The Drexel wrestling team fell short Jan. 13 in its matches against Iowa State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. In back-to-back duals, the Dragons fell 31-12 and 24-10, respectively, against the two collegiate powerhouses.
The Dragons headed into the matches coming off a stretch of strong performances and were looking to stay on the winning track facing two of their toughest challenges of the season. However, the Dragons were unable to keep up with the Cyclones and Tar Heels in the two losses.
The Dragons fell behind early in their opening match against Iowa State, as the Cyclones quickly jumped out to an 11-0 lead after three matches. Shane Fenningham got Drexel on the board with a 5-3 decision in the 149 weight class. At 157 pounds, Austin Sommer followed with an 8-6 victory of his own, bringing the Dragons to within five points.
The Cyclones, however, took control of the dual, winning three matches in a row, which included two major decisions and a pin to increase their lead to 25-6. Brandon Palik wrestled his way to a win-by-fall at 6:18 in the 197 match, but it was not enough to get the Dragons back in striking distance. The dual was wrapped up in the 285 bout with the Cyclones recording a pin to put the final score at 31-12.
“In some weight classes, we were outmatched,” head coach Matt Azevedo said about the dual against Iowa State. “We are struggling with some injuries, and it is showing.”
Following their loss to Iowa State, the Dragons went right back to work against North Carolina. Similarly to the previous match, the Dragons fell behind early and were unable to rebound in their second loss of the day.
The Tar Heels jumped out to an 8-0 lead after two matches to begin the dual. Frank Cimato gave the Dragons their first win with an impressive come-from-behind performance in the 141 bout, as he defeated North Carolina’s sixth-ranked Evan Henderson. With just over 10 seconds left in his match, Cimato was able to turn an escape and a takedown into a two-point lead and an eventual win. The victory was a good rebound match for Cimato, who had lost in the final 10 seconds of his match against Iowa State’s Luke Goettl in the previous dual.
However, despite the impressive win by Cimato, the Tar Heels took control of the match with a five-bout winning streak and took a commanding 24-3 lead over Drexel. The Dragons finished strong with Palik recording a 13-0 major decision over Chapel Hill’s Frank Abbondanza and Jon Max Wright earning a 5-2 victory over Cody Klempay to finish the match, but it was not enough.
“Our level dropped a little bit, and we didn’t wrestle as well,” Azevedo said about his team’s performance against the Tar Heels. “I think after getting up for the Iowa State match, some of our guys had a letdown against North Carolina.”
The Drexel wrestlers will return to the mats Jan. 19 when they will travel to Fairfax, Va., to face off against conference opponents Old Dominion University and Binghamton University. The Dragons will look to rebound and will have to get back to wrestling their style in order to come out on top in their upcoming matches.
“We are going to have to wrestle a smart match and wrestle hard for seven minutes,” Azevedo said.