PROVIDENCE, RI – A fourth-straight NCAA Northeast Regional is in sight for the Johnson & Wales University wrestling team, but the eighth-ranked Wildcats will have to stave off a number of competitors in order to hoist the trophy. Nine wrestlers are still alive after day one's action at Rhode Island College.
Johnson & Wales is in first place by a slim 1.5 margin over NYU. Springfield is in third place with 67.5 points.
The top seed at 133 pounds, Hayden Brown pinned Western New England's Corey Cope in just 1:42. He took down Coast Guard's Caden Mareno 12 seconds into overtime to move onto the semifinals.
Junior Jordan Robinson, the top seed at 141 pounds, opened with a 12-3 major decision against Najee Hall from New England College. He advanced to the semifinals by pinning WNEU's Justin DeLucia at the 5:27 mark.
Posting a pair of pins was senior Michael DiNardo. The second seed at 285 pounds, he pinned Wesleyan's Harrison Karp in just 1:18 then secured his fourth all-region award by pinning Jake Peavey from Southern Maine in 5:55.
The number three seed at 149 pounds, senior Da'mani Burns only needed 64 seconds to pin Dario Molina from Wesleyan. He topped WPI's Ronan Ball, 12-8 to get his spot in the semifinals.
Two pins moved sophomore Tommy Wrzesien into the semifinals of 197 pounds. The number four seed, he pinned Norwich's Gabriel Duden in 1:02 then put Bridgewater State's Henry Oberlander to the mat in 1:54.
Pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the day was the number seven seed Darius Joyce at 157 pounds. After beating Sam Lindbolm from the host RIC, he took down the second-seed, Ryan Monteiro from Western New England. Joyce got a takedown with 21 seconds left in the third period to beat the seventh-ranked wrestler in the country.
Three Wildcats will have to work their way through the consolation bracket in order to get to nationals.
At 165 pounds, senior Tim Higginson posted a 20-1 tech fall against Plymouth State's Colby Ferreti. After losing to the number two seed, Taylor Shay from Roger Williams, he came back to pin Jakai Townsend from NEC. Justin Lopez opened with a pin in 1:04 at 125 pounds, but was beat by the No. 3 seed, Joe Manginelli from Springfield. He bounced back to beat Parker Brunkala, 6-2.
Senior Giovanni Santiago started his run at 184 pounds by beating NYU's Miguel Ruiz, 3-0. He lost to the number four seed, Josh Smith from Southern Maine, and got a medical forfeit in the consolation round. Unfortunately, sophomore Nick Munsch did not move on to Sunday. After losing his first match, he beat Brendan Marion before getting knocked out of the tournament by Castleton's Chance LaPier.
Day two commences at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.