The EIWA season is upon us and it’s time to take a look at the teams and wrestlers looking to make a splash when the NCAA Tournament invades Philadelphia this March. Lighthouse Wrestling brings you a breakdown of the top-five squads in the conference as selected in the coaches’ poll along with some big-time duals and other wrestlers to note this season.
1.) Cornell (9-4-1, First) — The Big Red’s No. 1 ranking also carries over to the national rankings, with Cornell heavily favored to bring the NCAA Championship back to the East Coast. Head coach Rob Koll and Co. reload after last season’s second-place finish in Nebraska and boast top-six wrestlers in the EIWA in every weight class. Frank Perelli (125), Mike Grey (133), Kyle Dake (149), Justin Kerber (165), Mack Lewnes (174), Steve Bosak (184), and Cam Simaz (197) all enter the season picked to finish atop their respective weight classes in the conference. Let the battle for second place in the EIWA begin.
2.) Rutgers (19-4-1, Sixth) — Poised for a breakout season in head coach Scott Goodale’s fourth year with the Scarlet Knights, Rutgers leapfrogged to second in the conference by bringing New Jersey talent back home. The Scarlet Knights nabbed Mario Mason (Minnesota), Brendan Ard (Wisconsin), Dan Hopkins (Middlesex CC), and Danny White (Penn) from other schools to fill out a roster already holding NCAA Tournament experience. Perhaps that biggest acquisition on a psychological level was the transfer of Alex Caruso from conference-foe Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks are 39-1 against the Scarlet Knights.
3.) Penn (10-6, Second) — The Quakers may play second fiddle to Cornell in the Ivy League, but this is a team that from top to bottom can contend against anyone in the country. Senior Zack Kemmerer looks to capitalize on a relatively weak 141-pound weight class to seize his first EIWA championship.
4.) Bucknell (12-6, Fourth) — Senior Kevin LeValley hopes to build off of a successful junior year campaign in which he put together 29 wins, including his first win over a ranked opponent in American’s Kyle Borshoff. And what better year to shine than the same year that Bucknell plays host to the EIWA Tournament?
5.) American (7-10, Fifth) — The Eagles may not garner much attention from a dual meet standpoint, but they have some guys who can flat-out wrestle. Headlined by Steve Fittery at 157 lbs., American has the potential to post multiple All Americans despite what its record says.
* Parenthesis indicated last year’s dual-meet record and finish at the EIWA Tournament.
Save The Date:
Jan. 20: Cornell at Lehigh — It’s always a treat when these two storied programs come together and last year was no exception when Lehigh came from behind to tie Cornell at 15-15. Now, the Big Red travel to Stabler Arena looking to exact revenge and in a big way. It may appear that Lehigh is destined for an off year, but don’t expect them to show it in a heated rivalry.
Jan. 21: Va. Tech at Rutgers — If the Scarlet Knights want to take down conference opponents later in the season in Bucknell and Lehigh, they must first prove their worth against an up and coming squad in Va. Tech. The Hokies head to Piscataway with top-10 talent in Jarrod Garnett (125), Chris Diaz (141), and Tommy Spellman (184). Look for the Rutgers to be up to the test.
Feb. 6: Princeton at Penn — The battle for second in the Ivy League looks like it will come down to the Tigers and the Quakers. Penn bested Princeton 23-11 last season, but head coach Chris Ayres has his squad rising through the rankings and looking for its first second-place finish in the Ivy League since 1987.
Keep Your Eye On:
Garrett Frey, Princeton, 125 lbs. — The former Blair Academy grappler took the EIWA by storm at the conference tournament, finishing runner up to Troy Nickerson despite Frey’s No. 7 seed. The Pittsburgh native left second-seeded Joe Langel (Rutgers) and third-seeded Jasen Borshoff (American) in his wake en route to a NCAA Tournament berth. It will be interesting to see if his hot streak carries over to this season.
Zach Rey, Lehigh, Heavyweight — Rey’s inclusion in this list only comes as a surprise due to Lehigh’s exclusion from the top five. While the Mountain Hawks as a whole may not be up to their usual potency, don’t expect that to slow Rey down, as the Hopatcong, N.J., product heads into the year favored to stand atop the podium as national champion. Rey should breeze through the EIWA Tournament, likely seeing rival DJ Russo (Rutgers) in the finals for the second-straight year.
Bryce Saddoris, Navy, 157 lbs. — In his final season with the Naval Academy, Saddoris looks to end a remarkable career on the highest note. The Spring Creek, Nev., native holds a record of 108-30 over three seasons. With the graduation of national champ in J.P. O’Conner (Harvard), look for Saddoris to battle Steve Fittery (American) for conference supremacy at 157.