Winston captures first EIWA title at 165 pounds
LEWISBURG, Pa. — It may not have been against the opponent he planned for, but Scott Winston is not complaining. The sophomore became the first EIWA Champion for Rutgers wrestling in 10 years yesterday on the campus of Bucknell by defeating Columbia's Eren Civan, 3-2, in overtime.
Winston did not have to face No. 1 seed Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh, an opponent he wanted another shot at from two weeks ago, when Hatchett defeated Winston, 7-2.
"I really wanted another crack at [Hatchett]," Winston said. "He got me good at home in front of a lot of people, so it was embarrassing. But things played out a different way and I'm sure the NCAA Tournament is not going to play out the way it's supposed to."
The final matchup was a rematch of a Nov. 27 bout that saw Winston win by a 10-2 major decision. The going was not as easy this time around, as Civan's defensive strategy led to very few opportunities for Winston to put points on the board.
"[Civan] had a very good gameplan," said head coach Scott Goodale. "He kept it close and never really took any shots so [Winston] was never really in danger."
In fact, the match was a microcosm of the whole weekend for the Jackson, N.J., native. Winston won his first match against American's Patrick Graham by a 2-1 score in overtime and then punched his ticket to the finals via a 7-4 decision over Cornell's Justin Kerber.
"I didn't score a takedown this whole tournament," Winston said. "If I was going to win, I had to be good on top."
In the end, Winston's title highlights a third-place finish for the Scarlet Knights. The third-place ranking is the highest since 1951 and comes ahead of programs such as Penn and American that had more wrestlers in the finals.
Rutgers may have only had one finalist, but the rest of the squad carried its weight with five third-place finishes.
"We had a great quarterfinal round," said senior Alex Caruso, who finished third in the 174-pound bracket. "It was huge for momentum. It was huge for our confidence and really set us ahead of some really good teams."
Caruso also sought revenge against his Lehigh counterpart, as the battle for third pitted him against Austin Meys, but Meys withdrew with a medical forfeit.
"I was definitely looking forward to that match," Caruso said. "But I was pretty dinged up and I know he was dinged up. So tomorrow morning I'm sure I'll think it was more beneficial that I didn't wrestle that match."
Sophomores Mario Mason and Dan Rinaldi, along with seniors Daryl Cocozzo and DJ Russo all finished third in their respective weight classes.
For Mason to claim third, he had to revisit a handful of regular season demons in American's Ganbayar Sanjaa and Lehigh's Joe Napoli.
Both defeated Mason in the regular season, but this time around it was Mason who got the last laugh.
In the quarterfinals, Mason defeated Napoli, 4-3, on a last minute takedown and in the third-place bout, Mason won in similar fashion, 3-2, over Sanjaa.
"It's the peaks and valleys of the season," Goodale said. "If you can level it in this sport and get your mind right, you'll be fine. Mario lost to Sanjaa and Napoli in the span of a week. And he comes back to beat them both to take third in a great weight class."
Winston, Caruso, Rinaldi, Mason, Cocozzo and Russo all earned automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament in two weeks in Philadelphia by finishing in the allotted number of spots in their respective weight classes.
For wrestlers like sophomore Joe Langel and junior Trevor Melde, the path is not as easy as they await the wildcard selection process to see if they return to the national tournament.
"I don't know what's going to happen with Trevor and Langel," Goodale said. "Melde, unfortunately, put it in the hands of a committee. We might just take six to the national tournament, which is fine."
The EIWA Tournament might have also spelled the end of the season for Mike Wagner. The freshman made a remarkable run to the semifinals on Saturday, but two losses yesterday left him outside of the top five receiving automatic bids at 197 pounds.
"Wagner probably won't [get a wildcard]," Goodale said. "Oh man, that kid wrestled so hard all weekend. He deserves to go to the national tournament. He's what our team is all about and he's going to continue to be what we're all about."