28.5; 14. Sacred Heart, 6
Last Year’s EIWA Performance in the NCAA Tournament:
13 of 14 EIWA schools sent 54 wrestlers to St. Louis, which were three more than in 2011. In the end, five of those programs left the NCAAs with three champions and 14 All-Americans.
Leading the effort was fourth-place Cornell, which featured the most champions — Kyle Dake (157), Steve Bosak (184) and Cam Simaz (197) — of any school in the national tournament. The Big Red also saw Frank Perrelli (125) finish fourth and Mike Nevinger (149) claim a seventh-place finish. All but Simaz and Perrelli return in 2012.
Meanwhile Lehigh claimed eighth place as a team for a second straight year. Before that, the Mountain Hawks’ last top-10 finish came in 2006. Four of their wrestlers came home with All-American trophies: second-place Brandon Hatchett (165) and Zach Rey (Hwt), while Robert Hamlin (184) finished fourth and Joe Kennedy (197) was eighth. Only Hamlin returns in 2012.
Of the three other schools with returning All-Americans, American finished 19th, while Harvard (30th) and Penn (32nd) were separated by two spots. Ganbayar Sanjaa (157) and Ryan Flores (Hwt) each finished sixth for American but have graduated. Harvard saw two men finish eighth: Steve Keith (133) and Walter Peppelman (157), who both return this season. Penn’s Micah Burak (197) will return this season with a seventh-place finish in 2012.
Among the other EIWA teams competing, their order of finish were: Army (41st), Columbia, Princeton and Rutgers (45th), Navy (48th), Bucknell (51st) and Brown and Franklin & Marshall were tied (64th).
WIN’S 2012-13 EIWA TEAM RACE PREDICTION
1. Cornell — Three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake made preseason news when the senior announced he was moving up to 165 pounds, where he would become the first four-time NCAA champion at four different weights if he could top the field next March in Des Moines. But Dake’s move also improves the line-up of head coach Rob Koll, who found a weight class for junior Craig Eifert at 157 pounds.
And considering Koll returns two-thirds of his NCAA champions from last year — the other returning national champion is 184-pound senior Steve Bosak — the Big Red should be able to win a seventh straight EIWA championship.
(Oddly, both Dake and Bosak are wrestling in weight classes where two champions will compete. At 165, there is also Penn State’s David Taylor and his teammate, 174-pound titlist Ed Ruth, is moving up to 184.)
Overall, the Big Red return five national qualifiers from 2012, including Nick Arujau (133), Mike Nevinger (141) and Chris Villalonga (149). (Also, 165-pound national qualifier Marshall Peppelman is expected to redshirt with Dake moving to that weight.)
2. Lehigh — Mountain Hawk coach Pat Santoro featured two NCAA finalists in Brandon Hatchett (165) and Zach Rey (Hwt) in helping Lehigh earn a second straight eighth-place NCAA finish. But both of those national runner-ups have graduated, as did fellow All-American Joe Kennedy, who finished eighth at 197.
But Lehigh, which finished second to Cornell by 2.5 points last March, does return two-time All-American Robert Hamlin (184), who finished second as a sophomore in 2011 and fourth last March. This sets up perhaps the best EIWA match-up considering Cornell’s national champion Steve Bosak also returns at this weight.
Meanwhile, three other national qualifiers return for Santoro, who is now in his fifth season leading the Mountain Hawks: sophomore Mason Beckman (133), junior Steve Dutton (141) and senior Shane Welsh (149). All three came back to win a match in last year’s NCAAs after losing in the first round. Welsh is a returning EIWA champion for Lehigh.
Meanwhile, junior Joey Napoli, who redshirted last year after qualifying for the 2011 NCAAs at 149 pounds, is moving up to 157 this season. Also Nathaniel Brown is back at 174 pounds. The sophomore finished fourth in last year’s EIWAs and qualified for Nationals but was unable to wrestle because of injury.
3. Harvard — Head coach Jay Weiss, who is beginning his 19th year with the Crimson, returns three of four national qualifiers from last year’s team which finished third in the EIWAs and 30th at the NCAAs.
They include a pair of seniors in Steven Keith (133) and Walter Peppelman (157) — who each finished eighth at their weight classes last March — and 197-pound sophomore James Fox.
Keith, a three-time national qualifier, finished third in last year’s EIWA, while Peppelman, who also finished eighth in the 2011 Nationals, finished second in the conference tournament last season. Fox was one of four true freshmen to compete in last year’s national tournament and finished 21-13.
Another Crimson to watch out for is junior Cameron Croy, a two-time EIWA placewinner, who finished sixth in last year’s conference tournament at 184 pounds.
4. Rutgers — When Scott Goodale left the successful high school program of Jackson (N.J.) Memorial to take over the Scarlett Knights in 2007, he had high hopes for a program that was struggling. By the time this season is over, the program could have taken a big step forward considering Rutgers features at least four seniors who all have NCAA experience.
They include Mario Mason (149), Scott Winston (157), Greg Zannetti (174) and Dan Rinaldi (197).
Mason is a former Blair Academy star who spent a year at Minnesota before transferring to Rutgers, where has qualified for two of his three NCAA tournaments and finished second in last year’s Midlands.
Winston, a former wrestler of Goodale at Jackson Memorial, has qualified for three NCAAs with the Scarlet Knights. In 2011 he became Rutgers’ first EIWA champ since 2000.
Zannetti led all Rutgers’ wrestlers with 31 wins last season when he finished second at the EIWAs.
Rinaldi, a two-time NCAA qualifier, returns to 184 pounds. He finished fourth in the EIWAs at 197 in 2012.
Meanwhile, Rutgers also has another wrestler with previous NCAA experience who did not compete last March. 125-pounder Joe Langel, who missed much of last year with an injury, reached the 2011 NCAA quarterfinals.
5. Penn — Academically, the Quakers were once again one of the highest-ranking wrestling programs in the country when it came to the NCAA’s APR. On the mat, coach Rob Eiter’s fourth team in Philadelphia finished fourth in the EIWA and 32nd nationally.
Leading the way is 197-pound senior Micah Burak, a three-time national qualifier, who earned his first — and the school’s only — All-American honor last March with a seventh-place finish.
Burak is one of two national qualifiers returning in 2012-13. The other is sophomore Steve Robertson, who competed at 149 pounds in St. Louis and may move up to 157 this winter.
Meanwhile, Eiter is happy to see the return of 125-pound senior Mark Rappo, who redshirted last winter. One year earlier, Rappo qualified for his first national tournament as an EIWA runner-up and defeated Oklahoma State’s Jon Morrison during the 2011 NCAAs in Philly.
6. Navy — Four Midshipmen — Aaron Kalil (133), Bobby Barnhisel (157), Oscar Huntley (174) and Luke Rebertus (184) — qualified for last year’s Nationals, but only Huntley returns this year for coach Bruce Burnett, who begins his 12th year at the helm.
Huntley, whose father Peter Huntley wrestled for Old Dominion, earned his first NCAA trip last winter after injuries haunted him his first two seasons in Annapolis. But in recording a 24-12 mark and a second-place finish in the last year’s EIWAs, Huntley headed to St. Louis where he reached the Round of 12 before being eliminated.
Other Midshipmen to keep an eye on this year are senior Mason Bailey (165) and heavyweight Dan Miller, who finished sixth and fourth, respectively, at last year’s EIWAs.
7. Columbia — A trio of Lions qualified for the Nationals last March and two of them — Steve Santos (149) and Jake O’Hara (157) — return for Columbia this winter. Santos earned his first NCAA appearance with a fourth-place finish at the EIWAs while O’Hara placed fifth in the conference. The NCAA participant from 2012 who is not returning is heavyweight Kevin Lester. Replacing him should be California native Wyatt Baker, who represented the United States in this past summer’s Junior Worlds, where he finished tenth in Greco-Roman competition.
8. Bucknell — This school from Lewisburg, Pa., has been part of the EIWA since 2000 and head coach Dan Wirnsberger, beginning his eighth season, has produced two of the school’s six different All-Americans in Andy Rendos (2009-10) and Kevin LeValley (2010-11). This year Wirnsberger features two returning national qualifiers in 125-pound sophomore Austin Miller and 165-pound senior Corey Lear.
Miller finished third in last year’s EIWAs, while Lear earned an at-large bid to the national tournament after finishing fifth in the conference meet.
9. Princeton — If there was a young coach who understands the EIWA, it has to be Princeton’s Chris Ayers, who is beginning his seventh year at the Ivy League school from New Jersey. This is the same Ayers who won an EIWA championship and All-American honor as a wrestler at Lehigh (1998-2001).
Last year was a banner year for the program which sent three wrestlers to the NCAAs: 125-pound Garrett Frey, 141-pound Adam Krop and 157-pound Daniel Kolodzik. Only Frey, a senior from Pittsburgh, returns. Krop, a junior from Urbana, Md., who dealt with injuries in his career, was forced to leave the program this year.
10. American —Head coach Teague Moore is now forced to officially reload this season after All-Americans Ganbayar Sanjaa (165) and heavyweight Ryan Flores have graduated from the Washington D.C. college program.
However, Moore does still have talented returners to look to in the likes of 149-pound Kevin Tao and 197-pound Dan Mitchell, who helped American finish third in last year’s EIWAs, which was Moore’s first year at the helm.
Tao finished second in last year’s EIWAs to earn his first NCAA trip. Mitchell is a three-time national qualifier who earned the NCAA’s Elite 89 Award given to the highest GPA of any athlete competing in the postseason last year.
11. Army — The only Cadets returning with any NCAA tournament experience are 133-pound senior Jordan Thome and 165-pound sophomore Cole Gracey, who each qualified for their first Nationals last March. Thome finished fourth and Gracey was third in last year’s EIWAs.
Third-year Army coach Joe Heskett is also counting on leadership from seniors Daniel Young (149) and Collin Wittmeyer (184), who were named co-captains in the preseason after seeing injuries affect their careers the past two seasons. Young recorded 27 wins in 2011 before sitting out last season. Wittmeyer had a career-high 24 wins as a freshman in 2010.
12. Brown — The 2012-13 season will be the 100th wrestling season for the Bears of Providence, R.I., and coach Dave Amato is looking for someone to duplicate the magic performed by Dave Foxen, who captured the school’s first EIWA championship since 1963 when he won the 174-pound title before graduating. One Bear who could also reach that level is 184-pound sophomore Ophir Bernstein, who compiled a 27-15 record and qualified for his first national tournament last March.
13. Franklin & Marshall — Coach Mike Rogers has sent a Diplomat to the Nationals in each of his first two seasons at this school from Lancaster, Pa. The latest was 141-pound Richard Durso, who became just the fifth F&M wrestler to record 30 wins in a season and competed as a freshman in last year’s Nationals. He finished sixth in last year’s EIWAs.
14. Sacred Heart — This school from Fairfield, Conn., was the only EIWA team not to send a wrestler to the 2012 Nationals, but first-year coach Andy Lausier hopes to change that. Before taking the reins last July, Lausier was an assistant coach at Princeton the past four seasons. Before that, he was the head coach of Stevens Tech, an NCAA Division III program.