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Michael Joyce ’26 stuns with NCAA Championship appearance

Joyce returns to wrestling after four-year hiatus

Joyce’s first wrestling event of the season came in January against North Carolina.
Courtesy of Brown Athletics
Joyce’s first wrestling event of the season came in January against North Carolina. Courtesy of Brown Athletics

Last week, Michael Joyce ’26 competed in the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City. After suffering a shoulder injury that prevented him from wrestling for nearly four years, the 125-pounder leapt forward upon his return to cement his name in Bruno wrestling history.

“I've been training for those two tournaments my whole life; that being said, however, I didn't necessarily expect it to be something I was going to do this season,” Joyce wrote in a message to The Herald. “I missed the first half of the season due to the fact that I was still recovering from shoulder surgery from the previous year.”

After spending years off the mat due to shoulder injuries and surgeries — which would lead to Joyce not being on the Bears’ original starting roster — Joyce would not only have to reclaim his wrestling talent but do so in a completely new weight class.

“At the beginning of the 2023-2024 season he was still practicing as an alternate for his shoulder,” Assistant Coach Ty Walz wrote in a message to The Herald. “As we entered our season we had our other potential starting 125 (pound) wrestler go down with an injury.”


“We proposed the idea to Mike to start to progress down to 125” at the end of last year, Walz added. 

After not meeting the target weight at one of Bruno’s first competitions in January, Joyce eventually cut down to compete in a meet against North Carolina. 

“Due to him cutting a substantial amount (of weight) as well as not competing for a long time we didn’t really know what to expect from him as far as how he’d compete,” Walz wrote. “We were pleasantly surprised by him competing with a ton of heart and looking as prepared as he could be.”

And prepared he was: Joyce secured wins against Binghamton on Jan. 27 and a major decision against Bucknell on Feb. 17. He would ultimately win 8 and lose 8 through his first 16 matches as a Bear, the second-best record on the team, behind only Blake Saito ’25, an Ivy League post-season Honorable Mention recipient.

But the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships were fast approaching — and without a NCAA Championship qualification, Joyce’s first season as a Bear would end soon.

Prior to the EIWA championships — where wrestlers could qualify to compete in the NCAA Championship — the Bears as a team had only one single conference matchup win, emerging victorious against Sacred Heart on Feb. 24. 

The high-stakes tournament did not begin well for Joyce. He was defeated in a crushing fashion and dropped into the consolation bracket in his first match, losing 14-4 to the University of Pennsylvania’s Max Gallagher. 

But Joyce refused to go down easily. In the day’s next matches against opponents from Franklin & Marshall and Princeton, he would prove successful, nearly taking his third match — and second win — of the day by major decision. 

“​​He had closer matches with quality opponents throughout his short regular season but his EIWA performance really was the culmination of him believing in himself, his abilities and giving a tremendous amount of effort,” Walz wrote.

The two Friday wins put Joyce through to the consolation of four matches, which he would win by forfeit. Joyce’s hardest win of the day came against Harvard’s third-seeded Diego Sotela in a nail-biting 4-3 decision. 


“I think it was a combination of what I have sacrificed and what I was able to learn that positioned me over the course of the year, especially at the EIWA tournament, to win and qualify,” Joyce wrote. “I cut a significant amount of weight and put other parts of my life on hold to fully invest in my athletic pursuits this season.”

Joyce’s victory over Sotela gave him a chance to wrestle for third place in the EIWA Championships. Despite losing this third-place match, Joyce’s fourth-place finish earned him a bid for the NCAA Championships. Joyce would become the first Bear to compete in the NCAA Championships since 2019 and the 54th Bear in program history to compete at the national level.

He was “ecstatic and somewhat stunned, qualifying for the NCAA national tournament has been the first in a sizeable list of athletic goals I have set out for myself, so to do it in my first year of eligibility felt great and is reassuring,” Joyce wrote.

On the first day of the NCAA tournament, Joyce lost to Michigan State’s Tristan Lujan, dropping to the consolation bracket. Joyce then dropped his match to California Baptist’s Elijah Griffin, ending his tournament run and his first season wrestling for Bruno.

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“I definitely feel like I slightly underperformed at the NCAA Championships,” Joyce wrote. “A lot of factors probably contributed, but it's just as likely that I simply had a bad day while my opponents had good ones.”

Despite a disappointing tournament appearance, Joyce has many more years to wrestle as a Bear, and after starting off his first season in a new weight class — and finding a national bid along the way — his career shows promise.

“Looking forward to next year's season, as I mentioned previously, I feel as though a number of factors will come together to make me more prepared and competitive,” Joyce wrote. “I am also excited about what is likely to be the state of the team all the way throughout our roster and prospective starting lineup, which looks to be the strongest it has been in many years.”

Dennis Carey

Dennis Carey is a Sports Editor who enjoys playing volleyball, listening to and collecting vinyl records, and poorly playing the guitar in his spare time.

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