Club wrestling finished 13th of 18 teams at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Northeastern Conference Championship March 1 to March 2 at the University of New Hampshire.
Although only three Yale wrestlers competed at the regional tournament, Kevin McGill ’02 EPH ’04 finished second in the 184-pound weight class to qualify for NCWA nationals.
Team captain Vincent Panzano ’04, a competitor at regionals, said this season was especially challenging without an official coach. Additionally, some of last year’s wrestlers did not compete this winter because of personal reasons.
Panzano said the Northeastern region is one of the most competitive conferences where many teams have full-time coaches and large squads of experienced wrestlers, in some cases because they recently lost varsity status. Yale wrestling lost varsity status in 1991.
“We’re a completely student-run team, and it’s tough to compete with these teams who are full squads,” said Panzano, who competed this season in the 165-pound weight class. “We don’t have a coach to deal with bureaucratic stuff [scheduling, travel plans, etc.] and motivation stuff.”
NCWA competition has grown over the years as more wrestling teams lose varsity status.
“As Title IX continues to wreak havoc on wrestling programs, the level of competition in the NCWA increases,” McGill said.
The third wrestler at regionals, Chris Connelly ’06, did not compete in a single meet during the season. He relied on his three years of high school varsity to stay competitive in the 157-pound weight class. Connelly lost both of his NCWA matches.
Connelly said he was impressed with the competition at regionals but felt that Yale could have been more competitive with better conditioning.
“Our wrestlers are really good and we could do well against [our NCWA opponents],” Connelly said. “I like the setup at Yale. It’s laid-back and we do the competition for fun–.We work pretty hard, but the sport is very demanding.”
Without Isaac Pastrana ’05, fourth-place finisher at 2002 NCWA nationals in the 141-pound division, and co-captain David Farrell ’03, who finished fourth at the 2002 regionals in the heavyweight division, the team had a disappointing finish at regionals. Both Pastrana and Farrell were less active in the club this year because of other commitments.
The highlight of regionals for Yale was McGill. At Bryant College, his one regular season tournament, McGill finished first in the 184-pound weight class. Despite having much less time to train than he did as an undergraduate, the returning NCWA All-American qualified for nationals for the fourth year in a row. As an undergraduate, he finished first in the 174-pound division at 2001 nationals, fourth in 2000, and third at 165 in 1999. At nationals this year, March 13 to March 15, McGill went 2-2 and did not place.
“There were two former national champions, one of them being me, in my weight class and about six All-Americans. None of us placed in this tournament,” McGill said.
Although McGill will not be eligible to compete Elis next year, the Bulldogs hope a strong returning squad will help them send more wrestlers to regionals.