WORCESTER, Mass. – After opening a 27-point lead on day one, Sunday's day two of the NCAA Northeast Regional was essentially a victory lap for the Johnson & Wales University wrestling team. The fourth-ranked Wildcats ran away from the competition to capture their second-straight championship with 156.5 points.
After sending a program-best five wrestlers to nationals last year, Johnson & Wales one-upped itself by qualifying seven wrestlers for the NCAA Championships, March 9-10 in Cleveland, Ohio.
JWU's national qualifiers are: junior Jay Albis (125 pounds), senior Joao Vicente (133 pounds), junior Joe Ferinde (141 pounds), junior Adrian Gonzalez (165 pounds), junior Khamri Thomas (184 pounds), sophomore Michael DiNardo (197 pounds) and senior Jonah Aurelio (285 pounds). Albis – who was named Most Outstanding Wrestler – Ferinde and Thomas all won their individual weight class.
It was a top-five battle in the finals of 125 pounds. Albis was in control the entire match against second-ranked Peter Del Gallo of Southern Maine, posting a 10-4 decision to win his second regional title. Albis opened the day by beating Roger Williams' Nick Barbaria, 7-4, in the semifinals.
At 141 pounds, Ferinde trailed for most of the championship match against NYU's Sean Lyons. A late takedown and two near fall points gave the junior his second-straight title. Ferinde avenged a loss from earlier in the year by beating Castleton's Max Temple, 5-2, in the semifinals.
Tied at 3-2 in the second overtime, Thomas got control of Western New England's John Boyle then took him down with six seconds left to win the title at 184 pounds. Thomas punched his ticket with a 14-4 major decision in the semifinals against WPI's Dan Wensley.
While the first six national qualifiers knew they had their spot locked up before the finals, the senior Aurelio was either going to win the third-place match and qualify or have his collegiate career come to an end. He scored a takedown of WPI's Nathan Shrewsbury in the second round of overtime for his first trip to the NCAA Championship. Aurelio nearly pulled off the upset of the number one seed, Isaiah Bellamy of Wesleyan in the semifinals, but was defeated 3-1 during the sudden victory period.
Riding points decided the winner at 133 pounds. Vicente got a late escape, but NYU's Matthew Noble had exactly one minute of riding time to get the bonus point needed for the victory. Vicente made quick work of Springfield's Ian Tolotti, pinning him in 1:51 to get his spot in the finals.
Pulling off a big upset was Gonzalez as he posted a 13-3 major decision over the top seed, Brenan Marion of WPI. He couldn't pull off another upset in the finals as RWU's Taylor Shay took him down in the second round of sudden victory.
A strong third period vaulted DiNardo into the finals and a trip to Cleveland as he beat Coast Guard's Jonathan Wagner, 9-3. He came up just short in the championship bout, falling 7-3 to seventh-ranked and top-seeded Devon Carrillo from Wesleyan.
Thomas Grippi stayed alive at 149 pounds by beating Justin Cochram of Roger Williams, 10-5, in the consolation bracket. After losing his next match, he came back to earn All-Region honors by pinning Wesleyan's Carter Armendarez in 1:47
Brady Robin won a narrow 1-0 decision over WNEU's Ryan Monteiro in his opening consolation match at 157 pounds. He came up one match short of making the third-place bout, but he picked up his first All-Region award by earning an 11- major decision over Williams' Jake Savoca.
The consolation bracket at 174 pounds featured the number two and three seeded wrestlers and unfortunately, JWU's Michael Gargano came out on the short end, falling to Roger Williams' Brett Leonard, 6-0.