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Five nationally-ranked teams will be among the ten teams that will compete for the Metropolitan Wrestling Conference Championship on Sunday inside Wilkes University’s Marts Center.
The action is set to begin at 10 a.m. with opening round action. The semi-finals are slated to begin at 2 p.m., with the championship bouts slated to start at 4 p.m. Tickets for the event will be on sale at the door and are priced at $5 for adults and $2 for students and senior citizens.
The Metropolitan Championship serves as a qualifier for the upcoming NCAA Division III Championships that will be held at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on March 7 and March 8. The ten individual weight class winners, along with seven at-large selections that will be chosen by the coaches, will represent the conference at the NCAA Championships.
Teams that are slated to participate include No. 14 New York University, No. 17 The College of New Jersey, No. 23 Wilkes, No. 25 York College and No. 30 King’s College. Centenary College, Elizabethtown College, Hunter College, the University of Scranton and Yeshiva College are also slated to wrestle in the event.
Last season The College of New Jersey claimed the team title with 89.5 points. York was second after totaling 83 points. King’s finished third with 75.5 points, followed by Hunter, Wilkes, NYU, Centenary and Scranton.
Nine individual wrestlers enter the event ranked in their respective weight classes. Among the ranked wrestlers are three individuals who will be out to defend their conference crowns, York’s Kyle Flickinger at 125 pounds, King’s Dave Morgan, who won the NCAA Championship at 133 pounds a season ago, and The College of New Jersey’s Greg Osgoodby at 174 pounds.
Here is a look at each weight class:
Flickinger, who is 26-6 overall, is ranked 10th in the nation this season and is one of the favorites. Wilkes’ Shaun Farnham (31-15) will also figure into the mix after splitting a pair of matches with Flickinger this season. NYU’s Kyle Christensen (23-13) and Hunter’s Evan Velez are among the other wrestlers expected to compete for the title.
Morgan is ranked fourth nationally and carries an overall record of 22-1 into the event. But, his road to a repeat will not be an easy one with two other wrestlers ranked nationally in this weight class. Centenary’s Mike Gummerson is ranked eighth with a 27-4 mark, while Ray Sarinelli from The College of New Jersey is ranked ninth and sports a 25-4 record.
NYU’s Steve Hult is the odds on favorite to claim the conference crown. Hult is 24-5 overall this season and is ranked fourth in Division III. Centenary’s Jon Stillo (25-10) and York’s Ryan Catton (18-9) should provide the biggest opposition.
Elizabethtown’s Bud Croswell (18-6) is among the favorites in what should be an interesting weight class. John Barnett (23-9) from The College of New Jersey, Wilkes’ Erik Smith (27-10) and NYU’s Matt Magill (19-16) are also expected to figure into the mix.
NYU’s Takafumi Hashimoto and York’s John Niedrich could be on a collision course to meet in the final. Hashimoto is ranked seventh in the nation and has a 21-3 record, while Niedrich enters ranked tenth in Division III with a record of 22-3. Dan Dicolo (28-7) from The College of New Jersey is another highly-regarded wrestler in this weight class.
The College of New Jersey will have to decide which wrestler, Justin Bonitatis (31-4) or Al Wonesh (29-5), will be entered in this weight class. Both wrestlers are capable of walking away with the title. Wilkes’ Frank Heffernan (29-9), who dropped a 7-6 decision to Bonitatis during the season, and York’s Brian Alwine (20-11) are among the top challengers for the title.
Osgoodby, the defending champion and a clear favorite to repeat this season, is ranked sixth in Division III and has a 29-4 record overall. Mike Reilly (17-2) from King’s, NYU’s Naum Shuminov (18-11), and Andre DeCristo from Hunter are the most likely to pull off an upset in this weight class.
Nick Coleman from New York University was the runner-up last season and is currently ranked seventh nationally with a 27-5 record. Jim Tomczuk (12-13) from The College of New Jersey is one of the top challengers after falling to Coleman 3-1 in sudden death earlier this season.
Wilkes’ Zach Pizarro will enter as the favorite in this weight class. Pizarro has a 25-8 record, including a 7-0 record against conference opponents. Hunter’s Brian Scher, York’s Hank Conklin (18-12) and The College of New Jersey’s Shawn Vanwingerden (18-5) will also look to claim the conference title.
York’s Luke Paniizzi (26-5) is the pre-tournament favorite after posting a 6-0 record against conference foes this year. Andrew Feldman (15-9) from Wilkes and Steve Carbone (24-8) from The College of New Jersey will also figure into the race for the crown.