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Three Crimson Wrestlers Compete at NCAA Championships in Kansas City

Senior Phillip Coniglario wrestling in a match against Penn. The Belmont Hill product led the Crimson's delegation at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Kansas City.
Senior Phillip Coniglario wrestling in a match against Penn. The Belmont Hill product led the Crimson's delegation at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Kansas City. By Zadoc I.N. Gee

The Harvard wrestling team (4-6) wrapped up its competitive 2023-24 campaign with a strong showing at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Kansas City, Mo. Senior captain Phillip Conigliaro, junior Diego Sotelo, and sophomore Jack Crook represented the Crimson in the 174, 125, and 149 pound weight classes, respectively. While Sotelo and Conigliaro have qualified for the event before, this year's tourney marked Crook’s first attempt at clinching an NCAA title.

Sotelo’s weekend started with an upset win in the 125 lbs weight class over No. 5 Jore Volk of Wyoming in the opening round. Despite the underdog victory, Sotelo – who earned Honorable Mention All-Ivy status – couldn’t keep his momentum as he headed into the second round, where he fell to No. 12 seeded Anothony Noto of Lockhaven. The loss was particularly painful for the junior, as he had bested Noto, who would go on to place third, earlier in the season. Sotelo’s weekend did not end there, though, as he found mixed levels of success in the consolation bracket. In his first consolation match, Sotelo beat No. 22 Brayden Palmer of Chattanooga University, but again was unable to find a groove in his second match, and his weekend ended with a loss to No. 20 Stevo Poulin of the University of Northern Colorado.

“It was real fun. Obviously I've been there before, but it's a way bigger crowd than we are used to all season,” Sotelo said. “So it was real exciting to see all the noise, and wrestling through that. Not exactly where I wanted to finish but I am happy with the season. A lot of time now to get ready for next season.”

Sotelo’s upset win at the tournament, combined with his results earlier in the season, have proven he can compete with some of the best wrestlers in the country.

“I just stayed calm. I didn't really pay attention to the noise. Although I say it was a big crowd, I try not to focus on it whether it was the loud noises for my match or the match next to me,” the junior added. “And just focus on my match and what I have to do to keep winning, which is score points, and do that for seven minutes.”

After a long season of competition, both Sotelo and Conigliaro entered the tournament battling injuries that they struggled to compete through. David G. Bunning ’88 Head Coach Jay Weiss commented on the grit the two men displayed in their bouts.

“You're seeing what he can do. He beat one and five this year," Weiss said, referring to Noto and Volk. "He just wasn’t healthy and that limited what he could do on the mat.”

Despite his conference successes, for which he earned Ivy League Wrestler of the Year and first team All-Ivy honors, Conigliaro’s tournament ended after just two matches. After losing in the first round to No. 28 Jared Simma of the University of Northern Iowa and to No. 12 Patrick Kennedy of Iowa in the wrestlebacks, Conigliaro’s weekend ended in disappointment. While he wasn't in his best form at NCAAs, Conigliaro has accumulated 90 career wins for the Crimson, putting him in rarefied company among Harvard wrestlers.

“Phil had just a tremendous career here. Really since his freshman year he competed at the highest level, all the time, which is really cool. He will definitely be missed," Weiss said of his senior captain.

Conigliaro is just the fifth Harvard wrestler to earn Ivy League Wrestler of the Year honors, the last recipient of the award having wrestled for the Crimson in 2010. The Dedham, Mass. native did not rest on his laurels after being named a unanimous All-Ivy selection during his sophomore campaign at the 165 lbs weight class in 2022. This season, Conigliaro was ranked the RPI’s No. 5 174-pound wrestler, and headed into the EIWA Championships with a perfect dual meet record.

The Ivy League also honors one wrestler from each Ancient Eight school with a spot on the season’s Academic All-Ivy Wrestling team, and for his successful senior season, Conigliaro was awarded that spot.

Conigliaro was also awarded an additional academic accolade, and was joined by five of his teammates as well in being named NWCA Team Scholar All-Americans. The other Crimson wrestlers honored were Sotelo, Crook, senior Leo Tarantino at 184 lbs, senior Joshua Kim – who wrestled his way to a second team All-Ivy award in the 165 lbs class– and sophomore Jimmy Harrington at 141 lbs.

Conigliaro will graduate along with six other Crimson seniors in May, including Michael Jaffe, who was named Honorable Mention All-Ivy at 141 lbs. Much of the Crimson’s dual lineup was made up of those seniors, who have left their mark on and off the mat.

“I mean it’s difficult to put that (what they have meant to the program) into words. Wrestling is a small part of the picture," Weiss said. "As far as their presence in the locker room, or for me selfishly, their presence in my office - we are just losing some good people. I think some of the young guys felt that and this gives them that same opportunity to step up and be that person for the next number of years."

Despite the upperclassmen dominating in dual play, some younger guys have also made quite the impact this season. After being seeded No. 6 at EIWAs, Crook – who earned second team All-Ivy honors for his performance throughout the season – took second place and earned a bid to NCAA.

“A seed is a seed, but that’s not how good he is. You know, he didn't think he was a six seed, which is cool, right? And that just propels you to the next level you know for next year which is great,” Weiss said. “Guys that wrestle him every day in the room are like ‘Wait a minute, if he can do it then I can do it.’ That’s how this just snowballs.”

In his first time at the tournament, Crook wrestled tough in the 149 lbs bracket, but fell in both his matches to two All-Americans. In the first round he faced No. 2 Austin Gomez, losing in a decisive 11-2 battle. Gomez would go on to clinch the tournament's silver medal. In the wrestlebacks, he faced No.11 Quinn Kinner of Rider University, who eventually placed eighth.

Sotelo and Crook will return to a strong Harvard lineup next year, hoping to make their mark and continue finding success as a team despite Conigliaro’s departure. Sotelo, who will need to step into a leadership position for his senior season next year, is optimistic about the team moving forward.

“This is a real special team because we all have pretty high goals for ourselves. So I am excited by that. I'm really happy with how we did during the season. Whether that was upsetting UNC or just fighting real hard in those close matches as well. I know that I set my goals high for myself, and I’m going to make sure I hold our team to that standard,” Sotelo said.

Freshman Coleman Nogle is another example of an underclassman with a bright future. The Maryland native went 15-16 on the year in the ultra-competitive 133 lbs weight class. Because the Crimson lacked depth in the weight class, he was required to step up and perform under pressure in his first season as a collegiate wrestler.

“He’ll just do whatever you tell him, and there was a section of the season where he was matched up with top guy after top guy and he just was taking his losses,” Weiss said of Nogle. “Then he starts coming around at the end of the year and he starts having some big matches. And he is going to be great, because he just kept with it. I just think big things about him, by the way he can navigate a season. Freshman year, if you are doing it every weekend it's hard, and he did a great job.”

Due to the depth of the bench, there were several freshmen that did not compete this year, but who will surely have a large impact upon the departure of the senior class. Freshmen Max Agresti – who was sidelined with an injury this season – Jayden Pepe, and Jameson Garcia will be wrestlers to watch.

“I'm gonna push them to step right up. And they are going to be able to compete next year,” Weiss noted.

The Crimson posted mixed results in its dual meets, finishing the year 4-6, with many contests coming down to the last match. The team also dominated in its individual matches, although the team still hopes to raise its standings in the upcoming season.

“We had a good year. I think we are positioning ourselves right now, so that’s what I’m looking at," Weiss said. "The next couple years are going to be good ones."

—Staff writer Sydney Farnham can be reached at sydney.farnham@thecrimson.com.
—Staff writer Katharine A. Forst can be reached at katharine.forst@thecrimson.com.

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