Wrestling caps off historic regular season with 1st outright NEWA title/8 All-NEWA honorees

Co-head coaches Raf Vega (l.) & Dan DiCenzo
Co-head coaches Raf Vega (l.) & Dan DiCenzo

Williams wrestling set a school record for wins in the season with 19 (19-4-1), won its first outright NEWA title and notched a school record eight All-NEWA wrestlers at the NEWA Championships.

"Raf and I were both extremely proud and excited about our team's effort and execution this weekend," noted co-head coach Dan DiCenzo.  "We knew we had the best team and we had put in the work to be successful. We were not surprised on Saturday when we found ourselves up 20.5 points at the end of the first day.  We expected to be there and that is the difference between this year and last year."

"There were two major keys to our success," continued DiCenzo. "First, our strength of schedule was outstanding and second was the effort and hard work our team put in during practice and workouts.  Success has a very simple formula and everyone wants the great results but as we talk about in our practice room all the time -- few people are able to do the work it takes to be successful."
 
Two Ephs emerged as weight class champions on the weekend and earned a berth in the NCAA Championships in Iowa March 6 and 7. At 141 sophomore Corey Paulish won the New England Title with five wins on the weekend.  "Corey started Saturday off with a pin and then beat the #8 seed John Donaleski of JWU 5-0," stated DiCenzo.  In the semifinals Paulish beat returning ALL-NEWA wrestler and the #4 seeded Andrew Hawley of RWU 9-4.  In the first finals he beat the #2 seed Mike Trasso 4-1 and in the last three seconds of the match Trasso was ejected for flagrant misconduct.  "The ejection did not surprise me as Trasso went at Paulish after being warned by the official with 4-5 haymaker hits to his head," said DiCenzo.  "It was an immature decision that led to a tough call by the official but it was the right call."  Paulish went on to shine in the finals Major Decisioning the #3 seed and returning 4th place finisher in the weight class Jacob Gire 11-2.

Ryan Malo '11

At 197 sophomore Ryan Malo won the New England Title in style with three pins and two wins over a very tough Joe Silverman from MIT who is 33-5 on the year with three of his five loses coming to Malo.  On Saturday Malo pinned all of his three opponents in a total of 10:47. 

The next day he beat Silverman the #2 seed twice to win the title.  "Ryan was very dominating in the tournament as was Corey," commented DiCenzo.  "Even in the close matches with Silverman he was never close to being scored on.  Ryan is very focused on being one of the best wrestlers in the country and he wanted to make sure he took care of business this weekend winning a New England Title at a very strong weight class."
 
Along with Paulish and Malo the Ephs put two other members of their team in the finals.  Senior captains Ethan Cohen and Kyle Ayer. 

Cohen the career wins leader at Williams and four-time All Conference wrestler one of only three in school history, won four straight matches on the way to second place.  "Ethan beat Jared Rhodes of RIC and pinned Mike Trayser of RWU who took fourth before defeating James Soprano of JWU 8-4 in the first finals," stated DiCenzo.  In the final Cohen faced a familiar foe in Dan Bloom of Wesleyan and lost 1-0 in a tightly contested match. 

Kyle Ayer surprised many people at the tournament except for his teammates and coaches.  Ayer the #4 seed beat the #5 seed James Woods in the quarterfinals 8-0 on Saturday setting up a match with Bryan Lenhardt the #1 seed and #3 wrestler in the country.  Ayer beat Lenhardt in overtime 7-5 with a takedown less than 15 seconds into the period.  The next day Ayer beat Nick Logan of RIC by pin in 3:36.  Lenhardt won three straight matches to get back to the finals and set up a rematch with Ayer.  The two battled in a highly contested and controversial match," commented DiCenzo.  Three situations went uncalled late in the match that could have gone in the favor of Ayer.  Lenhardt won 7-5 in overtime to take home the New England Title.  Ayer ended his Williams career second in New England, a three-time all NEWA wrestler, with over 85 career wins.
 
The Ephs also had three wrestlers take third place in junior captain Dylan Rittenburg at 149, junior Carl Breitenstein at 157, and sophomore Jon Foster at 165.  Rittenburg had a very tough weight in which he was one of three returning All-Americans.  "Dylan wrestled great this weekend moving up this season from 141 to 149," stated DiCenzo. "Dylan got the team going on Sunday with two huge pins over the 4th and 5th place finishers in the weight class and set up a match to go to the nationals with two-time New England champ Frank Camissa.  Rittenburg lost 2-1 and finished the year with a 39-14 record.

Carl Breitenstein wrestling in the toughest weight class of the tournament won three matches the first day.  After pinning his first opponent he beat two All-NEWA wrestlers in Kyle Rodgers of RWU and Rob Misfud of Springfield.  Breitenstein lost in the first finals to returning champion Mike Martini 10-6 and then finished with a strong third place finish.  Breitenstein was 37-11 this year.  "Carl was one of our hardest workers this season and really brought his wrestling to the next level," noted DiCenzo.  "He is one of the best wrestlers in the country and we know that this outstanding season is just the beginning of what we are going to see from him.  As juniors, Rittenburg and Breitenstein are already three-time All-NEWA wrestlers and have almost 200 wins combined. 
 
"At 165 Jon Foster had a great season and weekend with a third place finish," stated DiCenzo.  Foster was seeded 6th and after receiving a first round bye beat his next opponent Matt Leisy of Coast Guard 15-0 in the quarterfinals.  In the semifinal he pinned Jordon Corona of JWU in 4:35 and all but sealed the team title for the Ephs."  Foster's pin assured him a top 3 finish in the weight class. 

Sophomore Josh Mattana had an outstanding tournament taking 6th place and earning All-NEWA honors.  "Josh beat three great wrestlers on Saturday to earn all-conference honors," said DiCenzo. Two of Josh's big wins included two opponents, one being Rich Wingert of WPI (in 3:23) although he lost to Wingert earlier in the year.  Josh had a great day and placed in a very tough weight class giving the Ephs eight All-NEWA wrestlers --  a school record for one tournament.
 
"What was most exciting for Raf and I was all 10 of our wrestlers won matches and scored points this weekend towards our team championship," DiCenzo said.  James McCarthy at 174 and Tim Kiely at 285 were both points away from being all conference and wrestled very tough on Saturday.  McCarthy beat the #6 seed in the first round before losing 3-2 in the quarterfinals to the #3 seeded Victor Stanziale.
 
"This was a great weekend for our program as the Ephs won their first outright New England Championship and won in a big way.," noted DiCenzo. "In fact the Ephs scored more points 109.5 on the first day than Johnson and Wales, the second place team, scored in two days of competition (106.5).
 
The Ephs also won the NEWA Team GPA award and Dan DiCenzo and Raf Vega shared the coach of the year honors.  "Raf and I are very proud of the coach of the year honors as we feel it is direct reflection on our team," stated DiCenzo.  "This group of student-athletes is the best we have ever been around and we are very proud of what they have accomplished this season."

Corey Paulish '11

The Ephs will now send their two conference champions Corey Paulish and Ryan Malo to the NCAA Division III Nationals Championships in Iowa March 6-7.  Paulish and Malo, both sophomores, will be gunning to post the seventh consecutive year that Williams has scored at the NCAA Championships.
 
The NEWA sends its 10 champions and four wildcard wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.  "It was very disappointing that Carl Breitenstein, Kyle Ayer, Ethan Cohen, and Dylan Rittenburg did not receive bids to the NCAA Tournament," said DiCenzo.  "All four are national level wrestlers who have beaten national qualifying wrestlers.  We are most disappointed that Carl and Kyle did not get the conference coaches nod after their strong seasons and strong wrestling at this past weekend's tournament." 

Breitenstein is the conference's first alternate and Ayer is the second.  If for some reason a wrestler from the conference cannot compete Carl is the first in line to get a shot.  "It is difficult when there are many talented wrestlers in our conference that are going to be left out of the national tournament with only 14 bids, but something coaches can't vote on is a team championship," stated DiCenzo.  "We wrestled the best schedule, had the best season, and beat all of the other teams on way to our New England Championship.  Our wrestlers went to the tournament this weekend and dominated as a team and we could not be prouder as coaches."