Harvard Wrestling Coach Jay Weiss is never one to give excuses. But this time, he had plenty of excuses to be proud as his team captured third place--the best finish in the program's history--at the EIWA Championship this past weekend.
After topping last year's fourth place finish, Harvard (8-6, 2-3 Ivy) has solidified its place among the conference's top teams and shown that it is on the rise.
After two days of competition at West Point, N.Y., the Crimson returned home boasting nine top-six finishes. A second place finish by sophomore Brad Soltis and individual titles by tri-captain Dustin DeNunzio and junior Joey Killar earned the trio a trip to the NCAA Championships later this month.
Harvard amassed 115 points en route to claiming third place. Penn (10-0-2, 4-0-1 Ivy)--last year's EIWA champs--again commanded the tournament, winning five of the ten individual titles and amassing 166.5 points to take first. The Quakers were followed by Cornell (13-2-1), which had 135.5 points.
"There were a lot of high points," DeNunzio said. "A third place finish is amazing, especially over teams like Lehigh and Brown. We only came in behind Penn and Cornell, programs ranked 12th and 15th in the nation."
In what has been characteristic of the pair all season, DeNunzio and Killar--both ranked No. 7 in the nation and seeded No. 1 going into the tournament--simply dismantled all competition on their way to earning titles in their 141-and 165-pound weight classes, respectively.
DeNunzio's victory was one for the history books as he became first Harvard wrestler ever to capture two consecutive EIWA championships. He won last year's tournament in the 134-pound weight class on his way to All-American honors at Nationals.
DeNunzio got down to business immediately, pinning his first opponent, Aaron Paterson of Lehigh, just 26 seconds into the match. In the second round, he faced Columbia's Richard Feistman, who put up an extra 20 seconds of fighting before meeting the same fate as Paterson.
DeNunzio then blew past Rutgers' Tom Wysocki, 6-2, in the semifinals and clinched the title with a 6-4 overtime victory over Ben New of Cornell, ranked No. 12 nationally.
"The guy in the finals wrestled me pretty well, but it is great to have that match going into Nationals because it showed me things I need to work on," DeNunzio said.
DeNunzio's stellar performance throughout the weekend earned him the Sheridan Award, which is given to the wrestler who gets the most falls in the shortest amount of time.
"Dustin was on a mission," Weiss said. "The finals was an overtime match, but it wasn't close. Dustin gave [New] his points."
Killar, who was out with a rib injury for almost two months before returning to action this weekend, showed he hasn't missed a beat in his time away from competition. After a bye in the first round, Killar racked up a 6-3 win over Nick Almeida of Brown before going on to defeat Army's Troy Yegge, 3-1, in the semifinals. For his first EIWA title, Killar thoroughly beat the Quaker's Rick Springman, who was ranked No. 10, 9-4.
"Not to compete since Jan. 5 and then come out and do what he did is just unbelievable," Weiss said. "[Joey] had everyone in awe. He just shut them down."
Sophomore star Brad Soltis, seeded No. 3 in the tournament, also had a terrific showing this weekend, good for second place in the 197-pound weight class. Soltis began with a pin of Jason Marasco of East Stroudsburg in just 1:48 and followed with an 8-6 win over Chris Federici of Rutgers. He then garnered an exciting 3-2 victory over Bob Greenleaf of Cornell, ranked No. 11, to advance to the finals.