WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Williams College Ephs hosted the annual Williams Open today in the historic Lasell Gymnasium. This year's tournament attracted competitors representing thirteen different teams. With four mats setup side by side, the action kicked off at 10:00 am and featured championship and wrestle back brackets at all major weight classes.
Amongst the teams present were a few Williams Wrestling is particularly familiar with, including: Castleton, Western New England University, and New England College. The Ephs have taken on both Western New England and New England College at tournaments earlier this season and they will compete in a head to head dual against Castleton later this season on February 14th.
Head Coach Scott Honecker had this to say about his team's performance today: "The Williams tournament gave us a great opportunity to focus on the guys who did need volume this weekend. We saw some really good things. It is notable that everyone experienced some success this weekend. No one won the tournament, but no one went winless. We are seeing both sides of the coin and we are identifying opportunities where we can improve by both executing in tight matches and growing from defeats.".
At 133 pounds, Senior Dietrich Hartman was the sole representative for the Ephs. After a strong major decision victory in the Citrus Invitational, Hartman came into today looking to build upon that performance. He was unfortunately felled in his first match of the day by Corey Cope from Western New England University. The loss sent him immediately to the wrestle back bracket where Hartman faced off against Halim Bourjeli from Castleton University. Hartman fired back with a dominant 19-2 tech fall victory over Bourjeli to keep him in the hunt for a medal. In the second round of consolations, Hartman continued his campaign with a 11-6 decision victory over Dajihawn Hudson from New England College. This would be Hartman's final success of the open as he was edged out in the third round of consolations by a Castleton University representative. A 2-2 record with a tech fall mixed in was a solid way for Hartman to conclude his fourth and final Williams Open.
First year Albert Xing stepped into the 149 bracket for the Ephs. With a small, but tough, group, Xing received a bye in the first round. In the second, he was knocked into the consolations by Peter Liciaga out of East Stroudsburg. Xing recovered nicely in his first consolation match with a 19-1 tech fall victory over a Castleton University opponent. He built upon his success with a 1:46 pin over Josh Fernandez from Plymouth State University to send him to the consolation semis where Xing was ultimately eliminated for the day.
Senior Captain Yo Akiyama delivered at 157 for the Ephs. After wrestling in both the Citrus Invitational and the U.S. Senior Nationals over holiday break, Akiyama and Coach Honecker struck a balance between competitive training and load management. The captain competed in his first two matches before forfeiting the remaining in order to be best prepared for the competitive Budd Whitehill Duals in less than a week. Despite the limited number of matches, Akiyama came out firing. In his opening match, Yo delivered a dominant 16-7 major decision victory over Logan Dubuque from Castleton University. He followed that success with a 18-2 tech fall victory over Sergio Cespedes out of East Stroudsburg in the quarter finals. Following the game plan laid out, Akiyama resigned from his remaining matches to cheer on fellow teammates.
Senior 165 pounder Nick Anselmi represented the twins in today's tournament. His brother Luke has been sidelined this season with a concussion occuring during preseason training. Nick got a bye in the first round before facing off against Jeff Suschana from Western New England University. Anselmi earned a back and forth 5-4 decision victory to send him to the quarter finals against Ryan Williams from Springfield Tech. Nick took his second consecutive win of the day and punched his ticket to the semis with a dominating 18-5 major decision victory. This would be Nick's final win of the day as two back and forth battles ultimately landed in favor of his opponents. A strong final Open for Nick was punctuated by his quarter final victory over a tough competitor.
At 174 pounds, first year Dante Gutbrod took the helm for Williams Wrestling. A tough Citrus Invitational for Gutbroad gave him key experience for a breakout performance today. Gutbrod entered strong with a quick 1:56 pin over Alex Hernandez from Western New England University. The victory pushed Gutbrod to the quarter finals where he improved upon the prior performance by more than halving his pin time. A thirty-four second pin of Greg Bodan from Springfield Tech launched Gutbrod to the semis where he faced off against the eventual champion at 174 pounds. The back and forth battle ended up with Gutbrod in the consolation bracket where he jumped back to his winning ways with an 18-0 tech fall victory over Western New England's Alec Arnold. With a 3-1 record on the day Gutbrod earned a spot in the 3rd place match where he took on Mannash Carlson from New England college. The first year completed a very strong showing with another pin, this time in 2:21, to take the third-place spot. Gutbrod's 4-1 record was by far the best of his season so far and stood out amongst an all-around solid performance by the Ephs.
At 184 pounds, first year Will Smith had his work cut out for him amidst a strong field. He fell in the first round of the championship bracket, but fired back in the consolation. A bye in the first round put him in the second round of consolations against Kevin Thomas from Plymouth State University. Smith came up with a huge 23-12 major decision victory which kept his hopes for 3rd place alive. In the third round of the semis Smith recorded his final win of the day with an 8-3 decision victory over Johnny Andre from Springfield tech. His campaign ended in the fourth round of the wrestle back but ensured a 3-2 winning record on the day.
At 197 pounds, Williams entered both first year Larry Adyeri and senior Dylan Millson. Neither were able to advance in the championship bracket, but mirrored each other with byes in the first round of the wrestle back bracket. Millson took advantage of the additional rest and came out strong with a 21-3 tech fall victory over Plymouth State's Christian Keuchler. A fortunate medical forfeit by his next opponent allowed Millson direct entry into the consolation semis. Not to be slowed down Millson delivered two strong performances to seize third. The first was a 6-3 decision victory over Spencer Kozlak from Castleton and the second was an 11-4 decision over Clayton Green out of East Stroudsburg. Millson's performance was his best of the season so far and matched Gutbrod's to lead the William's in placing. Adyeri followed a similar path with a strong 1:11 pin following his consolation bye. He continued to the third round of consolations with another pin, this time in fifty-two seconds, over Dave Symms from Western New England University. Adyeri's run ended here as he was edged out by a margin of two points in the consolation semis. While he placed lower than Millson, it was a strong performance for the 197 pounder.
Similar to Akiyama, much of the Williams Wrestling team had a holiday break filled with high level wrestling. With the Budd Whitehill duals being an important part of the Ephs' season, Honecker gave some of his wrestlers the time they needed to recover. He commented: "Between the Wilkes, Citrus, and U.S. Opens, our highest point scorers got a lot of volume over the past two weeks. I wanted them to have a period where they could focus on their technical development and we build this event into the schedule for exactly this reason so we can continue to compete while allowing for strong performances down the stretch." Many of Honecker's top contenders will be relied upon to deliver at the quickly approaching Lycoming duals. Among them were junior captain and 141 pounder Joey Rossetti, and sophomore 125 pounder and standout David Yeh. Aside from recuperating, the crew of noncompeting team members helped ensure the logistical difficulties of hosting a big tournament came and passed without a hitch. Their presence was key in keeping score and match organization throughout the day.
While Coach Honecker was proud of what he saw today, he singled out two of his wrestlers for additional praise: "Dante really shined today. He was a surprise semifinalist and then continued to impress with two wins on the backside for his first college placement. His growth and development have been steady and hopefully this is a sign of things to come for the young 174 pounder. " He continued, "We are all appreciative of Dylan going up to 197 pounds when it may not be his ideal weight. His success is well deserved and there will definitely be more to come as he is really starting to adjust his tactics towards competing with the big men.".
After a long but successful day today, the Ephs next chance to compete will arrive shortly. The two day Budd Whitehill Duals will be taking place in just five days on January 10th and 11th. Williams Wrestling will make the trek to Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA for the chance to improve against a group of strong teams. That tournament kicks off at 9:00 am sharp in the Lamade Gymnasium.