After a couple weeks off, the Pride wrestling team were back in action at Messiah College this past weekend at the Messiah Petrofes Invitational. In this two-day tournament, which featured one of the best Division III wrestling programs in Messiah, the Pride placed sixth overall with 83.5 points.
“We took some positives out of [the tournament]. It’s a very competitive tournament,” said Springfield head coach Jason Holder.
Holder believes these tournaments are what the team needs to face in order to be successful at the end of the year.
“It’s a lot better wrestling down [in Pennsylvania]. That’s why we got to go down there. We have to see a variety of teams and guys that we are going to see at the national tournament.”
Individually, sophomores Joe Fusco and Ian Tolotti led the Pride with third place finishes in 285 and 133, respectively. Fusco finished 4-1 on the day, winning his first two bouts of the day to advance to the semifinals. However, he fell to Jake Evans of Waynesburg. Fusco bounced back and pinned his next two opponents on his way to his third place finish.
Tolotti also finished 4-1 and took a similar path to third place. After dominating his first two opponents (18-0 and 16-0), he also fell in the semifinals to Curtis Cox of Alderson Broaddus, 11-6. Tolotti finished the day on a high note with a comfortable 13-5 victory and a close 7-3 victory for the third place trophy.
Junior Aarin Feliz and freshman Bryce Finnegan both had solid performances for the Pride. Feliz went 3-1 overall and finished seventh place in the 165 bracket. After pinning his first opponent, Feliz got knocked out in the quarterfinals by Jeff Hojnacki of Messiah. In the consolation bracket, he finished his day with a 5-1 win over his teammate, Nick Almonte, and a pin in 3:21 to capture seventh place.
Finnegan had a much grittier path to his seventh place finish. After falling in his first bout of the day, the freshman rattled off four straight wins, including an impressive 17-2 victory over Nolan Smith of Gettysburg College. Looking for his fifth straight win and to move one step further to a third place trophy, Finnegan unfortunately lost and went to the 7th place bout. He capped off his performance with a pin in 2:43 and finished 5-2 overall.
“Looking at this past tournament, we brought a good number competitors down for the first time in along time. We had a lot of lose in the quarterfinals. When they lose, we had a lot of guys not wrestle back well. That’s something we have to improve on,” said Holder.
On the other hand, Holder was pleased to see the resilience shown by the wrestlers who placed.
“Everyone won in the final round. Tolotti and Fusco led the charge. They won their last match. Feliz and Finnegan; they won that last match, and that was important to see.”
Looking forward, Holder hopes to see daily improvement from his team.
“We always have a lot to improve on. Even the guys who are winning need to improve. If you don’t have something to improve on then there is a problem. That is our attitude.”
The team has bonded together pretty well and that will carry them to success as the season progresses.
“The comradery in the room is fantastic. The leadership is great. I am pretty optimistic about the chances of our guys representing on the national stage,” said Holder.
The Pride will face a big test this Friday Dec. 8th , as they face Roger Williams, who was ranked No. 7 in the nation last season. They look to build from the Messiah tournament and come out with a victory against a very good wrestling squad.