This past weekend, the nationally-ranked Springfield College wrestling team traveled to Ithaca, N.Y. to take part in the Ithaca Invitational.
The tournament featured competition such as Ithaca College, Johnson and Wales, New York University, SUNY-Oswego, Norwich University, Alfred State College and SUNY Sullivan. The Pride finished third overall, placing below Ithaca, who scored 177 points and Johnson and Wales, who tallied 164.5 points. Springfield finished with 159 points on the day.
Going into the weekend, the Pride were ranked No. 6 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Division III Preseason Poll. With a pair of No. 1-ranked wrestlers in Derek Adams and defending national champion Devin Biscaha sidelined, the Pride were forced to start a more inexperienced line-up for the weekend, relying on underclassmen to step up early in their wrestling careers.
“I thought we took a lot of positives from the first meet of the year,” said head coach Jay Holder. “We were in decent shape; there were a lot of little techniques that we need to iron out in practice. This was very comparable to last year’s meet at Ithaca and we had a more experienced team. This year’s team definitely has more room to grow.”
Most notable of the underclassmen was sophomore Irakli Kakauridze, who won his individual weight class at 285 pounds. On the first day of competition, Kakauridze won two decisions and eventually picked up the victory by fall in 1:12, and then came out strong on Saturday, winning 5-2 and 6-0 for his first collegiate title.
Despite winning his weight class, Kakauridze knows that there is much to improve upon, both individually and as a team.
“There is always room for improvement, especially in wrestling,” said the sophomore. “You always have to keep in mind that even though this was a great tournament, people always have to improve. This is only the beginning of the season. I have a long way to go.”
As for the upperclassmen, senior Tommy Casper led the way for the Pride, winning an individual title in the 125-pound weight class. After qualifying for the NCAA Championships just a season ago, Casper picked up right where he left off by winning two decisions on Friday before winning 6-2 and 5-0 to claim the title.
Being in his last year with the Pride, Casper has taken it upon himself to lead the Pride not only in the wrestling room, but around campus as well.
“Being a leader of this team starts with going to practice every single day,” said Casper. “I like to make sure everyone sees me at practice. Especially for the younger guys, it’s important to be vocal in the room, run the warm-ups; outside the room, hanging out with the guys is something I want them to see because when it is their turn to be a leader, they can look back and see what it’s like.”
The Pride’s next tournament will be the Doug Parker Invitational, hosted at Springfield College, on November 23 at 10 a.m.