Is it really lonely at the top?
Well, just ask senior Dustin DeNunzio and junior Joey Killar. The two star wrestlers became All-Americans this past week at the NCAA tournament in Penn State, an honor reserved only for the top eight wrestlers in each weight class.
For the first time in Harvard history, two wrestlers have earned All-American honors in the same season. With these outstanding performances, the Crimson tied Oregon State for a 20th place finish, bettering last year's 29th place and placing them among the nation's elite.
DeNunzio-seeded seventh in the tournament-ended his spectacular wrestling career by making Harvard history yet again. Finishing fourth in the 141-pound weight class, DeNunzio became the second wrestler ever at Harvard to earn All-American accolades twice.
Last season, he became the first Crimson wrestler in fifteen years to win All-American honors by placing sixth in the 134-pound weight class. After this season's performance, he joins John Lee, '53, as the only other repeat All-American.
Two weeks after winning his second consecutive EIWA title--another Harvard first--DeNunzio went to Nationals and showed not only that he could compete against anyone in the Northeast, but against anyone in the country.
Denunzio's road to All-American honors began with a first round defeat of Rider's Derek Jenkins 8-2. DeNunzio then fell to No. 10 seed Tony Deanda of Nebraska, 5-3, but quickly regrouped, going on to win five straight victories in the wrestlebacks-which included wins against the No. 12, 8, 5, and 2 seeds of the tournament.
The streak started with a pin of James Gross of Cal Poly at 4:48 followed by a 3-2 victory over No. 12 Mark Perryman of Arizona. A 6-3 win over No. 8 Carl Perry of Illinois sent him to the quarterfinals of the wrestlebacks.
There he faced Michigan's Damion Logan, who beat DeNunzio 7-0 earlier this season at the Cliff-Keen Invitational. It was time for some sweet revenge, though, as DeNunzio not only won the match, but pinned the No. 5 Logan in just 1:09.
"It was definitely a highlight of the tournament," DeNunzio said.
And then, in a thrilling match that went into double overtime, DeNunzio defeated Chris Marshall, the No. 2 seed from Central Michigan. He would go on to a fourth place finish after losing a close 4-3 bout to Clarion's Mark Angle, the No. 1 seed of the tournament who had been upset in the semifinals.
"It was a bummer because I had been building up to win," DeNunzio said. "But characteristically I haven't come back well after a loss and this time I was able to prove that I could."
"Dustin did a great job. He beat three outstanding guys and then lost a close bout [to Angle]," Coach Jay Weiss said. "He proved a lot to himself."
Doug Schwab from Iowa was the tournament champion in the 141-pound class, followed by Michael Lightner of Oklahoma.
For seventh-seeded Killar--also EIWA champ--the first time was a charm, as his first trip to Nationals ended with a sixth place finish in the 165-pound class. Having missed two months of competition during the regular season because of a rib injury, Killar's All-American performance was all the more impressive.