PROVIDENCE, RI – When the Johnson & Wales University wrestling team goes through its strenuous October workouts, this weekend is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Starting Friday, a school-record seven Wildcats will compete at the 2018 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, Ohio.
The event, hosted by Baldwin Wallace University and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commissions, starts with prelims at 11 a.m. on Friday and continues through Saturday evening with the championship bouts. The tournament takes place at the Cleveland Public Auditorium.
The Wildcats are trying to surpass last year's program-best fourth-place finish. Representing Johnson & Wales will be:
After a decisive victory over second-ranked Peter Del Gallo at the NCAA Northeast Regional, Albis jumped up to the number two seed at 125 pounds. An NCAA runner-up last year at 133 pounds, Albis has a 43-2 record this year. His lone loss at 125 came to the third seed, Jonathan Haas of SUNY Brockport. The Fishkill, NY native leads all three NCAA divisions with 16 tech falls.
Vicente may have the hardest draw of any Wildcat as he takes on top-ranked Troy Stanich from Stevens in the first round of 133 pounds. Stanich is the only other person to defeat Albis this year. A native of East Providence, Vicente comes into the championship with a 26-3 record including a 5-4 decision over third-ranked David Flynn of Augsburg at 141 pounds.
Following a sixth-place finish last year, Ferinde has his sights set on a higher finish in 2018. He's seeded sixth at this year's event and will take on the winner of Brendan Ladd and Tim Ambaher in the first round. One of two returning All-Americans at 141, Ferinde has a win over the top seed, Brett Kaliner from Stevens, as part of his 32-5 record.
Also getting a tough opening opponent is Gonzalez at 165 pounds as he'll take on the number two seed, Lucas Jeske of Augsburg. Gonzalez lost to Jeske, 13-2, at the NWCA National Duals. Gonzalez comes into the tournament with a 34-13 record, including a win over WPI's Brendan Marion, the top seed at regionals.
The previous two years, Thomas was on the doorstep of the NCAA Championships before breaking through this year. With a 42-2 mark, Thomas drew the number four seed at 184 pounds. He'll face the hometown wrestler Zeckery Lehman of Baldwin Wallace in the first round. A potential second round opponent is Augsburg's Sebastian Larsen, whom he beat 4-2 at the National Duals.
Making his first appearance at the NCAA Championship will be the sophomore DiNardo. Seeded eighth at 197 pounds, he starts the tournament against Coe's Andrew Holladay with a potential showdown against the top seed, Kyle Frank of Wartburg in the second round. Ranked fifth in the country with 18 pins, DiNardo comes into the event with a 40-3 record.
Six of the seven Wildcats knew they had their ticket punched for Cleveland by making the finals of the regional championship. Aurelio, a native of East Providence, had to win his third-place match over WPI's Austin Shrewsbury to get in. He'll open with Wisconsin-La Crosse's Konrad Ernst in the pigtail round and face Jake O'Brien from Ithaca if he's victorious. With a 25-10 mark this year, Aurelio is only three victories away from becoming the 14th wrestler in school history to post 100 victories.