The Ithaca College wrestling team took second place in the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional, hosting the two-day tournament Feb. 24 and 25 in the Glazer Arena.
Sophomore Wenchard Pierre-Louis and graduate student Eze Chukwuezi each won the Mideast title at 157 pounds and 197 pounds, respectively, advancing to the NCAA Championships in Roanoke, Virginia, on March 10 and 122. Senior Matt Beyer and first-year student Isaias Torres took second in the 149-pound and 133-pound weight classes, respectively, and will also advance, while four other Bombers placed in the top eight of their weight classes to earn a spot on the podium.
The Bombers hosted the meet after a dominant 14–3 season in dual matches. The Bombers boasted a strong lineup with 11 wrestlers reaching double-digit win totals in the regular season. Chukwuezi, Torres and sophomore Jackson Gray each finished the regular season over the 20-win mark. Head coach Marty Nichols said the depth up and down the lineup is pushing the team as a whole in every practice and every match.
“The guys that aren’t your starters all the time have gotten so much better,” Nichols said. “Everyone’s been doing what they need to do; it’s not one person.”
Nichols praised the wrestlers who have filled in roles in various spots, like first-year student Brian Bienus and junior Jeremy Mazzella. Both Beinus and Mazzella moved up and down weight classes during the season on their way to the double-digit win mark.
Pierre-Louis, Torres and Gray represented the younger wrestlers making a name for themselves during the year. Pierre-Louis dominated his matches to an 18–5 record while Gray and Torres finished the regular season with 27 and 29 wins, respectively.
With wrestlers performing at the top of their games and seven straight wins in dual matches to finish the season, the Bombers were one of the top teams heading into Regionals.
After the first day of the Regional tournament, the Bombers came in second of 21 in the team standings, trailing only The College of New Jersey and leading No. 24 Rochester Institute of Technology. With eight of its 10 competing wrestlers in consideration for spots on the podium, the college had the most of any team heading to the second day.
At 133 pounds, Torres set the tone with a dominant 17–1 tech fall in his first match of the day and continued his great start with a controlled 7–2 decision to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
Beyer and Pierre-Louis both earned spots in Saturday’s semifinals after going 2–0 on the day, but the Bombers’ most dominant wrestler of the day was Chukwuezi. Chukwuezi spent just over six minutes and 30 seconds on the mat, pinning all three of his opponents to move into the semifinal. His most notable pin came in at just 30 seconds.
“I achieved my goals [today],” Chukwuezi said. “Kind of dominate, get bonus points and try to work towards the team title.”
The second day of Regionals brought high anticipation for the Bombers to make noise in the standings and send wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. Getting down to the wire, the Bombers faced tough opponents all around the mat.
In the first semifinal match for a Bomber, Torres won a tight 4–2 decision over SUNY Oneonta’s senior Anthony Romero. Torres came up in the final against No. 12 Jayden Cardena from SUNY Cortland, falling in a highly-contested match.
Beyer and Pierre-Louis both claimed 3–2 decisions over their opponents. Pierre-Louis faced off against No. 14 Dorian Gonzalez of Elizabethtown College, holding the upper hand to come out victorious. As he did during the season, Beyer earned a late comeback win to cement his spot in the finals.
Beyer took on No. 4 Thomas Monn in his final. Beyer found himself rallying late but was unable to secure points late in the match. Beyer still took a second-place finish, which earned him a well-deserved qualification for the NCAA Championships.
Pierre-Louis entered his 157-pound final against No. 9 Matt Sacco of The College of New Jersey. Pierre-Louis found himself in a neck-and-neck battle with Sacco heading into the third period where he turned the heat up, taking down his opponent twice to bring the Bomber faithful to their feet with the team’s first title of the tournament.
Pierre-Louis proudly carried his title around with a big smile, cheering on his teammates still competing. After facing injuries in the previous season, Pierre-Louis — who goes by “Winnie” — is motivated to showcase his talent at the NCAA Championships.
“They know who Wenchard is, but not Winnie,” Pierre-Louis said. “The job’s not done and Nationals is up next.”
Pierre-Louis was thankful for his coaches and teammate senior Travis Jones who had a crazy tournament, wrestling in seven matches over the tournament — the most of any Bomber.
“This is for [Jones], honestly,” Pierre-Louis said. “I appreciate him putting me through a tough, tough week. Battle in the room. It all happened in the room before it happened out here.”
The last semifinal bout for the Bombers was Chukwuezi. Chukwuezi secured a dominant 3–0 decision to advance to the final, where SUNY Cortland’s Demetrius Henry had a medical forfeit. Chukwuezi is now a three-time Mideast Regional Champion and earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler honor in the tournament.
Chukwuezi said he was disappointed to not have his final match in front of the home crowd but is determined to work toward his goal of becoming a national champion with his teammates.
“We’re looking good and we’re prepared,” Chukwuezi said. “That talent is there and we’re ready.”
The Bombers did not accumulate enough points on the final day to surpass The College of New Jersey, holding on to secure a second-place finish for the second consecutive year.
The Bombers, however, finished the tournament with the most wrestlers on the podium and four national qualifiers. Chukwuezi, Pierre-Louis, Beyer and Torres will all advance to the NCAA Championships in Roanoke, Virginia, on March 10 and 11.