Feb. 28, 2003
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The Maryland Terrapins did not have the regular season they were hopeful of, but on March 8 they will have the opportunity to make it all up. Next weekend, the Terps will travel to Boone, N.C., where Appalachian State will be hosting Mat Jam, a one-day tournament for the ACC and Southern Conference to decide who will advance to Kansas City for nationals.
The Terps are heading into the ACC tournament with high hopes of sending multiple wrestlers to nationals. A pair of seniors and a pair of freshmen are atop the Terp hopefuls. Senior Jake Stork won the 184-pound regular season ACC title by winning all four of his matches, and fellow senior Sal Aquia finished second at 197 pounds. Freshmen John-Henry Zarzycki and Jason Kiessling are also looking to make a splash at their first ACC tournament.
Stork has been nothing short of spectacular this season. His 23 pins leads the NCAA, with no other wrestler in his weight class having a double digit number of pins. His 35 wins rank second among all 184-pounders, and he is currently working on a 26-match win streak that began at the Penn State Open in early December 2002.
In ACC competition, Stork has recorded just one pin. Opening up the conference matches was NC State's Jon Godwin who played a cat-and-mouse game with Stork all bout long. Stork was unable to wrap him up, but the elusive Godwin still fell 5-3. Following NC State on the Terps' ACC schedule was North Carolina. Heading down to Tobacco Road, Stork was about to face some of his stiffest competition of the season. North Carolina's Dusty Heist was on a personal 17-match win streak, but Stork ended that run. Heist held the lead for most of the match, but a late takedown by Stork gave him a 4-2 edge, and he held on for the victory, a 4-3 decision.
Coming off the big win in North Carolina, Stork wanted to continue his dominance of Tobacco Road against Duke one week later. Tom Cass, the senior Blue Devil, was the only man between Stork and his 21st consecutive win. Cass wrestled an aggressive match, but Stork was able to counter his every move, taking the match 10-4. In the ACC finale, Stork wrestled Virginia's Ram McDonnell, and was able to score his second fastest pin of the season. Just 49 seconds into the match, Stork claimed the ACC regular season title when he caught McDonnell in a cradle and pinned him. Stork is looking to ride his streak of consecutive matches up into the 30's with wins through the ACC tournament and nationals.
Another Terp hopeful is Aquia who was able to pull out a 3-1 ACC record. Had it not been for a loss in the final match of the season against Virginia's Zach Freday, Aquia would have been the second Terp crowned regular season ACC champion. Aquia has been a rock for the Terps this season. He opened up the season taking second place in two consecutive tournaments, and went on to breeze through dual meet action, scoring a 9-3 record.
In his first ACC match in two seasons, Aquia surprised NC State's Dan Humphries in the waning moments of the bout, earning a two-point takedown to earn the come-from-behind 6-5 win. As the Terps headed down to North Carolina for two consecutive matches, Aquia earned two more wins. Against North Carolina, he wrestled a defensive match in beating David Dashiell 3-1. Against Duke, he earned his only major decision of the ACC season, an 18-8 beating of Andrew Herbert. In the last of the ACC matches, Aquia fell to Freday to finish the ACC with a 3-1 record. In response to the loss at the hands of Freday, Aquia said that it meant that he was just going to have to wrestle a tougher match in the semifinals, but that he was expecting to make it further than that anyway.
Two freshmen highlight the middle weight classes. Zarzycki and Kiessling have been two big impact wrestlers in their first collegiate seasons. Zarzycki has gone 22-8 on the season, including 2-2 in the ACC, while Kiessling, who is 18-11, is 3-1 in conference action.
Zarzycki opened up dual meet action losing two of his first three matches, but bounced back to win seven of the last nine. In his first conference match, Zarzycki was able to catch NC State's Ryan McCallum off guard, and pinned him 2:52 into the bout. Coming off his first pin of the season, Zarzycki was riding high, but the two-game stretch in Chapel Hill and Durham, N.C., brought him back down. Although he lost both matches, Zarzycki showed that he had a lot of heart. Against North Carolina, he battled the flu and Brian Baglio; he was able to kick the flu, but not Baglio who beat him 10-0. Versus Duke, Zarzycki fell victim to a late takedown and lost to Adam Benitez 11-9. Getting over his longest losing streak (two) of the season, Zarzycki bounced back and earned a big win over Virginia's Bob Seidel. Seidel, the defending ACC runner-up was surprised by Zarzycki's speed and aggressiveness, and was never able to mount much of an offensive attack as Zarzycki stole the 141-pound match, 5-3. Zarzycki will get a chance to avenge his two midseason losses, and make a bid to qualify for nationals at the ACC tournament.
The 157-pound Kiessling has been steady all year. He has yet to lose more than two consecutive matches this season, and has won five of his last six overall. Like Zarzycki, Kiessling lost two of his first three matches, but bounced back in a big way in the opening match of the ACC regular season against NC State's Bryant Reams. Reams took a shot late in the match that Kiessling was able to reverse, and escaped with a 4-3 victory.
Leaving to travel to North Carolina for the only two conference away matches, Kiessling was wheeling from a rough match against Rutgers. It turned out North Carolina was all Kiessling needed to turn things around. In the two matches in North Carolina, Kiessling took a 7-4 decision over North Carolina's Garrett Atkinson and a 4-1 decision over Duke's Ben Balmages. The win over Atkinson was the start of a five-match win streak that saw Kiessling roll over non-conference foes Duquesne, American and Old Dominion. In the last of the ACC matches, Kiessling lost to defending ACC champion Tom Foley. The match, a bout for the ACC regular season crown, went to Foley, but Kiessling is hoping the ACC tournament will be a different story.
Adam James, who wrestles at 149 pounds, is another Terp hopeful. James opened the ACC season with two disappointing losses, but he wrestled close in both. A 2-1 loss to North Carolina's Chris DiGuiseppe was the turning point of the season for James, as he has gone on to win three of his last four matches. James chose a good time to get hot, and he hopes to ride that momentum through the ACC tournament.
In the lighter weight classes, the Terps have struggled some. Both Matt Pandullo, wrestling at 125 pounds, and Mike Lupa, wrestling at 133 pounds, have yet to record a win in ACC dual meet action. Pandullo, who is 11-10 on the season, had won three matches in a row overall until a loss at the hands of Brian Sticca of Virginia, and Lupa has wrestled most of his ACC foes tightly.
Patrick Cissne, wrestling at 174 pounds, has had a rough season, particularly early. Cissne opened up dual meet action with five consecutive losses, but has rebounded as of late by recording a major decision and a 19-14 win in two of his last three matches. Cissne also has yet to record a win in ACC action, but aside from a tough loss at the hands of Brian Muir of Virginia, Cissne has been within a few points in every other ACC match.
Senior Eric Fehnel is wrestling in arguably the most competitive weight class in the ACC. Early in the season Fehnel showed signs of greatness, earning a third-place finish at the Hitchcock Memorial Classic. But between Virginia's Josh Etu and NC State's Leroy Harris, Fehnel has had to wrestle some tough matches. His lone ACC win came at the hands of Duke's Roy Williams, but Fehnel will have to overcome the rest of his ACC opponents and a three-match losing streak if he wants to compete for a spot in nationals.
Depending on the status of Sean Collins' broken hand, either he or John Antonelli will wrestle at 165 pounds. Collins, who returned late into the dual meet season, wrestled just five matches before breaking has hand and being unable to return. Antonelli has filled in for Collins since the match against American, and has racked up a 1-2 dual meet record.
Although a team sport, in wrestling the spotlight sits on individuals, and there is no place the Terps would rather shine now than at the ACC tournament in Boone, N.C.