Three wrestlers place in EIWA Championships
“Officials, you may now begin your bouts!” As those words were broadcasted over the loudspeakers at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex, the crowd erupted. The 2018 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Tournament was underway. This year’s tournament, running March 3-4, was the 114th running of the event, but the first time Hofstra had hosted the competition.
The Pride had three wrestlers place at the event. Junior Ryan Burkert placed eighth at 149 pounds, sophomore Sage Heller placed eighth at 174 pounds and senior Michael Hughes placed second at 285 pounds.
“I felt like we left a lot of points out on the table. We made progress ... but I don’t like progress. I like winning. But in order to win, you have to make progress,” said Dennis Papadatos, Hofstra’s head coach.
Hofstra had a wrestler in the EIWA finals for only the second time since the 2013-14 season, when the Pride joined the conference. Hughes came into the tournament as the top-seeded wrestler at heavyweight, but fell 2-1 to freshman Jordan Wood from Lehigh University in the finals. Wood was ranked No. 12 in the nation by InterMat Wrestling coming into the tournament, while Hughes was ranked No. 10.
There were no takedowns recorded in that finals matchup, with both wrestlers keeping their opponent’s offense to a minimum. The large Lehigh crowd cheered as Hughes was hit with a stalling warning halfway through the match after Wood led him out of bounds. Both wrestlers recorded escapes, and at the end of regulation, the score was tied at one. No points were scored in the one-minute sudden victory round.
Wood won the coin flip and decided to start the ride-out round on bottom. Hughes stayed on top for about half of the period, but Wood was ultimately able to get out and earn an escape point. In the next round, Wood rode Hughes for the entire 30 seconds to earn the EIWA Championship at 285 pounds.
Wood was one of five Lehigh wrestlers to stand on top of the podium at the end of the weekend.
“Just as much as I lost, he earned that one,” Hughes said. “I could have wrestled a little better, but he wrestled a great match.”
“At the end of the day, we had our chances,” Papadatos said. “[Hughes] needs to be more confident. He was nervous about making a mistake.”
With his second-place finish, Hughes qualifies for the 2018 NCAA Tournament that takes place from March 15-17 in Cleveland, Ohio.
“In the end, I would have loved to be a conference champion, but the main goal of this tournament was to get out to nationals and I did that, so now it’s just trying to focus on that,” Hughes said.
“I hope that [Hughes] goes out there and lays it all on the line,” Papadatos said in anticipation of the national tournament. Burkert and Heller also made it to the second day of the tournament after both losing their first matches. Both wrestlers went 0-2 on Sunday.
“They competed. Everyone went out swinging trying to get their victory,” Papadatos said. “That’s step one. You cannot progress until you do step one, which is competing.”
Lehigh finished the weekend leading all teams with 164.5 team points. Cornell University finished in second place with 146 points, followed by Princeton University and Drexel University with 93 and 86.5 points respectively. This was the first time since 2007 that Cornell did not win the tournament. Hofstra finished the weekend as No. 13 in the conference with 37 team points. Senior Ryan Preisch of Lehigh earned the Outstanding Wrestler award after pinning the second-seeded wrestler, Cornell freshman Max Dean, in the finals at 184 pounds.
The NCAA Tournament will take place at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on March 15-17. Hughes will be representing Hofstra at the national level.