PROVIDENCE, RI – There's only one more step for the Johnson & Wales University wrestling team to take in order to get to the NCAA Championships. The Wildcats will try to clear the last hurdle this weekend when they host the NCAA Northeast Regional, February 23-24, at the Wildcat Center.
Johnson & Wales has won the last two regional titles and are the favorites for a three-peat. The Wildcats are ranked third in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association poll.
A pair of Wildcats are ranked number one in their weight class and three more are in the top 10. Leading the way is defending national champion Jay Albis at 125 pounds. He comes into the regional with a 31-4 record and just one of his losses is to a Division III opponent. He ranks second in the country with 13 tech falls and his next victory will make him the all-time wins leader in JWU history with 146 victories.
Also topping his weight class is junior Da'mani Burns at 149 pounds. The Newburgh, NY native rates second in the NCAA with 20 pins, which is the fourth most on the JWU single-season charts. Burns is also sixth on the NCAA Most Dominant list to go along with a 27-3 record.
Senior Joe Ferinde has a chance to become the first three-time All-American in school history. A third regional title would make him the only Wildcat besides JWU and NEWA Hall of Famer Tim Ruberg to win three championships. He has a 29-10 record that has vaulted him to fifth in school history with 124 victories.
Two more Wildcats are searching for their second All-America award. Currently ranked fourth at 133 pounds, senior Bobby Jordan missed most of last year with an injury after placing seventh in 2017. Classmate Khamri Thomas is fourth at 184 pounds with a 26-5 record that has moved him up to third in school history with 130 victories. He took eighth at last year's NCAA Championship.
Michael DiNardo and Adrian Gonzalez made their first trips to the NCAA Championships last season but came up short of earning All-America recognition. DiNardo is ranked fourth at 197 pounds with a 30-5 record. Gonzalez is 22-9 on the year and is ranked third in the region.
Senior Thomas Grippi has earned a pair of All-Region awards but has never had a shot at the NCAA Championships. Seeded seventh at 157 pounds, he comes into the regional with a 16-14 record. Michael Gargano has grabbed the number three seed at 174 pounds. The senior has a 21-9 mark coming into the regionals. The lone underclassmen for the Wildcats is freshman Tommy Wrzesien. He's got a team-high 34 victories, including 17 pins which ranks him seventh nationally in Division III. He'll bump up to 285 pounds where he is seeded fifth.