The Springfield College wrestling program had a pair of wrestlers compete at the 2016 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships on March 11 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
This is the sixth year in a row that Springfield College has had multiple wrestlers in the NCAA Championships, and that is something that head coach Jason Holder is very proud of.
“It’s great to get the guys out to see that event and be on the national stage,” said Holder. “We have had multiple guys place at that tournament, as well as guys with very good records get to the tournament in recent years. It has been a great experience.”
Tyler Keane entered the weekend with a 29-1 record on the year and the fifth seed in the 133 pound weight class. In his first bout he faced Sammy Bennyhoff of Augsburg. Keane controlled the tempo and held a 6-4 lead late in the third, only to have Bennyhoff record a takedown with four seconds left. In the overtime period, Keane benefited from his opponent being whistled for stalling for the second time in the match, giving Keane the 7-6 victory.
In his next bout, Keane faced off with fourth-seeded Jesse Gunter from Baldwin Wallace, who boasted a 34-2 record. It was a unique match for Keane against Gunter, who is legally blind, but the senior was able to pick up an early lead after a point for stalling was awarded. Gunter responded with an escape and takedown in the second to regain a 3-1 lead, only to have Keane earn another point for stalling. However, the senior ran out of time as he dropped a 3-2 decision.
With an All-America spot on the line, Keane battled Phillip Opelt from Cornell College. Keane got taken down three times in the opening period and could not recover as he lost his final collegiate wrestling match by a 12-2 major decision.
When given time to reflect on the career of one of his senior leaders, Holder had a lot to say about Keane.
“He was a two-time conference place winner, a regional place winner, a regional champion, and 30-3 in Division 3 wrestling, which is incredible,” said Holder. “More importantly he was a scholar all-American and has a great grade point average. He has always done very well academically, and that is something that will take him further than his athletic honors.”
Keane as a senior was a dominant wrestler and a polarizing voice in the locker room, but it wasn’t always that way.
“When he was younger he was one of the smaller guys on the team,” said Holder. “However, through the last couple of years he started growing as not only an athlete, but as a student, and as a leader as well. He should be very proud of himself for accomplishing what he has done.”
Jake Benedict also wrestled for the Pride and advanced to the national meet after winning the individual title at 285 at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships on February 28. Wrestling for the first time on the national stage, Benedict drew Connor Herman of Luther in his opening round bout and was pinned in the opening period in 1:46. Wrestling later in the afternoon versus Mike Spencer from York, Benedict feel victim to a pinfall in 2:25 to conclude his tremendous season with a 19-4 record.
Although he didn’t find great success at Nationals, Holder believes it to be a blessing in disguise.
“It was great for Jake to go out and see this tournament early in his career,” said Holder. “There was a lot of screaming fans in that big arena, unlike a gym or the field house. I think for him to get that exposure as a sophomore is really going to pay dividends for him in the future.