By Evan Wheaton
SPRINGFIELD — After a tough month of recovery, the Springfield College wrestling team is healthy and ready to go. This weekend brings the NCAA Division III Regional Championships. With a banged up roster, the Pride has been focusing on sustaining good health as well as regular preparations heading into the weekend.
“Right now we’re working them hard conditioning-wise but also trying to do our best to keep them healthy,” said head coach Jason Holder. “We’re not really doing a lot of grinding in the room as far as stuff that can get them hurt. We’ve had a little bit of an injury bug in the last month and that’s why we’re a little bit down I think after that NEWA duals, we had to rest some guys. It is what it is, that’s the sport. It’s a physical sport, you’re going to have injuries, and we have to do the best we can as a team to limit them. I think our guys are in great shape, and we’re tuning up our technique, tuning up our timing a little bit, and it should be a fun weekend.”
The Pride aren’t concerned with standings, rankings or seedings. Everyone is zeroed in on the task at hand.
“I tell our guys not to look at the seedings,” Holder said. “Who cares? Just go out and wrestle hard. If you go out and wrestle hard your seed is going to care of itself because seeding isn’t as big as where you actually end up and where you place. I have some guys that I think are going to surprise some people if they go out and wrestle as hard as they can.”
Players to watch
The Pride has 10 starters entering the tournament: Senior Nicholas DeRosa (125), junior Ian Tolotti (133), sophomore Ryan Peters (141), senior Kearney Gutierrez (157), senior Ryan Harty (165), freshman Dillan Palaszewski (165), senior Aaron Feliz (165), senior Seve Burgos (184), sophomore Ryan Gray (197) and junior Joe Fusco (285).
Gray has been wrestling at 184 most of the year, although he’s bumping up to 197 this weekend, as Burgos will be taking his place at 184. Bumping up to higher weight classes has been a recurring tactic throughout the past month.
A newly recovered Fusco is also rearing to go at the heavyweight round after being out for some time. The Pride will notice some familiar faces this weekend, such as Roger Williams and Wesleyan.
“Watch them all, they all got a shot,” said Holder. “I think at this point in the year it’s not like you’re going and saving points and this and that. Everyone’s got a shot and everyone has to go get it and be aggressive and wrestle hard and see how it shakes out, but I can tell you they’re working hard, they’re in good shape and they’re getting healthier than they ever have been this year, that’s for sure.”
The Pride will have to place within the top three schools in the region in order to qualify for the D-III national tournament, which is being held in Roanoke, VA.. Altogether the regionals tournament will host 17 schools from all over the area for a chance to reach nationals.
“I guess the bigger schools in our region would be Johnson & Wales, Roger Williams, Castleton,” said senior Aaron Feliz. “There’s 16 different teams. It’s a very large region. NYU is coming up from New York, so we haven’t seen many of them. It’s not something that we’re nervous about, we’ve done a lot of training to work in situations where we just adapt on the fly.”
Plymouth State is the sole team with less than 10 starters, sending six. With a wide array of schools and wrestlers along with the chance to make nationals, the competition will be fierce.
“Everyone’s tough, I mean Johnson & Wales is a good team and Coast Guard is a good team,” said Holder. “Roger Williams split with us this year, Wesleyan split with us. At this type of tournament, you have a lot of individuals with smaller teams that may not be winning in dual meets but they have one good stud here and there sprinkled throughout so it’s going to be a very competitive tournament. NYU joins this region, they joined last year, so it’s going to be competitive. We just have to do our best and be ready to go and I think our guys will be. They’re as mentally and physically prepared as they can be and we just have to wrestle hard, then things will take care of themselves.”
Regionals will be held at Johnson & Wales University at the Wildcat Center in Providence, R.I. The two-day tournament starts at 10am on Friday and Saturday.
Photo courtesy Springfield College Athletics