Coming into the semifinal round of the 2022 Messiah Petrofes Invitational, 157-pound Springfield College wrestler Jacob Deguire knew that this upcoming match would not be easy. But with an impressive three-pin performance in the tournament’s opening rounds behind him, Deguire went into day two feeling good.
“There were a lot of things that we were supposed to be working on, and I actually executed it really well during the first day,” Deguire said. “I was pretty confident going into the second day, and to finish the tournament really well.”
As the match got underway, it became clear that it was going to be an all-out battle. After breezing through the first few rounds, it looked as if Deguire’s reign of terror might come to an end. Toward the two-minute mark of the match, No. 13-ranked Jason Rezac of Alvernia was able to get Deguire off balance, bringing him down to the mat in a successful takedown.
But Deguire wouldn’t give up that easily.
Despite being controlled by a nationally-ranked opponent, Deguire dug deep, completely unfazed by the tough situation he found himself in. With one clean, cohesive motion, Deguire gathered himself, and with his arms wrapped tightly against his opponent, he mustered the strength to completely flip him around.
With Rezac now on his back, and Deguire firmly pressing his shoulder blades against the mat, the referee emphatically slapped down on the ground – signaling that Deguire had just propelled himself into the final round, grabbing his fourth pin of the tournament.
“I wrestled my match and took control,” Deguire said. “I couldn’t let that kid take control.”
Deguire accredited this huge victory to his self-proclaimed unorthodox wrestling style.
“A lot of the way I wrestle is really weird,” he said. ”It’s what everyone says. I catch a lot of people off guard, and he ended up on his back. I think the main thing is that once you get someone to go to their back, you cannot let them off.”
That different technique, which he describes as being very offensive through the use of his hips, allowed Deguire to pin his fifth and final opponent in the championship round, eliciting a huge roar from his Springfield teammates.
“We were all huddled on the side of the mat watching Deguire,” 149-pound senior Chase Parrott said. “We’re watching him roll around for the first 30 seconds and we’re getting hyped. Then when he puts the kid on his back, the whole place goes crazy. He gets the stick and we’re all jumping up and down. It was a good time.”
With Deguire’s victory, it marked the fourth straight finals appearance for the Pride in the tournament. They took home championships in three of them, and it all started with Joey Manginelli.
“I feel like I kind of set the pace,” Manginelli said.
Competing in the 125-pound weight class meant that Manginelli was up first in the championship round. Even though it was the first time this season Manginelli had made it to the finals, he made quick work to take home a 7-2 decision victory, giving his team a much-needed spark.
“At the Doug Parker two weekends ago, we had like five guys in the semis, and nobody made it to the finals,” Manginelli said. “At the Messiah, we kind of broke that hump. We had guys go to the finals, and I felt that after I won, it kind of set the base.”
Just two weight classes later, Parrott also found himself in the final round. After seeing his teammate succeed, it pushed him just a little bit harder, giving him the energy to hold his opponent scoreless and win his second tournament victory of the year; the first coming from the Ithaca Invitational earlier this fall.
After Deguire won his weight class, winning the tournament as a team really became a possibility.
“After I won, it was like, ‘All right, we can place higher as a team or maybe can win or take top two’,” Manginelli said.
Unfortunately for the Pride, that streak of championship appearances dried out, as by the tournament’s end, only 197-pound wrestler Casey Allen made the finals. But the strong opening performances from the first four classes still allowed Springfield to grab second place as a team with 159.5 total points.
Another accolade that Springfield received came from first-year Myles Leonard, who finished seventh but earned the distinction of the most pins in the fewest amount of time in the tournament, with five first-period falls. This performance pushed Leonard to his 13th overall pin of the season, giving him the most pins at the 157-pound weight class in all of college wrestling.
It is the second time this season that the Pride have finished second, and up until this point, Springfield has yet to finish outside of the top 10. The team is also undefeated in head-to-head matches, at 3-0, which includes a 50-point shutout victory against Springfield Technical Community College in the City of Springfield Championship.
“We’ve got a lot of older guys coming back between myself, the Manginellis, etc,” Parrott said. “I think we’re really setting a good tone in the practice room – work ethics has been really hard – and all the guys really have been buying into the process and staying the course.”
Springfield has hit its short winter break, as the next competition isn’t until Jan. 13 of the new year. While most team members view this break as an important breather for their mental health, it also can make or break a team overall.
“A lot of people that are in this break fall off a lot because it’s time away from competition, and it opens opportunities for athletes to gain a lot of weight,” Manginelli said. “You’ve got to stay disciplined with your weight cut, nutrition, and getting your workouts in.”
But with this team, and the state it is in, Manginelli has no concerns about the second half.
“We’ve got a good group of guys,” he said. “They recognize we can be a team that can win regions, so they’re all locked in.”
Photo: Braedan Shea