The wrestling team dropped both of its dual meets to Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association rivals Penn and Princeton in two tightly contested bouts at the Pizzitola Sports Center this weekend. The matchup against Penn was particularly close: the Bears and Quakers finished tied at 19, with Penn earning the tiebreaker of most individual matches won. Despite the team losses, captain Trey Keeley ’20 and Jimmy Pawelski ’20 performed well on their Senior Days, as Keeley notched the highest-ranked win of his career over Penn’s Michael Colaiocco (ranked No. 6 nationally at 125 lbs) and Pawelski collected an 8-3 upset win against Princeton’s Marshall Keller.
Bruno (1-7, 1-6 EIWA) started slow against Penn (5-4, 4-1) before launching a late comeback attempt. In the opening match, Pawelski (141 lbs) had no answer for the offense of the Quakers’ Doug Zapf (ranked No. 14 nationally), and dropped a 14-5 major decision. Ricky Cabanillas ’23 (149 lbs) lost a hard-fought 3-2 decision after giving up a late takedown due to a danger call, putting the Bears in a 7-0 hole. But Jack Bokina ’22 (157 lbs) pulled Brown back into the dual with a dominant 10-1 win, cutting the team’s deficit to three.
The Bears lost two more matches by decision at 165 lbs and 174 lbs, setting Bruno back 13-4. Bryce Rogers ’22 (184 lbs) responded with a pin of Penn’s John Stout in a roll-through tilt to net Brown six crucial team points. Nino Bastianelli ’21 (197 lbs) rallied from a 6-0 deficit to clinch a Bruno win over Binghamton University in the previous week, and looked to pull off similar heroics against Penn. But after falling behind 10-0 in the first period against the Quakers’ Cole Urbas, Bastianelli could not complete the comeback and fell 13-9.
At 285 lbs, Thomas Mukai ’23 made his long-awaited debut in a Bears singlet. The highly-touted rookie, who won three Virginia state titles in high school, had been out of the lineup up until this match with an injury. Despite an impressive show of flexibility, with the heavyweight doing the splits on multiple occasions to avoid being scored on, Mukai lost 7-6 after a late Penn takedown.
“A lot of the guys on the team were waiting to see (Mukai) out there,” said Head Coach Todd Beckerman. “He fought hard, but we still need to work on a couple technique areas for him.”
Down 19-10, Bruno needed a victory from Keeley (125 lbs) to stay alive for the win. Keeley came out firing against the highly-ranked Colaiocco, earning the match’s first takedown. Then, after a Colaiocco escape, Keeley whipped the Quaker wrestler to his back to earn two nearfall points and take a 5-1 edge. Colaiocco attempted to mount a comeback of his own, but Keeley weathered the storm to take the 7-6 win.
“I’ve had a few ranked wins in my career, but with that one being on Senior Day and with how high up he was in the rankings, it’s one I was looking forward to,” Keeley said. “The clock’s ticking for me, I can count how many times I’m going to wrestle in a Brown singlet on my hand.”
Charlie Faber ’21 (133 lbs) received a forfeit from Penn, causing the dual to end in a rare 19-19 tie. Because Penn won six individual matches to Brown’s four, it was awarded the 20-19 victory.
“There were a lot of toss-up matches that went (Penn’s) way that we needed to get (in order to) secure that victory,” Beckerman said. “The guys fought hard, but those toss-ups were the difference.”
The Bears rolled right into their next battle against Princeton (4-4, 3-0), and looked to pull off an upset against the Tigers, the No. 20 ranked team in the country. Pawelski rebounded from his earlier loss to defeat his Princeton opponent, utilizing his scrambling ability to pick up the 8-3 win. Cabanillas backed him up with a 7-3 decision. Bokina then racked up his second major decision, earning a 12-3 victory and becoming the only Brown wrestler to go 2-0 on the afternoon. Bokina’s win gave the Bears a commanding 10-0 lead.
“The coaches put me through a real good week of training,” Bokina said. He was expecting to face Penn’s Anthony Artalona (No.13 nationally at 157 lbs) and Princeton’s Quincy Monday (No. 5 nationally), but both ranked foes were out of the lineup, and Bokina defeated each team’s backup. “I was looking forward to wrestling them, it would have been a great opportunity to wrestle some ranked guys, and maybe get some ranked wins. But I just kept the same mindset and tried to wrestle my match,” he said.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Bokina’s win would be their last of the day. Princeton tied up the dual in just two matches with a pin at 165 lbs and a major decision at 174 lbs. The Tigers then swept the upper weights with three more major decisions Keeley was unable to pick up another victory against a ranked opponent, falling short against Patrick Glory (No. 3 nationally at 125 lbs) in a 10-1 loss. Princeton’s Ty Agaisse finished off the dual with a tight 5-3 win over Faber, giving the Tigers the 29-10 team win.
Bruno gets a two-week break from action before heading on the road to take on conference rival Columbia on Feb. 15. The Bears will complete their trip to New York with duals against Long Island University and Hofstra University the following day.