RPI tastes success at Nationals!
With ten qualifiers heading to Dallas, the team looked for its best finish at the NCWA Nationals. Again, with a strong team effort and a remarkable individual effort, RPI's wrestling team saw themselves among the elite in the NCWA. Captains Rob Venditti and Eric Pace once again took the reigns of a young team and lead them to RPI's highest finish in a national tournament. Returning All-American Rob Venditti saw his run end in the semi-finals against another unbeaten returning All-American Duke Begy from Miami University. Rob continued his great season, but in tough fashion after tearing his MCL in a loss to returning All-American Russel Correll from Grand Valley. Rob's season finished with a gutsy 6-5 loss to Josh Kotter of LSU to finish 6th and once again an NCWA All-American. The remarkable individual preformance was turned in by walk-on Freshman Ryan Michaels. After a late start and half of a season to get ready, Ryan qualified for nationals and went out to win his first nationals match by pinning Morgan DeFresne - Univ. of Florida. Ryan lost his next match to returning All-American Travis Eisen from Grand Valley. Ryan however didn't let this slow him down. Ryan continued the next day by beating Aaron Moore of Univ. of Florida, Jeff Chase of Ohio State Univ., returning All-American Larry Todd of Colorado State 8-0, then Matt Perry of the Apprentice School and setting up a rematch with Travis Eisen. This time Ryan was in total control and managed to pin Eisen in a pattened arm bar. Ryan completed his tournament by beating again another returning All-American Adam Ortiz from Grand Valley State. Ryan earned All-American status with his 7th win and 3rd place finish at Nationals. Returning All-American John Stecuik suffered a first round loss to a tough Julian Valencia from Ohio State Univ. 8-5. John's mental toughness showed as he continued to wrestleback by pinning Nate Alvarez of Newman Univ., Brad Julian of Lafayette College, and Michael Morin of Valley Forge Military College. John then suffered his second loss to fellow conference wrestler Tim Petrides of Bryant Univ. John finished one victory shy of becoming a 2x All-American. Also contributing to the team scores were Captain Eric Pace with a fall in the wrestleback round. With these strong individual performances and the experience of the tournament by the underclassmen, RPI finished 15th in the country of the 67 schools that were represented. This is a vast improvement from the 49th place finish 2 years ago. RPI will look to once again continue to improve and gain the respect of the elite teams with in the NCWA next year. The team has big shoes to fill with the loss of their captains Rob Venditti and Eric Pace. They will be greatly missed, but will be strong supporters as alumni wrestlers. Congrats also to the coaching staff: Brad Nelson, John Jenkins, Sr. and Kevin Grupe.