The wrestling team stumbled in a 32-6 loss to Army last Thursday, but found their footing on Saturday as they picked up close wins over Franklin & Marshall College and Bucknell University. Brown entered the matches missing several starters due to injury, but newcomers Reese Fry ’22 (125 lbs), Samuel Lynch ’22 (149 lbs) and Cade Wilson ’22 (174 lbs) all stepped in and earned crucial individual victories. The three matches kicked off Brown’s first homestand of the year as well as its conference dual season.
Both of Saturday’s matches came down to the wire and were decided by the final match at heavyweight. Against Franklin & Marshall (2-4, 0-3 EIWA), the Bears (4-2, 2-1) were up 21-15 going into the heavyweight bout, meaning James Valentino ’21 (285 lbs) had to avoid giving up a pin against the Diplomats’ Antonio Pelusi to seal a win for Bruno. Fortunately for Brown, Valentino only gave up a 1-0 decision, allowing the Bears to hold on 21-18. The roles were reversed against Bucknell (3-6, 1-3 EIWA), with Bruno facing an 18-14 deficit with only one match left. After the Bears sent out Ian Butterbrodt ’19 (285 lbs), he pushed the pace in his match against Brandon Stokes to force five stalling warnings against Stokes, resulting in a rare disqualification on stall calls. The unconventional heavyweight victory clinched a 20-18 comeback win for Brown.
“This weekend was a total team performance; we needed all ten wrestlers and everyone else on the team to help propel us to these two victories,” said Head Coach Todd Beckerman.
The Bears hoped to pull an upset against a tough Army team (5-2, 5-0) Thursday, but the Black Knights’ prowess from the top position proved to be too much to handle for Brown. Army’s wrestlers earned near fall points in six of their eight victories, as they cruised to their fifth conference win. Army took a 20-0 lead before finishing with a 32-6 edge. The only Brown wrestlers that managed to stop the bleeding were Jon Viruet ’19 (165 lbs), who eked out a 5-4 win over Cael McCormick, and CJ LaFragola ’19 (184 lbs) who defeated C.J. Morgan 5-2.
Bruno got off to a far better start against Franklin & Marshall. Trey Keeley ’20 (125 lbs) used a wide variety of attacks including a double underhook throw by to beat Jose Diaz 8-5. Fry then picked up a 13-4 major decision despite bumping up from his regular weight class of 125 pounds. Colin Realbuto ’22 (141 lbs) continued the momentum with a win of his own, putting Brown ahead 10-0.
“We didn’t come out with the right fire we needed to get the job done,” LaFragola said of Brown’s match against Army. “On Friday we reset and got our focus back, and knew we had to come out hot against Franklin & Marshall.”
The Diplomats earned their first win of the match when Wilfredo Gil won a high-scoring 9-8 bout against Jack Bokina ’22 (149 lbs), Granby rolling to a reversal with short time on the clock. Still, a pin by Viruet and a technical fall by LaFragola allowed the Bears to pull ahead for the 21-18 victory.
In the match against Bucknell, it was Brown that needed a comeback. Losses in the first three weight classes put Bruno in a 12-0 hole. Desperately needing a win to shift the momentum in their direction, Brown sent Lynch to face Bucknell’s Matt Kolonia. Kolonia held a decisive 11-6 lead with less than 20 seconds remaining, but Lynch went for broke and took Kolonia down to his back, just barely holding him long enough to earn four near fall points and the dramatic 12-11 win.
“One thing that my coaches have been stressing with me in the practice room is just wrestling all the way until the end … because you can always score until you hear the buzzer,” Lynch said of the ending of his match.
“(Lynch’s) win was much needed at a crucial time; we call it a swing match — that was the one that really turned the tide,” LaFragola added.
The victory against Bucknell also featured crucial wins in the upper half of the lineup by Viruet, Wilson and LaFragola.
“We suffered a pretty significant loss to Army, and I think we came back with a different mindset,” Lynch said. “As a team we had a lot more energy, we were really getting excited on the bench. … That definitely translated on the mat.”
Brown will take on two more Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association rivals next Saturday when they face No. 16 Cornell at 11 a.m. and Binghamton University at 7 p.m. in the Pizzitola Sports Center.