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Three Harvard Wrestlers to Compete in NCAA Tournament in Kansas City

Three Harvard wrestlers will compete at NCAAs this week.
Three Harvard wrestlers will compete at NCAAs this week. By Zing Gee
By Sydney Farnham, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard wrestlers senior Phillip Conigliaro, junior Diego Sotelo, and sophomore Jack Crook will travel to Kansas City this weekend to compete at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Conigliaro and Crook qualified by placing in the top six at last weekend’s EIWA Conference Championships, which were held at Bucknell University, while Sotelo – despite not earning an automatic qualification -- leveraged his stellar 23-10 record to win an at-large bid.

Sotelo was one of nine conference wrestlers to do so, demonstrating the depth of his regular season competition. Conigliaro, Sotelo, and Crook will begin competition on Thursday, and the meet will run through Saturday evening.

“I’m looking forward to scoring points, having fun, and winning some matches. I’m excited.” Sotelo said.

This trip to Kansas City marks the Plainfield, IL native’s second trip to the NCAA meet, and Conigliaro’s third, but neither is taking it for granted.

“I am focusing on one match at a time because any of these matches could be my last so I have to make sure I go out there and compete with everything I’ve got. I really have nothing to lose, so I’m going to put it all out there,” Sotelo said.

Sotelo is the No. 28 seed in the bracket, and will face off against face University of Wyoming sophomore Jore Volk, who is seeded fifth.

For Conigliaro, this will be the last weekend he puts on a Crimson singlet. The senior has amassed quite the resume over his time at Harvard. The 2024 Ivy League Wrestler of the Year has a career record of 90-24, has earned First Team All-Ivy League honors three times, and was an individual champion at EIWAs in 2022. While he has qualified for NCAAs four times, this will be his third time competing, as the tournament was canceled his freshman season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He will use his previous experiences to help him this weekend.

“Coming out here knowing what to expect and just realizing that I have had some success, obviously not the success I would like to have, but knowing that I have the capability to go in and I think this time I will be a lot less nervous than years prior,” the senior said.

Conigilaro expressed his excitement about having Crook and Sotelo on this journey with him, and offered his advice for his younger teammates.

“Some advice I would tell them would be to not take it too seriously,” he added. “Enjoy it because at some point it is going to be over. Have fun and treat it like a step on a new journey.”.

The Dedham, Mass. native is seeded fifth overall in the 174 lb weight bracket. The weight class is packed with talent, with his most daunting competition coming from two former NCAA champions in Penn State’s Carter Starocci and Michigan’s Shane Griffiths. In the first round on Thursday Conigliaro will face No. 28 seed Jared Simma of the University of Northern Iowa. His eyes are set on All-American status, awarded to the top eight finishers, a goal that is certainly within his reach.

“It's been really special and something that I am going to remember for the rest of my life. From the seniors my freshmen year to the freshmen now, I will have bonds with these guys for the rest of my life,” he said reflecting on his time with Harvard Wrestling.

While Conigliaro is facing his final competition weekend, Jack Crooks is making his first trip to the “big dance” after upsetting multiple higher seeds at EIWAs.

For two -- Conigliaro and Sotelo -- this NCAAs will be a chance to redeem their previous performance, and for Crook, his chance to prove himself on the national stage.
For two -- Conigliaro and Sotelo -- this NCAAs will be a chance to redeem their previous performance, and for Crook, his chance to prove himself on the national stage. By Zadoc I.N. Gee

“I had a great tournament. In my head I knew it was just a matter of time before I had a breakout tournament,” Crook said. “I was able to beat a kid that beat me earlier in the year, so for lack of a better word getting some revenge was nice. I'm just trying to carry that momentum throughout this tournament.”

Originally from Tampa, FL, Crook was a two time state champion in high school. For the Crimson, Crook boasts a winning record of 28-20. The weekend will be a family affair for Crook as his twin brother Tom, who wrestles for Virginia Tech, will also be competing. He will compete in the first round as the No. 27 seed, and will look to topple No. 6 Austin Gomez of Michigan.

“I’ve been watching this tournament basically my whole life and so it is awesome to now be a part of. This will be the first tournament we are both wrestling at since our senior year state tournament so that will be exciting,” said Crook speaking about his brother and the weekend.

As the rookie of the group, Crook was candid about looking to his older teammates for guidance.

“I talked to them a lot, even before I made nationals. Just kind of hearing them talk about it, Phil gave some great advice that you know it is just another tournament, there are ten mats, and this isn’t the end all be all. And you know Diego is the first weight up, so he starts it off for us. But it has just been great having them as teammates day in and day out. I’m really glad to have them,” Crook added.

The trio’s matches will start today, and depending on how they fare against their opponents, will continue through Saturday. The matches will also be streamed on ESPNU and ESPN+.

—Staff writer Sydney Farnham can be reached at sydney.farnham@thecrimson.com

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