ITHACA, NY – The 16th-ranked Ithaca College wrestling team posted a strong team outing at the 2022 Empire Collegiate Wrestling Championships held at the A&E Center on Sunday, January 16. The Bombers sent nine wrestlers to the podium en route to seventh in the program. -first consecutive team place in the tournament dating back to the 2013-14 season. Behind IC’s 13-man contingent, head coach Marty Nichols’ team racked up 151.5 team points to edge No. 15 Brockport for the team title.
Sunday was a big stepping stone for the Bombers after suffering a tough 21-15 loss to Ohio Northern in the Budd Whitehill Duals final a weekend ago. Despite capturing the tag team title, IC had their hands full against a talented unit from Brockport who entered the day ranked 15th in the latest NWCA poll. The two teams were neck and neck throughout the day, with the Bombers leading by just one point in the team race entering the medal round. Ithaca prevailed, however, as six of the seven finalists won individual titles to help the team pull away for a 151.5–143.5 win in the final standings.
The final standings behind Ithaca and Brockport were: Alfred State (3rd, 78.5 PTS), SUNY Oneonta (4th, 77.5 PTS), RIT (5th, 71.0 PTS), SUNY Oswego (6th, 60, 5 PTS), SUNY Cortland (7th, 36.5 PTS), Pitt-Bradford (8th, 34.0 PTS) and Penn State Behrend (9th, 3.0 PTS).
IC’s day was marked by ECWC titles in six different weight classes. Freshman Matt Haycook (125 LB), Junior Travis Jones (141 LB), Junior Matthew Beyer (149 LB), Junior Adam Wagner (157 LB), Senior Eze Chukwuezi (184 LB) and Graduate Student Jordan Wallace (197 LB ) each had outstanding performances and won individual championships. This triumphant group anchored the tag team title while combining for a flawless 19-0 record with 15 of those wins by bonus points.
Missing the seventh-ranked 125-pound in the country to Matt Griffin (d3wrestle) proved to be no problem for Ithaca, as Haycook stepped up in a big way and won his first-ever collegiate individual tournament title. Rookie IC got off to a strong start, pinning RIT’s Josh Freebern (5:58) and SUNY Oneonta’s Peter Sacco (4:03) in his first two fights. After receiving a medical waiver against SUNY Oneonta’s Tyler Farley in the semifinals, Haycook earned his ticket to the big stage. In the title fight, Haycook and RIT’s Lee Rubin tussled early on, with the Bomber trailing 5-4 at the end of the opening period. Both wrestlers traded breakouts in the final two periods, which was just enough for the rookie to prevail with a mouth-watering 6-5 decision.
Jones bounced back nicely from a rather disappointing outing at Budd Whitehill Duals last weekend as he marched to a 141-pound title in dominant fashion. The Phillipsburg, NJ native cruised through his slice, outscoring his opponents 36-3 to win his second career ECWC championship. Jones’ final match against Brockport’s Eli Sims was one of his most impressive fights of the season, as he recorded two eliminations and turned Sims four times for a 16-0 technical fall in the second. period.
Beyer has been in a scramble lately and showed no signs of slowing down while winning his second individual tournament title this season. The 149-pounder reached the final behind two quick hairpins and a quick 19-3 technical fall over Brockport’s Austin Reed in the semis. Despite being tested in the finals against Brockport’s Marquis Larmond, Beyer’s offense was a little too much to handle as he picked up five eliminations to win 14-9. The Bomber are now 22-3 this season and are currently riding a 10-game winning streak.
Just behind Beyer, Wagner showed why he was ranked first in the tournament for a reason as he stormed to the 157-pound title. The Lodi, NY product made quick work of his first two opponents, scoring a 16-1 technical fall over SUNY Oswego’s Tommy Coll and a major 11-2 decision over Brockport’s Sam Gray in the semifinals. Even though his championship game wasn’t too flashy, Wagner was fundamental in his offensive attacks and racked up four eliminations, including two in the final period, to earn an 8-2 decision over Justin Smith of Alfred State. .
Sixth-ranked Eze Chukwuezi (d3wrestle) continues to prove a dangerous threat to anyone in the country at 184 pounds. The senior won his second career ECWC Championship, tallying up bonus point wins in every match along the way. After pinning his first two opponents in the quarters and semis, Chukwuezi took on Brockport’s Chris Eames. As the tag team race against Brockport went to the wire, the Bomber delivered when it meant the most, scoring four eliminations and a four-point turn for a 14-2 win. Chukwuezi is now a perfect 20-0 on the season.
Ithaca’s eventual title came from tenth-ranked Jordan Wallace (d3wrestle) at 197 pounds. The grad student had long unfinished business after finishing second at the last ECWC Championships in 2020. He was nothing short of impressive on his way to gold. After sticking out Pitt-Bradford’s Chase Proudfit in the quarterfinals, Wallace specialized in a tough opponent in RIT 10-2’s Josh Harkless. The seasoned veteran kept the momentum going in his title shot, using good positioning and fresh offense to pick up three eliminations for a 7-4 victory over top seed Joe Benedict of Brockport.
IC earned three more spots that day, including a second-place finish from junior Luis Hernandez. The 133-pounder went 3-1 that day and outscored opponents 30-3 in the semifinals, but Brockport’s Zach Levey broke the momentum with a major 16-6 decision in the final. Freshman Jackson Gray battled for third place at 165 pounds and won a first-period pinfall over SUNY Oswego’s Isaac Mathews in the fight to help Ithaca win a tag team title. Senior Colin Murphy also had a solid outing, going 2-2 that day and settling for fourth at 149 pounds.
Heavyweight Edwin Rubio also made his season debut after recovering from a pre-season knee injury. After pinning Brandon Weiskopf of Penn State Behrend in the first round, the 285-pounder was in a dogfight against second seed Calik Kennedy of RIT in the quarterfinals. Leading 4-3 with 15 seconds remaining, Kennedy pulled off a huge six-point move to win the game 9-4. Rubio medically lost the tournament.
Ithaca returns to the table next weekend when the team travels to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania for the John Reese Duals Tournament. The first whistle should start at 11 a.m.