As 2012 drew to a close, the Eastern Michigan University men’s wrestling team competed in the 50th annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championship hosted by Northwestern University this past Saturday and Sunday in Evanston, Ill.
The Midlands tournament is the second hardest competition for the EMU wrestlers this season and after their close loss to Indiana University Dec. 16, head coach Derek DelPorto’s goal was to give his wrestlers much needed rest to prepare for the tough competition.
The Eagles joined more than 50 Division I, II and III teams, along with some post-graduate competitors this year. EMU wrestlers competed with 92 nationally ranked wrestlers and over 10 nationally ranked schools such as No. 6 University of Illinois, No. 9 Central Michigan University and No. 10 Oregon State University.
EMU took 23rd place as a team last year with 26.5 team points; first place went to Iowa University with 152 points. Redshirt junior Jared Germaine was the first Eagle to place at the tournament since DelPorto was given the head coaching position seven seasons ago.
Germaine took seventh place at 125 pounds in 2011. EMU teammates redshirt senior Aaron Sulzer and redshirt junior Phillip Joseph were only one victory away from top-eight performances.
At the end of the first out of four sessions this past weekend, the Eagles were in 27th place with 11.5 team points; only four points behind Purdue University in 26th place. Illinois held first place with over 30 points total. As more EMU wrestlers fell, so did the outlook of the tournament. Before the second session started almost half of the EMU wrestlers were eliminated.
The tournament came to an early close for redshirt freshman Vincent Pizzuto (133 pounds), redshirt sophomores Jacob Dorulla (165 pounds), Mike Curby (174 pounds) and Jaylyn Bohl (157 pounds), and redshirt junior Seth Schaner (141 pounds). All five wrestlers were eliminated Saturday.
Although the tournament finished early for Bohl, he and EMU teammate redshirt junior Nick Whitenburg are back on the mat after recovering from early season injuries. The EMU wrestlers were starters last season and will continue to get better.
At the end of the first day only one EMU wrestler remained in the tournament. Germaine lost by a 4-1 decision to Jarrod Patterson from Oklahoma but won the next four matches in a row to earn a spot in the consolation quarter finals on Sunday.
The number one seed for the 125 pound weight class Anthony Zanetta from the University of Pittsburgh ended the Eagles’ time at the tournament when he triumphed over Germaine with a 9-2 decision.
Germaine was the only Eagle to make it into day two, but other EMU wrestlers still went far in the tournament. Redshirt junior Khodor Hoballah (285 pounds) made it further in the championship bracket than any other EMU wrestler.
Hoballah out wrestled Tyler Swope from Iowa State University and Cole Tobin from the University of Wisconsin before getting knocked down by the number one seed Jarod Trice from Central Michigan. His final match was a close 2-1 decision but went to Evan Knutson from North Dakota State University.
EMU was represented by other wrestlers including Sulzer (157 pounds), freshman Jacob Davis (174 pounds), Joseph (184 pounds), and redshirt freshman Anthony Abro (197 pounds).
This year, the Eagles didn’t perform as well as the team did last year and finished in 30th place out of the 48 teams with 14.5 points. Illinois kept their lead and took the team title with 99.5 points.
The Eagles will open the new year in the Philadelphia area, taking on Seton Hall University Jan. 12 in Greensburg, Pa. EMU will then travel to compete in the Pitt Duals Jan. 13 with the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, the Bloomsburg University Huskies and the Lock Haven University Eagles. Be sure to stick with The Echo for the results of both matches.