Wrestling finishes third to upset preseason poll

By MATTHEW RITCHIE | February 8, 2018

Wrestling Escobar

The Hopkins wrestling team rounded out their Centennial Conference schedule this past weekend in their final dual meet. The team faced two Conference foes: the United States Merchant Marine Academy and the 17th-ranked Stevens Institute of Technology, who currently lead the Conference standings. 

Hopkins began their day against the Merchant Marine Mariners. The Jays started off hot, winning the first three periods as senior Christian Vallis started the team off strong with a 6-0 win at the 125-pound weight class. 

Junior Ricky Cavallo continued the winning trend by securing a 17-0 technical-fall victory in the second period. This, combined with senior Lucas Escobar’s pin at 141, allowed Hopkins to gain a 17-0 lead, giving them a huge advantage from the start. 

However, the Mariners did not back down without a fight. The opposition reduced the deficit to 17-12 through three straight victories at the 157, 165 and 174 weight classes. The tight score set up a pivotal match in the 184-pound weight class between junior Isaac Morales and Merchant Marine sophomore Kurtis Hahn. 

The matchup proved to be a tough bout that went a long way toward deciding the winner of the meet. Morales, who had won nine straight matches at that point, proved to be the better man that day, defeating Hahn 7-5. His victory pushed the margin to 20-12. It proved to be much needed, as the Mariners were able to take the next two match-ups with a technical-fall victory and a decision. 

These two results pushed the score to 20-20, causing the final result of the match to be decided by two criteria. The first was the number of individual bouts won by each team. However, because this was equal at five, this criterion was pushed aside. 

The second criterion was which team had the higher number of wins via pinfall. Thanks to Escobar’s pin, the Blue Jays won this criterion 1-0, handing them the overall victory.

Hopkins ended the day with a match-up against the Stevens Institute of Technology Ducks. The Ducks’ three nationally-ranked wrestlers at 133, 141 and 157, ranked No. 1, No. 1 and No. 4 in their respective weight categories, proved to be too much for the Blue Jays. 

Stevens won nine out of the 10 bouts in the match. The wins came by way of decision and technical fall. Even with the tough decisions against the Ducks, Vallis was encouraged by the team’s performance. The team showed heart and grit against one of the top teams in the nation. 

“Stevens has consistently been one of the top-ranked teams in the country. While the overall team score doesn’t show it, we wrestled hard and really pushed some of their highly-ranked guys,” Vallis said. 

The lone Blue Jay to take a match was Morales again, who extended his personal winning streak to 11 matches. His performance over the weekend further improved his Centennial Conference record. The junior was able to achieve a perfect record of 7-0 in Conference dual meets this season.

Morales’ hot streak will hopefully bode well for him and the Jays at the Centennial Conference Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 10. 

Vallis is confident and trusts the process that the team has been following throughout the season. 

“Truthfully, I think we stick with what has worked all season,” Vallis said. “Watching film and game-planning for certain opponents will help not only for this week but in the Regional Tournament and ultimately the National Tournament as well.” 

The team’s season has been defined by going out and meeting their expectations while invalidating outside opinions. Vallis echoes this sentiment.

“Being picked to be second to last in the Conference and ultimately finishing in the top three proves that we believe in ourselves and in our coaching staff to get us where we want to be,” Vallis said. 

The gutsy group will be chomping at the bit to come out on top next week at the Conference playoffs. On Saturday, Feb. 10, Hopkins will head to Washington & Lee University to compete in the Conference Tournament.

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