In the final act of the 2011-12 season, wrestlers Dave Foxen ’12 and Ophir Bernstein ’15 competed in the NCAA Tournament Thursday in St. Louis. Both wrestlers went 0-2 at the tournament and were eliminated, but despite the losses, Head Coach Dave Amato said he was pleased with the effort shown by both wrestlers.
“They both wrestled very hard out here,” Amato said. “Unfortunately, sometimes breaks don’t go your way. Ophir was winning like 3-0 and got pinned. And then Dave lost two really tight matches.”
Foxen said though the losses “left a sour taste” in his mouth, he is proud of his season, especially his victory in the 174-pound weight class at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championship at Princeton earlier this month. Foxen, who was named to the All-Ivy second team, became the first unseeded wrestler to win any weight class at the EIWA tournament since 1963.
Amato said that Foxen’s victory was “a great way for a great young man to end his season.” Despite Foxen’s unseeded ranking at the EIWA Championship, Amato said he had been wrestling at a high level for months.
“I think when people look at his season, they thought that he came out of nowhere to win (the EIWA Championship),” Amato said. “And we didn’t really feel that way. If you look at Dave’s season from January and February, I think he only had three losses and maybe like 10 wins. … He started believing in himself. And it’s funny what confidence can do to someone.”
Like Foxen, Bernstein said he was disappointed with his own performance at NCAAs, citing his loss in the second match. But Bernstein said he is not discouraged – he has set goals to become an All-American next year and return to the NCAA Tournament.
Amato said Bernstein, who was also an All-Ivy Honorable Mention and runner-up for Ivy Rookie of the Year, had both a strong start and a strong finish to the season.
“Ophir came out of the gates quite well, right from the get-go,” Amato said. “He had a great freshman year.”
This season, the squad went 9-8, a significant improvement over its total of two victories last season. Amato said the team persevered and had a successful season, especially after coming under the threat of elimination last spring.
“The team really hung tough,” Amato said. “I thought it was a great year for the team. … I think it’s just a credit to the whole team, the alumni, the seniors, their leadership and their attitude.”
Amato also said he wants his team to build on this season’s improvements and have an even more successful year next season.
“We want to continue where we left off, and we want to continue to get better as a team,” Amato said. “We want to continue to take it to the next level, which means more than two guys at the national tournament … a higher placemanship at the Eastern Tournament.”
Amato said his hopes for next season are best summed up by Bernstein’s comments immediately after losing his second match.
“I think the thing that speaks to the character of the team is like Ophir said after he got beat: ‘Coach, don’t worry. I’ll be back here next summer. I’ll be All-American,’” Amato said. “I think that’s where the team’s at. They all believe in ourselves and, hopefully, belief turns into reality next year.”