Two of the best upperclassmen wrestlers will head to the Midwest to represent Springfield College in La Crosse, Wisc. later next week to compete for national glory.
After finishing in the top three in the Northeast Regional Championships for his respective weight class, 149/157 senior Zach Joseph will prepare for his final collegiate wrestling matches on the country’s biggest stage. It is his first career appearance in NCAAs, and he will enter his match ranked No. 2 in the country. Joseph turned in a commanding regular campaign in his final year with Springfield. The senior registered a 24-1 overall record, while going 19-1 in dual matches.
Joseph hasn’t let up in crunch time, and enters championship weekend with a head of steam. The four year wrestler out of Clifton Park, N.Y. dominated one of the best of the northeast during regionals. In the match that qualified him for NCAAs, Joseph defeated No. 5 Chris Sullivan (Coast Guard) via major decision 11-3. He would move on to the regional finals where he would lose to the No. 1 Division III wrestler in the country in Robert Dierna 17-2, via technical fall.
As Joseph looks to put the finishing touches on a journey that ended in him becoming a top three Division III wrestler and at long last reaching NCAAs in his final year, there are several wrestlers on Springfield’s roster with potential to fulfill a title of a top ranked competitor in the nation. Heavyweight freshman Joe Fusco put forth a strong rookie year. The first year posted a 31-7 overall record, 19-2 in dual matches, and still has three years to grow as a collegiate athlete.
However, the Pride’s second championship competitor, Hunter Ayen has also made a strong impression in being wrestling’s next-man-up. Much like Fusco, Ayen has taken DIII competition by storm, and still has one additional year to lead the program’s youth movement. Ayen’s trip to Wisconsin will be his second career appearance at NCAAs. During regionals, the junior from Gouverneur, N.Y. bounced back from a semifinals loss to No. 3 Devon Carrillo (Wesleyan) and claimed victory over Coast Guard’s Phil Azzari to qualify for the third place match. Ayen proceeded to earn a clutch victory over No. 6 Khamri Thomas (Johnson & Wales) to qualify for the NCAAs.
The two wrestlers have very separate stories. As a senior, Ayen will shoot for a third appearance at nationals, and lead a team hungry to emerge as a nationally ranked powerhouse. Nothing should be taken away from Joseph’s journey, however. The senior entered his freshman year as a promising talent, and proceeded to evolve into one of the best wrestlers in the country. Joseph will be rewarded for his hard work next week.