This past weekend, the Hopkins men’s wrestling team opened their season at the Messiah Invitational in Grantham, Pa.
Competing against 10 different teams, the Jays defeated Elizabethtown College, Wheaton College, Liberty University, McDaniel College and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County on their way to a fifth-place overall finish.
Accumulating 53 points, the Jays saw stellar performances from a variety of competitors.
In his first collegiate tournament, freshman Dominick Reyes garnered a second-place finish at the 157 pound weight class.
Junior Isaac Morales also had an impressive performance, finishing the day with a 3-2 record at 184, good enough for fourth place in his weight class.
Additionally, both sophomore Nathan Wertheimer and senior Connor Joyce went 3-2 on the day.
Just one Jay walked away with a title this past Saturday, junior Ricky Cavallo — this week’s Athlete of the Week.
Despite short freshman and sophomore seasons that were limited by injury, Cavallo has always performed admirably when healthy.
In 2017, he topped former Centennial Conference Champion Rob Murray of the Stevens Institute of Technology, as part of a six-match winning streak that lasted from January 21 through February 4. Most importantly, he garnered just two losses on the year.
As displayed in this past weekend’s performance, Cavallo returned to the 2017-2018 season ready to compete.
In his first three matchups of the tournament, Cavallo garnered three bonus-point victories, defeating freshman Bryton Stidfole of Messiah, freshman Zachary Martin of Elizabethtown and freshman Ray Calderaio of Ursinus.
Awaiting him in the finals was Messiah senior Hunter Harris, a senior ranked 10th in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) preseason rankings.
Despite the formidable challenge presented, Cavallo prevailed with a 10-8 victory. The 133-pound title was the first in his career and the only title garnered by a Jay this weekend.
Following his first career title, Cavallo sat down with The News-Letter to discuss what the victory meant to him and highlight some personal and team goals for the upcoming season.
The News-Letter: How happy was the team as a whole with their fifth-place finish in this weekend’s invitational?
Ricky Cavallo: The team was pretty happy as a whole. We went into the tournament without a 197 or heavyweight, so we automatically knew we weren’t getting any points at 20 percent of the weight classes. Everyone on the team wrestled hard and supported one another, and we still managed to take fifth out of 10 teams, only missing fourth place by a few points.
N-L: Going into your final event, you were slotted to face Messiah’s Hunter Harris, who was ranked 10th in the NWCA preseason rankings. Was it intimidating to face such a high-ranked opponent?
RC: I get a little nervous for every match, no matter who I face, so in this tournament I really tried to work on staying calm and not worrying about who it was I was facing.
The fact that he’s ranked 10th actually took some of the pressure off of me because I knew he was the favorite going in, and I had nothing to lose. I just had to listen to my coach and perform.
N-L: How did it feel to win your first career title?
RC: I’ve been injured fairly often the past few years, so to be able to compete and wrestle again felt amazing. It was really great finally winning a tournament and having my team in the corner with me.
Having everyone there with you in the finals makes you wrestle harder and push yourself. There’s nothing like getting to celebrate with your team.
N-L: Obviously wrestling requires physical strength, but how important would you say the mental game is?
RC: Having a strong mentality is just as important as being strong physically. I think the mental game is a little different for everybody. For me personally, it involves calming my mind and not getting too anxious to wrestle.
I just have to treat the match as practice. If I get too anxious, I can feel tired before I even step on the mat, so no matter how strong someone may be physically it doesn’t matter if they’re not performing at 100 percent.
N-L: Do you have any personal goals, or does the team have any goals for the remainder of the season?
RC: The team always has the goal of producing All-Americans and Scholar All-Americans. Everyone works hard on the mat and in the classroom, so it’s always a goal to reflect that through the athletes obtaining All-American or Scholar All-American status.
My personal goal for this season is to continue to perform to the best of my ability and represent the team well by becoming an All-American.