LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell juniors Tyler Smith and Tom Sleigh each won their first two matches to advance to the semifinals of the EIWA Championships on Friday at Sojka Pavilion. Those two are still in contention for an individual title, while another four Bison wrestlers – Jordan Gessner, Joey Gould, Victor Lopez, and Tyler Greene – are alive in the wrestlebacks.
Bucknell is 10th out of 16 in the team standings with 42 points after the first of two days of competition. Cornell leads with 81.5 points, Lehigh is second with 69.5 points, and Princeton rounds out the top three with 64.5.
Smith (141 pounds) and Sleigh (197) will look to keep their title hopes alive when wrestling resumes with the semifinals on Saturday at 10 a.m. The wrestlers remaining in the consolation bracket will return to the mat at 12:45 p.m.
“I thought day one went well for us,” Bucknell head coach Dan Wirnsberger said. “We would have liked to have a few more guys still battling tomorrow, but we have six guys still in it and are pleased with that. We will just regroup and get ready for tomorrow, hopefully put two guys in the finals, get a couple of champs, and get those other four guys back wrestling for third.”
The following is a weight-by-weight breakdown of Bucknell’s EIWA lineup:
Jordan Gessner (2-1)
125 – Freshman Jordan Gessner, the eighth seed, opened with a 4-1 decision over Princeton’s Matteo DeVincenzo, putting him into the quarterfinal round and a matchup with top-seeded and fifth-ranked nationally Darian Cruz (Lehigh). Gessner struck first with a takedown but the veteran Mountain Hawk wrestler was too much for the Bison freshman, sending him to the wrestlebacks with a technical fall.
Gessner responded with a 3-2 decision over Brown’s Trey Keeley in the consolation quarterfinals to advance to Saturday’s competition. He entered the third period tied at 2-all, but had nearly three minutes of riding time. He received a penalty point for an illegal move midway through the period that proved to be the difference as Keeley rode out the entire two minutes.
The weight is only allotted two national qualifying spots, but the freshman will look to earn his team points with a run through the wrestlebacks. Gessner is 15-16 on the season.
Joey Gould (2-1)
133 – Like Gessner at 125, Joey Gould won his opening round match only to run into a top-seeded wrestler from Lehigh in the quarterfinals. The freshman was able to give his team some bonus points with a second-period fall over Carl Antrassian (Penn) in his first ever EIWA match, but then fell to No. 9 Scott Parker by major decision, 10-1.
The young lightweights for the Bison both stayed alive in the tournament, though, as Gould bounced back with a 6-2 decision over Jimmy Pawelski in the wrestlebacks. He needs two more wins to earn one of the weight’s four automatic qualifiers. Gould improved to 14-12 on the season.
Tyler Smith (2-0)
141 – Junior Tyler Smith, the third seed, had an interesting day on his way to the semifinals at 141. He was cruising in his first match against Sacred Heart’s Paul Klee, jumping out to an 8-0 lead midway through the final period. But Klee reversed him to his back and was dangerously close to getting the fall. Smith showed guts to fight off his back and hang on for the 10-6 win.
His quarterfinal match against sixth-seeded Al Jaffe (Harvard) was a case of the more aggressive wrestler coming out on top in a close match. Smith controlled the tempo from the start, but found himself down 2-0 after giving up a takedown late in the first period despite nearly finishing off a nice low single attempt. Jaffe was able to get his hips higher in somewhat of a scramble scenario to get the two.
Smith still trailed 6-3 in the third period, but his persistence paid off in the form of a stalling point and a takedown immediately after to knot the score at 6-6. Jaffe added two escapes to his total, while Smith tacked on a takedown – and nearly another to win it at the buzzer – and the pair went to overtime with an 8-8 score. Smith needed just 12 seconds to get the match-winning takedown.
“I was never really nervous. Actually I feel comfortable in those situations,” Smith said.” I knew I had him after my first takedown in the third period. And I knew eventually I would get a call after taking 20 shots and he hadn’t taken any.”
Smith, who is 27-6 with 10 straight wins, will take on second-seeded and 16th-ranked Randy Cruz (Lehigh) in the semifinals. Cruz shut out both of his first two opponents by 6-0 scores. Smith has put himself in great position to get one of the five automatic bids to the NCAA Championships that are allotted to the EIWA at 141.
Seth Hogue (0-2)
149 – One of six Bucknell wrestlers competing in their first EIWA Championships, freshman Seth Hogue had a tough draw while bowing out with a pair of losses. He opened with a 12-4 loss to fifth-seeded Hunter Ladnier (Harvard) and had the misfortune of facing the fourth-seeded wrestler, Cornell’s Jonathan Furnas, in his first consolation match. Furnas, who was upset by Columbia’s Danny Reed in his first match, won by major decision, 14-6.
Victor Lopez (2-1)
157 – This bracket was sent into chaos from the start with top-seeded Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) missing weight, therefore lowering the league’s automatic qualifiers from four to three. It got more wild from there as Bucknell senior Victor Lopez, the third seed and returning national qualifier, was upset by Navy’s Zack Davis 6-3 in the opening round.
Lopez looked like a man on a mission as he started his way through the consolation bracket in hopes of finishing third and nabbing the final automatic qualifier spot at the weight. He was winning easily before advancing with an injury default in the first round of the wrestlebacks and then used three takedowns to take out fifth-seeded May Bethea (Penn) 6-1. Lopez avenged a 3-2 loss to Bethea earlier this season.
“I’m going for that third spot,” Lopez said. “I don’t want any part of an at-large process. I’ve been on the outside of that before.”
Logan Kerin (1-2)
165 – Senior Logan Kerin made his EIWA Championships debut and picked up his first postseason win with a 9-3 decision over Binghamton’s Jake Einbinder in the first round of the consolation bracket. Kerin had been sent to the wrestlebacks with a 12-2 loss to fifth-seeded Austin Rose (Drexel) in his first match.
His Bucknell career came to a close with a 9-0 loss to fifth-seeded Andrew Mendel (Army West Point).
D.J. Hollingshead (0-2)
174 – Sophomore D.J. Hollingshead gained valuable postseason experience while competing at the EIWA Championships for the first time, but dropped his first two matches. He opened with a loss to third-seeded Casey Kent (Penn), and was eliminated with a 10-3 decision by Columbia’s Andrew Psomas.
Garrett Hoffman (1-2)
184 – Freshman Garrett Hoffman was tabbed as the seventh seed and took down Lehigh’s Kyle Gentile with a 6-4 decision in the first round. He gave second-seeded and 16th-ranked Steve Schneider (Binghamton) a battle in the quarterfinals before falling 10-7. Hoffman tied the match at 5-all with an escape early in the third period, but still had to be on the attack as Schneider had racked up over two minutes of riding time.
Hoffman saw his tournament come to a close in disappointing fashion. He held a 5-3 lead over American’s Jason Grimes, but was caught and pinned with 1:07 left in the final period.
Tom Sleigh (2-0)
197 – Junior Tom Sleigh, the top seed and a two-time NCAA qualifier, faced little trouble while going 2-0 and advancing to the semifinals for the second time in his three-year career. He opened with a fall in 1:15 over Sacred Heart’s Mark Boyle, and then rolled to an 11-3 major decision over eighth-seeded Mark Tracy (Binghamton).
Sleigh is 30-4 on the season and has won 21 straight matches. He needs just one more win – in the winner’s or consolation bracket – to secure one of the weight’s four automatic qualifying spots. He will take on an unseeded wrestler, Army West Point’s Rocco Caywood, in the semifinals. Caywood knocked off both the fourth and fifth seeds in the bracket.
Tyler Greene (2-1)
285 – Senior Tyler Greene, the fifth seed, opened with a thrilling 3-2 decision over Hofstra’s Omar Haddad. With the score tied 1-1, he was inches away from giving up the winning takedown near the end of the third period, but turned it into a takedown of his own on his way to a 3-2 win. Hofstra challenged the call, but the original decision was upheld.
“That’s something we practice every day so we can make it pay off in a match,” Greene said. “We know we just have to keep going; whoever keeps wrestling the longest is going to get those points at the end.”
Following a 9-6 loss to fourth-seeded Ray O’Donnell (Princeton) in the quarterfinals, Greene won in dramatic fashion again to stay alive in the wrestlebacks. He pulled out a 4-2 win with a takedown in the second sudden victory period over Navy’s Thomas Ott.
Greene, who improved to 19-10, needs to win his next two matches to secure an automatic berth into the NCAA Championships.