By Kevin Saxe
The Springfield wrestling team has four student-athletes heading to the national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa starting March 13.
There was some great individual success for the Springfield College wrestling team at the 2020 Northeast Regional, but there was also a remarkable team performance that saw the Pride finish fourth overall in the region.
The regional also saw nine student athletes finish All-Region, Springfield head coach Jason Holder take home Co-Northeast Coach-of-the-Year and four student-athletes qualify for the national tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa this weekend.
The Pride had nine All-Region finishers and were led by first-year Joey Manginelli at 125, sophomore Chris Trelli at 133, first-year Zack Lawrence at 165 and senior Joe Fusco at heavyweight, who all qualified for the national tournament.
How They Qualified
Joey Manginelli (Fr.) 125 (18-3)
Manginelli was a first-year sensation this year alongside his identical twin brother, Gianni. Upon heading into his first regional, Manginelli heeded the advice of his coaches.
“Going into the regional tournament, my coaches explained to me that this is just like any other tournament and that I have wrestled in bigger tournaments and I shouldn’t be nervous,” he said. “I listened to them and my mindset was to wrestle the way I have been and just let it fly and have fun.”
On day one, Manginelli was dominant with a major decision in his first match before a pin in the second, punching his ticket to the semifinals and a guaranteed top-four finish. Although Manginelli would drop his semifinal match, the first-year would not go quietly.
He won the consolation semifinal, setting up a rematch with Justin Lopez from Johnson and Wales – the wrestler who Manginelli bested in the quarters, this time for a place at nationals. Manginelli finished with a 4-3 victory to qualify for nationals in his first year. After the match, Manginelli was excited, but has his sights set on more than just being happy to be there.
“Qualifying for the national tournament is a great achievement no matter what year you are in,” Manginelli said. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love and perform at the national level. This was one of my goals coming into the season but this is just a first step in achieving my ultimate goal as a national champion.”
Manginelli’s first match at the national tournament will be against the winner of Baldwin Wallace’s Jack Stanley and Brockport’s Matt Caccamise.
Chris Trelli (So.) 133 (23-4)
Sophomore Chris Trelli lost his first match of the Northeast Regional to the eventual runner up at 133 Brad Beaulieu, and things admittedly weren’t looking great for his chances to qualify for the national tournament.
Trelli would need to win five-straight matches to finish third in the 133 bracket to qualify. He responded by winning his next two matches comfortably by major and decision to advance to the second day of the regional
With three matches between him and a spot in nationals, Trelli would take care of business by pinning his next two opponents to earn himself a trip to the consolation finals and an opportunity to earn spot at the national tournament.
Trelli capped off a remarkable run of winning five-straight matches by defeating Tristan Stetson by decision, 7-4 to qualify for nationals for the first time in his collegiate career.
“I was stoked actually. It was all a mental game,” Trelli said. “I cut seven pounds the night before day two, which was a lot so for me to overcome that it was a great feeling.”
For Trelli, one of the three wrestlers heading to nationals for the first time, is excited for the opportunity to prove himself on another big stage.
“It’s just another tournament for me, I’m just looking to have fun like always,” Trelli said. “I’m just ready to prove myself again, it’s a great opportunity.”
Trelli will face Kyle Slendom from Stevens in his first-round matchup with the winner facing Brock Henderson from Coe College.
Zack Lawrence (Fr.) 165 (25-9)
Maybe the most unheralded of the Pride wrestlers to qualify was freshman Zack Lawrence at 165, who quietly put together a solid season in his first collegiate campaign.
Lawrence secured a major decision in his first match before narrowly defeating Cole Karam of NYU, 6-5 by decision to reach the semifinals. For Lawrence, the semifinals would be a rematch with Tyler Marsh from WPI, the region’s top wrestler at 165, who beat Lawrence in their match by a single point thanks to riding time just two weeks prior.
This time it was Lawrence picking up the win by securing a takedown in the waning moments of the match.
“It was pretty surreal, being a freshman and upsetting the one-seed in the semis, I thought it was pretty big and redeeming a loss I had to him two weeks prior,” he said.
With the win, Lawrence was guaranteed a top-two finish and a place in the national tournament. Although he fell in the championship match, Lawrence will now be getting set for his first national tournament experience at the collegiate level, an opportunity he isn’t taking for granted.
“I do have three years left after this, but you never know what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to make the best of each tournament that you’re going to,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence will face Dominick Reyes of Johns Hopkins in the opening round, with the winner moving on to face Bradan Birt of Millikin at 165.
Joe Fusco (Sr.) Heavyweight (19-3)
While the first three wrestlers that qualified are first-time qualifiers, the final wrestler is someone who has been a staple at heavyweight from the moment he walked onto campus. After battling injury and illness over the last year, Fusco felt good – but cautious – going into regionals.
“I had felt good the week before regionals, the best I’d felt in a while which was a blessing… I was really nervous to be honest, the most nervous I’d probably been in a long time because I started to feel like I could do this and I didn’t want to blow the opportunity,” Fusco said.
On day one, Fusco cruised with two pins and a tech fall earning a spot in the semifinals. Although Fusco fell in the semifinals to the eventual regional champion, his response was of someone who wanted to qualify.
Fusco pinned his opponent in 29 seconds to reach the consolation finals. From there, he made a dominant 12-2 major decision over William Ortman from NYU to earn his way back to the national tournament for the second time in his career. This time around, Fusco feels more prepared for nationals and isn’t just taking a different mindset, but also constantly reminding his teammates to treat it like another tournament.
“I’ve been in the guy’s ears about it being just another match,” Fusco said. “I think when I went out the first time, I put it on a pedestal, so I was like, ‘I have to be perfect, I have to elevate my game.’ I got eliminated day two and I just sat there and thought, ‘This was no different than any tournament.’”
Fusco will face off with Rocky McGeary of Waynesburg in his first match at the tournament.
Featured photo courtesy Springfield College Athletics