KINGS POINT, N.Y. – Given that some of the opposition was of Division I caliber, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy wrestling coach Greg Ilaria had no delusions of grandeur entering the first meet of the season last weekend.
But he came away pleased and optimistic after witnessing how some of his freshmen fared at the East Stroudsburg Invitational on Saturday.
"We went out there with young guys and they placed," he said. "We're pretty excited about that. We think we're looking pretty strong going into Springfield this weekend.
Ilaria was referring to the Doug Park Invitational at Springfield College in Massachusetts, which begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
"Considering the competition, I was happy with the wrestlers," he added. "There is room for improvement for the young guys."
Well, there always will be room for improvement for first-year wrestlers in college.
"Our young guys looked really good against Division I competition, which means they should be able to go in there against Division III competition," Ilaria said.
Here's a quick look at the freshmen's performances on why Ilaria is so optimistic for Saturday and the rest of the future:
- Branden Yeik fell only one round away from placing at 157 lbs. He recorded wins of 7-4, 9-4 and 14-2.
- Conor Zimmerman also enjoyed a memorable day, finishing seventh/eighth (there was no match to determine seventh place) at 165 lbs. He defeated Christopher Smith (Bloomsburg State University), 5-4, pinned Nicolas Irwin (unattached) in 3:20, and defeated an East Stroudsburg wrestler, 8-4, before losing to Smith.
- Kyle Diesel also had a strong outing at 174. He pinned Tom Watson (Nassau Community College) in 2:49, lost to Rob Doyle (Army), 4-3, defeated another NCC grappler and won over James Fracella (Penn State) before losing to Doyle again, 4-3.
Three seniors also fared well:
- Erik Schott, a co-captain, recorded a 15-1 victory over Connor Coyle (Navy Prep) at 184 lbs., dropped a decision to Michael Gorman (Army) and lost to Mike Denver (The College of New Jersey), 6-0. Gorman, a two-time All-American, finished second in the tournament.
- Connan Ingrham, in his first college competition since high school, went 1-2. He pinned West Gift (Western New England) in 1:40.
- And Martin Bell, another captain, also compiled a 1-2 record at 157. His highlights include a 13-7 win over an East Stroudsburg opponent and a 9-0 loss to Shawn Miracle (Army). Ilaria said that Bell, who was sixth in last year's national qualifiers, wrestled up a weight class and will return to his usual class at 149 lbs.