LEWISBURG, Pa. – Bucknell juniors Tom Sleigh and Tyler Smith are headed to the 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships after earning automatic bids with their performance at the EIWA Championships on Friday and Saturday. Sleigh earned his third straight trip with a runner-up finish at 197 pounds, while Smith will also make a third consecutive appearance after taking fourth at 141 pounds.
Those two wrestlers, as well as a fourth-place showing by freshman Jordan Gessner at 125 pounds, helped Bucknell finish sixth at the 16-team event held at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison finished with 75 points, coming up just a half-point shy of fifth-place Navy. Cornell won its 11th straight title with 163 points, while Lehigh (117.5), Princeton (113), and Army West Point (82.5) followed in second through fourth.
Sleigh went 3-1 on the day to earn what is easily his best finish at the EIWA Championships in his three-year career. He had taken seventh in each of his first two appearances, both of which came at 184 pounds.
Smith was 3-2 in the tournament and competed in the consolation final for the second time in his career. The other came his freshman season when he took third with a 5-1 record.
The NCAA Championships will be held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 16-18. Bucknell wrestlers that did not earn automatic bids will find out their fate when the at-large selections are announced on Wednesday.
The following is a weight-by-weight breakdown of Bucknell wrestlers that competed on Saturday. Check here for a full recap of how the entire starting lineup did on the opening day on Friday.
Jordan Gessner (4-2) – 4th-Place
125 –Gessner far exceeded the expectations as the eighth-seeded wrestler in the bracket, winning his first two matches of the day before falling in the consolation final for a fourth-place finish. His improvement was evident by the results. Gessner opened the day with a 19-4 technical fall over fifth-seeded Steve Bulzomi (Binghamton), a wrestler that was beating the Bison freshman handily before Gessner rallied with a fall in the dual match between the teams. Gessner followed that with a 7-5 decision over sixth-seeded Trey Chalifoux (Army West Point). Chalifoux won a recent meeting between the two by a 9-3 score.
Gessner was pinned in his final match of the day by fourth-seeded Noah Baughman (Cornell), but the tournament overall can only be looked at as solid momentum heading into the offseason. His freshman campaign ends with a 17-17 record.
Joey Gould (2-3) – 8th-Place
133 – Gould entered as the eighth seed and held that spot with an eighth-place finish in his first ever EIWA Championships. After going 2-1 on Friday, Gould suffered a pair of losses by decision on Saturday. He started the day with a 7-4 defeat to fifth-seeded Pat D’Arcy (Princeton) and ran into second-seeded Esteban Gomez-Rivera American in the seventh-place match, falling 7-3.
Gould closes his rookie season with the Bison with a 14-14 record. He was a winner in nine of his final 13 matches.
Tyler Smith (3-2) – 4th-Place
141 – Smith, who is ranked 17th nationally, won his first two matches of the tournament on Friday, so all he had to do to secure one of the league’s five automatic bids at 141 pounds was avoid losing three straight on Saturday. He dropped a hard-fought 3-2 decision to second-seeded and 16th-ranked Randy Cruz 3-2 in the semifinals, but responded with a 12-5 decision over fifth-seeded and 18th-ranked Logan Everett in the consolation semifinals.
Smith ended up fourth after an overtime loss to fourth-seeded and 15th-ranked Jared Prince (Navy). Smith led 4-2 midway through the third period before giving up a match-tying reversal. He still had a good 30-second buffer of riding time before losing that point, but Prince was able to ride out the rest of the period to send it into overtime, where he won with a takedown with 16 seconds left.
Smith heads to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis with a 28-8 record. He has wins in 13 of his past 15 matches. It will be his third career appearance at the national tournament.
Victor Lopez (4-2) – 5th-Place
157 – Lopez, the 15th-ranked wrestler in the nation, will have to wait to see if he receives an at-large selection to compete in his second national championship tournament. Lopez opened Saturday with an easy 14-4 major decision over seventh-seeded Tom Page (American), but saw his chances of an automatic bid come to an end with an 11-6 loss to sixth-seeded Mike D’Angelo (Princeton) in the consolation semifinals.
Lopez received a medical forfeit in his final match to take fifth. His at-large resume includes a 27-7 record this season, including a pair of wins over nationally-ranked wrestlers.
Tom Sleigh (3-1) – 2nd-Place
197 – Sleigh was attempting to become Bucknell’s first ever EIWA champion from the 197-pound weight class, but came up short by the narrowest of margins. The Bison junior wrestled to a 3-3 tie through two sudden victory periods, but gave up a reversal in the final rideout that proved to be the difference in a 4-4 TB2 loss to third-seeded and 17th-ranked Frank Mattiace (Penn) in the title match.
Sleigh advanced to the finals with a 3-1 decision over Army West Point’s Rocco Caywood in the semifinals. Caywood was in the national rankings earlier in the season, but entered the tournament unseeded after returning from an injury.
The loss ended a 22-match winning streak for Sleigh, but he enters the national tournament with an impressive record of 31-5. He needs just one more victory to crack the top-10 of the program’s single-season win list.
Tyler Greene (4-2) – 5th-Place
285 – Greene held his seed and improved three spots from last year’s eighth-place finish in the 197-pound bracket. He started the day with a third-period fall over Harvard’s Nicholas Gajdzik that set him up with a win-and-you’re-in situation for his next match. Facing second-seeded and 17th-ranked Doug Vollaro (Lehigh) with a chance to clinch a berth in the national tournament, Greene couldn’t overcome a noticeable size disadvantage in a 4-0 loss that saw him be ridden out for the entire second period.
Not to be deterred, Greene closed his final EIWA Championships with a fifth-place finish with yet another exciting finish. He trailed Binghamton’s Connor Calkins 5-0 early in the match, but rallied to tie it at 7-7 and force overtime. He won the match with a takedown 22 seconds into sudden victory.
Greene’s record after the conference tournament stands at 21-11. He closed the regular season with wins in eight of the last nine matches, and then tacked on a 4-2 record at the league championships. The 21 victories are a career-high.
1. Cornell, 163
2. Lehigh, 117.5
3. Princeton, 113
4. Army West Point, 82.5
5. Navy, 75.5
6. Bucknell, 75
7. American, 70
8. Binghamton, 66
9. Drexel, 65
10. Harvard, 63.5
11. Penn, 61
12. Columbia, 50
13. Brown, 31.5
14. Hofstra, 18
15. Franklin & Marshall, 3.5
16. Sacred Heart, 0.5
John Fletcher Memorial Trophy (most career points)
Gabe Dean (Cornell) -- 96.5 points
Billy Sheridan Memorial Award (Most falls in least amount of time)
Michael Coleman (Navy) -- 2 (1:38)
The Good Sportsmanship Award
EIWA Coach of the Year
Rob Koll (Cornell)
Chris Ayres (Princeton)
The Coaches Trophy for Outstanding Wrestler
Gabe Dean (Cornell)