CAA Tournament Preview (UPDATED W/RESULTS)

165 pounds

In what has become something of a pattern in this preview, at 165 we have another returning conference champion, Chris Brown from Old Dominion.   In fact, if all goes according to seed, this year’s final should be a rematch between Brown and HU’s Ryan Patrovich.  In the past, Brown has had the RS sophomore from Islip’s number, beating him every time that they have met.  However, with each meeting, the gap gets all the more narrower.  Recently, Patrovich posted his first win over Edinboro’s Jarrod King, an opponent that had always given him trouble.  Therefore, perhaps Patrovich is on a mission to avenge losses to all of his unicorns (again, for those of you who did not read the Cornell preview, unicorn refers to an opponent that regardless of what you do, you seem to lose to)….Before Patrovich can concern himself with beating Brown for the title, first he has to get to the finals.  With Rider’s Jason Lapham expected to join him in the semifinals, a trip to the finals is no guarantee.  Over the course of the past two seasons, Patrovich has always gotten the better of Lapham, including a decision win in this year’s dual.  However, Lapham is no slouch.  If Patrovich does not wrestle a good match, there is no reason why Lapham would not be able to swoop in and reverse his fortunes….Regardless of who faces Brown in the finals, expect a methodical, low scoring affair.  Brown, who is more athletic than I think people give him credit for, seems to like to slow down the pace and rely on his solid defense to win matches.  If more than seven points total are scored in the finals at 165, I will be surprised.  When it comes to Brown, 3-2 or 4-3 sounds about right.

Top-4 (Overall Record; CAA Dual Record; Conference Rank/Highest National Rank)
(1) Chris Brown (Old Dominion): 24-6; 4-0 in CAA; Ranked 1st in CAA/11th in Nation
(2) Ryan Patrovich (Hofstra): 18-6; 5-1 in CAA; Ranked 2nd in CAA/14th in Nation
(3) Jason Lapham (Rider): 22-10; 6-1 in CAA; Ranked 3rd in CAA/29th in Nation
(4) Scott Hunter (Drexel): 11-21; 2-5 in CAA; Ranked 4th in CAA/NR Nationally

1st: Brown (ODU) Dec Patrovich (HU), 8-2

3rd: Lapham (Rider) Dec Inglin (Boston U), 8-4

True 2nd: Lapham (Rider) Dec Patrovich (HU), 3-1


174 pounds

One of the few CAA wrestlers to earn All-American honors in 2008 (8th), Hofstra’s Alton Lucas is back to defend his 174-pound crown.  While not always by the most impressive margins, Lucas has posted an incredibly impressive overall record of 22-5, owning wins over almost all of the other conference ranked opponents at his weight class.  From a talent standpoint, the only person who can beat the Pride senior this year is himself.  With 2009 being his last crack at a national title, it waits to be seen what mentality the West Babylon, NY product will bring with him to the mat.  If he comes out like a man on a mission, he could very well walk through this tournament.  By this, I mean no disrespect to any of the other CAA wrestlers at 174.  Lucas is just that naturally talented….On the flip side, if Lucas falls into the same pattern that has plagued him for years and allows bouts to remain close heading into the final period, there are plenty of talented individuals who are capable of springing the upset.   In the past, ODU’s Eric Decker has always given Lucas a run for his money….Should Lucas succeed in defeating Decker again this season, he likely will be met by the winner of a battle of top true freshmen between Boston University’s Hunter Meyes and George Mason’s Bagna Tovuujav.  Already this season, the Pioneer wrestler has defeated the National scholastic career pin leader twice.  However, as the ole saying goes, the hardest thing to do in sports in beat the same opponent three times in the same season.  Both true freshmen are more than capable of upsetting Lucas should the HU senior not wrestle his “A” game.

Top-4 (Overall Record; CAA Dual Record; Conference Rank/Highest National Rank)
(1) Alton Lucas (Hofstra): 22-5; 6-0 in CAA; Ranked 1st in CAA/#9 in Nation
(2) Bagna Tovuujav (George Mason): 21-7; 6-0 in CAA; Ranked 2nd in CAA/#26 in Nation
(3) Hunter Meys (Boston University): 24-8; 2-2 in CAA; Ranked 3rd in CAA/NR Nationally
(4) Eric Decker (Old Dominion): 23-17; 3-2 in CAA; Ranked 4th in CAA/#30 in Nation

1st: Tovuujav (GMU) Dec Lucas (HU), 3-1 SV

3rd: Decker (ODU) Dec Meys (Boston U), 2-0


184 pounds

If all goes as planned, 184 should be a collision course for two of the best wrestlers in the nation. The only weight class to feature a pair of national top-10 ranked wrestlers, Binghamton’s Josh Patterson and Rider’s Doug Umbehauer,  the winner of this weight class should be considered an early favorite to win the M.O.W. Award.  In addition to holding seeding implications for the National tournament, 184 should also factor in heavily to the team race.  However, unlike the first seven weights, the impact on the team race at 184 will be felt in the consolation bracket.  With Hofstra’s Ben Clymer seeded 3rd, and ODU’s Joe Budi the fourth seed, these two promising true freshmen could meet up in the consolation finals.  In their only previous meeting, Clymer won a low scoring barnburner, 2-1.  For Hofstra to keep pace with their Monarch rivals, it will be important for Clymer to repeat his winning performance….With regard to the title match, Patterson and Umbehauer have gone back and forth in the past, with each owning at least one win over the other.  In their last meeting, it was Patterson who got his hand raised, following a 6-2 decision victory.  Being that this is Umbehauer’s senior year, it goes without saying that the two-time CAA Champion will be looking to join elite company by winning his third title.  A title this weekend should cement the Shamong, NJ native as one of the best grapplers ever to represent the Colonial Athletic Association.

Top-4 (Overall Record; CAA Dual Record; Conference Rank/Highest National Rank)
(1) Josh Patterson (Binghamton): 38-4; 5-1 in CAA; Ranked 1st in CAA/#7 in Nation
(2) Doug Umbehauer (Rider): 17-3; 5-1 in CAA; Ranked 2nd in CAA/#6 in Nation
(3) Ben Clymer (Hofstra): 18-11; 4-2 in CAA; Ranked 3rd in CAA/#32 in the Nation
(4) Joe Budi (Old Dominion): 21-17; 3-2 in CAA; Ranked 4th in CAA/NR Nationally

1st: Patterson (BING) Dec Umbehauer (Rider), 8-1

3rd: Clymer (HU) Dec Budi (ODU), 2-1


197 Pounds

197 is by the far the deepest and more difficult weight class to predict.  It is no exaggeration to say that any one of five individuals could claim the title this weekend.  Four of the sixth seeded wrestlers have spent time in the national top-20 this season.  Therefore, the winner of this weight class will be the one who has the most fortitude to survive the gauntlet.  If at all possible, 197 is so rich in talent that it is the kind of bracket that one might expect to find in one of the power conferences like the Big-10 or Big-12.  If the winner at 184 does not win the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award, surely it will go to the person who emerges unscathed here.  Atop the bracket is George Mason sophomore, Cayle Byers.  Byers entered last season as the #2 seed at this weight, but was defeated in the semifinals.  Therefore, he should come out hungry to fulfill his destiny by becoming a conference finalist….Back after a year away, Drexel’s Jon Oplinger will bring the most experience to the mat this weekend.  A winner of 100 collegiate matches in his career, the Dragon senior knows how to win….Up a weight from his runner-up finish in 2008 is Old Dominion’s Jesse Strawn.  Despite holding a national rank in the top-20, Strawn finds himself as only the fourth seed heading into this weekend, a true statement to how talented the field at 197 is…The surprise of the group is #2 seed John Hall of Boston University.  Coming into the year, I did not know much about Hall.  However, with wins over several ranked wrestlers this season, Hall has forced me to pay attention to him.  Despite entering the tournament as the #2, one cannot help but feel that Hall may be getting overlooked.  If one thing has become apparent in 2009, it is that opponents who underestimate Hall usually find themselves walking back to the bench with an “L” attached to their resume….The final wrestler expected to contend for the title is Hofstra’s Joe Fagiano.   Sitting out a good portion of the second half of the season, Fagiano recently returned and experienced his share of ups and downs.  When on his game, Fagiano likes to push his opponents around the mat and bully them into takedowns….Fagiano’s quest for the title begins with a showdown against Strawn.  In addition to the pursuit of personal accolades, the winner of this quarterfinal match-up will provide his team with a much needed edge in what is expected to be neck and neck race for the team title.

Top-4 (Overall Record; CAA Dual Record; Conference Rank/Highest National Rank)
(1) Cayle Byers (George Mason): 25-5; 6-0 in CAA; Ranked: #1 in CAA/#7 in Nation
(2) John Hall (Boston University): 22-7; 3-2 in CAA; Ranked #2 in CAA/NR Nationally
(3) Jon Oplinger (Drexel): 29-4; 5-2 in CAA; Ranked #3 in CAA/#10 in the Nation
(4) Jesse Strawn (Old Dominion): 30-10; 3-2 in CAA; Ranked #4 in CAA/#15 in the Nation

1st: Byers (GMU) Dec Oplinger (Drex), 3-0

3rd: Strawn (ODU) Dec Fagiano (HU), 5-4

True 4th: Fagiano (HU) Dec Miller (Rider), 8-6


285 Pounds

Leading the big boys is former NYS Champion, Ed Bordas of Rider University.  A conference champion at this weight last year, Bordas has been about as untouchable as can be, going undefeated in conference during the regular season.  Hence, he much very earned his top seed for this weekend.  As the only nationally ranked individual in the field at heavyweight, the Bronc wrestler has to be considered a sizeable favorite (no pun intended)….Sitting in the #2 spot in Old Dominion’s Roy Dragon.  Despite sporting only a 10-15 record on the year, Dragon has been the consummate Mr. Reliable for the Monarchs this season.  With the dual online against Hofstra, it was Dragon who stepped up and got the decision victory in the last bout of the afternoon to secure the Old Dominion victory.  Should he be successful in wrestling up to seed, he will again have placed his team in an excellent position to end an HU streak.  Expected to challenge Dragon for a birth in the finals is Drexel’s Kyle Frey, the #3 seed.  Carrying a 24-14 overall record into this weekend, Frey went 5-2 in conference during the year.  Working against Frey may be the fact that he is listed on the Drexel roster as a 197-pounder.  Hence, he should be giving away a significant amount of weight to his ODU opponent.  If Frey is able to pick his spots and use what I would expect to be a speed advantage, he may be able to pull the slight upset and put himself in the ideal position of contending for the trip to St. Louis in Mid March…..Representing Hofstra at this weight class will be true freshman, Jordan Enck.  Whatever Enck lacks in size, he makes up for with general speed and athleticism.  Much like my comments about Frey, Enck must incorporate a similar strategy if he hopes to triumph in the land of the giants.  You can probably count on one hand the number of heavyweights that can match the Manheim, PA product’s physical tools.  However, when out weighing a guy by 20-50 pounds, sometimes athleticism takes a back seat to pure size and strength…Enck comes into today having dropped matches to all three of the gentlemen seeded ahead of him.  Therefore, if it is him in the winner’s circle at the end of this weekend’s festivities, one should look at him as a perfect example of how heart and will can overcome all adversity….Should Enck manage to upset Bordas and qualify for the finals, the points he earns for his team could prove invaluable.

Top-4 (Overall Record; CAA Dual Record; Conference Rank/Highest National Rank)
(1) Ed Bordas (Rider): 23-9; 9-0 in CAA; Ranked: #1 in CAA/#31 in Nation
(2) Roy Dragon (Old Dominion): 10-15; 3-1 in CAA; Ranked #2 in CAA/NR Nationally
(3) Kyle Frey (Drexel): 24-14; 5-2 in CAA; Ranked #3 in CAA/NR Nationally
(4) Jordan Enck (Hofstra): 16-16; 2-3 in CAA; Ranked #4 in CAA/NR Nationally

1st: Bordas (Rider) Dec Frey (Drex), 2-1

3rd: Enck (HU) Dec Waite (BING), 6-2

True 2nd: Frey (Drex) Dec Enck (HU), 4-2


Final Team Standings:

(1) Hofstra—106.5
(2) Old Dominion—86.5
(3) Rider—57.5
(4) Binghamton—44.0
(5) George Mason—40
(6) Drexel—27.5
(7) Boston University—26.0
(8) Sacred Heart—5.5

M.O.W.: Bagna Tovuujav (174-George Mason)

Automatic NCAA Qualifiers (20):
125- James Nicholson (Old Dominion)
125- Steve Bonanno (Hofstra)
133- Lou Ruggirello (Hofstra)
141- Ryan Williams (Old Dominion)
149- P.J. Gillespie (Hofstra)
157- Jon Bonilla-Bowman (Hofstra)
157- Mike Kessler (Rider)
165- Chris Brown (Old Dominion)
165- Jason Lapham (Rider)
174- Bagna Tovuujav (George Mason)
174- Alton Lucas (Hofstra)
174- Eric Decker (Old Dominion)
174- Hunter Meys (Boston University)
184- Josh Patterson (Binghamton)
184- Doug Umbehauer (Rider)
197- Cayle Byers (George Mason)
197- Jon Oplinger (Drexel)
197- Jesse Strawn (Old Dominion)
197- Joe Fagiano (Hofstra)
285- Eddie Bordas (Rider)

Alternates in Case of Injury:
133- Kyle Hutter (Old Dominion)
141- Justin Accordino (Hofstra)
149- Mike Roberts (Boston University)
285- Kyle Frey (George Mason)

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