After a one-year hiatus, the Ursinus College wrestling team has its sights set on adding another Centennial Conference championship to its trophy case.
The Bears aim for their first conference title in three years when the CC championship gets underway Saturday morning at Stevens. Unable to participate in last year's tournament due to the outbreak of norovirus on campus, head coach Bill Racich and his charges are eager to pursue a crown for which they are a strong contender.
Ursinus is 15-3 overall and 6-1 in CC duals, its only loss a 19-18 thriller against undefeated Stevens. The Ducks, who are undefeated in dual matches this season, are 6th in the country and boast five nationally ranked wrestlers. Although the hosts are the favorites to capture a third straight title, the Bears have plenty of ammunition to crash the party.
Junior Christopher Tan is one of the prime challengers to Stevens' Rob Murray, who won this championship last year. Tan is 15-3 overall and 5-1 in conference, with his lone setback a 7-6 nail-biter against the Ducks star. Murray's only CC loss came at the hands of Johns Hopkins sophomore Ricky Cavallo, whom Tan defeated 5-3 in their regular-season matchup.
Freshman James Harkness is the Bears' representative in a loaded weight class that includes the nation's top-ranked wrestler in unbeaten Stevens freshman Troy Stanich, in addition to No. 7 Zach Byklykbashi, last year's CC runner-up. Harkness will also have to contend with Johns Hopkins' Christian Vallis and Gettysburg's Noah Malamut. Harkness has already faced Vallis this season, toughing out a 4-3 decision in the quarterfinals of the Fall Brawl in November.
Freshman Alfred Corradetti gets his first taste of championship wrestling in a field headlined by McDaniel senior Alvontae Drummond, who is ranked 10th in Division III and has placed second in this class two years running. Corradetti is 6-8 this season, but gave Drummond a battle before falling, 7-5, at the season-opening Messiah Invitational. He also hung tough with Gettysburg's Colin Devlin, losing just 3-0 to a wrestler who went 26-8 in the regular season.
Senior Alexander Kramer will be eager for a rematch with Stevens' Zach Wilhelm, who gave Kramer his only CC loss in a 3-2 decision two weeks ago. Kramer, who is 32-5 and ranks among the top five in Division III with 12 technical falls, and Wilhelm, ranked ninth in the country with a record of 40-5, appear to be on a collision course for the title bout. Washington & Lee's Zachary Papin, Johns Hopkins' Tommy Grifa, and Muhlenberg's Josh Hickey could factor in the medal chase; Merchant Marine's Nathan Twito is the defending champion but has only competed once this season.
Senior Derek Arnold is the favorite to claim his third CC gold medal, coming in ranked seventh in the country and sporting a 17-1 record that includes seven pins, three tech falls, and three major decisions. One of those major decisions came against his presumed top competition, Stevens' Thomas Poklikuha; though ranked just one spot behind Arnold, the Bears' star dealt him a 15-5 defeat in the teams' dual. Gettysbrgu's Colin Kowalski and W&L's Shane Conners are also in the medal mix.
Sophomore Jarret DiGiantomasso looks to build on a strong season (8-3 overall) with a run in the championship tournament. Stevens' Colin Navickas goes for a repeat and will be challenged by Gettysburg's Quinn Merrigan, W&L's Joe Scott, and Merchant Marine's Josh Glantzman. DiGiantomasso has yet to face any of those wrestlers.
Senior Corey Markovitch aims to emerge from one of the more wide-open brackets of the championship. Markovitch already owns a 9-2 victory over defending champion Jared Forman of Johns Hopkins and pinned Muhlenberg's Jake Gordon in just 1:46, but dropped his last two matches of the year – one by major decision to Gettysburg's Dan Ebert and the other via third-period fall opposite Merchant Marine's Collin Keil.
Junior Cody Richmond is one of three wrestlers in this class with perfect CC records, though he has yet to face Stevens' Danny Moore or Merchant Marine's Patrick Rooney, who won in 2015. Muhlenberg's Steven Rice is also a contender. Richmond routed McDaniel's Ronald Mattox, 13-1, his last time out.
Sophomore Michael Newman gets the nod for the Bears at 197, where Stevens' AJ Kowal looks to add to his 174 and 184 titles over the last two years. Kowal is ranked fifth in Division III with a 27-3 overall mark. Other factors include Merchant Marine's Blake Bunce, Muhlenberg's Gennaro Cerminara, and McDaniel's Jake Pooton. Newman is 8-3 this season, with one of those losses coming to Bunce via major decision.
Senior Matan Peleg hopes to become the first Ursinus heavyweight champion since Matt Williams in 2008, and he's a top contender for the crown. Peleg, ranked 10th in the nation, made a big statement with an overtime victory over Gettysburg's Paul Triandafilou last week to stretch his individual winning streak to 16; he has not dropped a bout since December 30. Peleg, at 26-6 overall, is two spots below Triandafilou in the national rankings, and his 2-1 victory was the Bullet's first regular-season loss in 40 career matches. USMMA's Victor Raigoza and W&L's Matt Kaminer will also vie for the crown; Peleg edged Raigoza, 7-4, and Kaminer, 2-0, during the season.
Ursinus is first in conference history with 11 team championships and 53 individual champions. The Bears will try to add to those totals when the competition gets underway at 10:00 a.m.