BRISTOL, R.I. - The Plymouth State College wrestling team had five individual place-winners, including two champions, leading to a surprising third-place finish over the weekend at the annual New England College Conference Wrestling Association Championships, hosted by Roger Williams University.
The Panthers, who were not ranked in the top 10 in New England entering the tournament, registered their best finish since 1999, when they placed second.
Springfield College won its sixth team title in the last seven years, scoring 127 points. Trinity College was second with 99, followed by PSC (75), WPI (71) and Norwich (67). There were 15 schools participating in the event.
"I'm ecstatic," said PSC first-year head coach Don Perrin. "We've not been ranked in New England most of the year, and we beat a lot of teams that were ranked ahead of us. I'm very proud of our guys. They wrestled their hearts out."
Leading the way for the Panthers were sophomore Dan Moskowitz (Amherst, N.H.) and junior Nate Kittredge (Vergennes, Vt.), who captured New England Championships in their weight classes. Both earned automatic berths into the NCAA Division III National Championships on Mar. 7-8, hosted by Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio.
Moskowitz captured the title at 149 pounds by winning five consecutive matches. Seeded fourth in the bracket, Moskowitz twice defeated the top-ranked wrestler in New England, Billy Ivatts of Springfield, including a 5-4 decision in the championship bout. Moskowitz, who placed third in New England last year at 165 pounds, will take a 19-6 record into the nationals.
Kittredge won the 184-pound championship with five straight victories. Seeded third, Kittredge knocked off top-seeded Mike Doros of Trinity College in the semifinals (3-2 tiebreaker), and came back with a 2-1 decision over Coast Guard's Josh Boyle in the championship match. The runner-up at 197 pounds two years ago, Kittredge will take a sparkling 25-4 record in the nationals.
The other three Panthers who were place-winners were seniors Shaun Cleary (West Keansburg, N.J.) and Rich Moskowitz (Amherst, N.H.) and junior Rick Simula (Plymouth, N.H.). Cleary placed third at 141 pounds, while Moskowitz was sixth at 157 and Simula was sixth in the heavyweight bracket.
Cleary, who was the second seed at 141, finished third after suffering a pair of losses to Norwich's Nolan Cisper, the third seed. He won four matches overall, but lost a fourth-round bout to Cisper (2-1 tiebreaker), then dropped a 6-3 decision to him in the backdraw. Cleary completes an outstanding season with a 34-5 record.
Rich Moskowitz, the defending champion at 157 pounds, ended up in sixth place after three consecutive losses. The fourth seed, he won his first two matches before being upset by unseeded Matt Thurston of Norwich, 3-1. Moskowitz then dropped a 7-4 decision in the backdraw to unseeded Carlos Lopez of Rhode Island College, and was defeated by third-seeded Matt Ferrisi of Wesleyan in the fifth/sixth place bout. Moskowitz concludes his season at 22-8.
Simula, the eighth seed in the 285-pound bracket, received a medical forfeit victory in his first bout before being defeated by top-seeded and eventual champion Michael Blair of Trinity. Simula earned another injury default in the backdraw before defeating fifth-seeded Gavin Garcia of Coast Guard, 4-3. Simula was then defeated in consecutive matches by second-seeded Greg Walker of MIT and third-seeded Justin Sullivan of Williams. Simula completes the season with a 24-12 record.
PSC's other entries in the tournament included junior Charlie Kenna (Concord, N.H.) at 133 pounds, sophomore Jim Burnham (South Windsor, Conn.) at 165, freshman Brian Francis (Plymouth, N.H.) at 174, and sophomore Kyle Pietrowski (Eliot, Maine) at 197. Kenna finished 1-2 in the tournament to complete the season with a 6-15 record. Burnham lost both of his matches to complete the season at 4-10. Francis won one of his three matches to wrap up a 4-17 season, and Pietrowski was also 1-2 and finishes the season at 4-18.