PISCATAWAY, N.J. - The Columbia wrestling team capped a historic 2013 EIWA Championships Saturday, garnering four NCAA Championship automatic qualifying bids and five placewinners. Senior Steve Santos put the exclamation point on the tournament for Columbia with a 7-2 decision over Army's Daniel Young to capture the 149-pound title, becoming the 19th individual EIWA Champion in program history.
Matt Bystol (133 pounds) and Josh Houldsworth (165 pounds) also reached the finals of their respective weight classes, finishing as the runner-ups. Jake O'Hara will join the three previously mentioned wrestlers at the NCAA Championships following his fourth-place showing at 157 pounds. Penn Gottfried rounded out the Columbia placewinners, taking eighth at 125 pounds. As a team, the Lions finished in eighth with 75 team points. Cornell won the event with 142 team points.
This will be the first time since the 2007 season that Columbia has sent four wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. That accomplishment, although much shorter than the two 101 year old streaks the Lions snapped on Friday, falls in line with the historic nature of the weekend for Columbia.
"As a whole, [the EIWA Championship] was good for us, four bids is historically good for us," said Carl Fronhofer, the Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling after the tournament. "Putting three guys in the finals is also a huge step for our program."
The Lions also impressed the referees at the 2013 EIWA Championships, receiving the Team Sportsmanship Award given by the mat officials after the tournament.
In addition to current Lions performing well on the mat, a former Columbia wrestler was also honored. Prior to the final session beginning, the 2013 EIWA Hall of Fame Class was recognized. That class featured former Columbia and NYAC wrestler, as well a major gift donor to the Lions and national proponent of the sport of wrestling, Andrew F. Barth '83CC, '85BUS.
At 149 pounds, Santos found his way to Saturday's final with a pair of falls in the first two rounds and a 4-2 decision in the semifinals over Cornell's Christopher Villalonga. In the finals, Santos took on Army's Daniel Young, an opponent he was 1-1 against in his collegiate career. After a slow start to the match, Santos began tallying the points and rode out the third period to a 7-2 victory. He becomes the first Columbia EIWA Champion since heavyweight Ryan Flores in 2009.
"I think the thing that separates Santos from other guys is how hard he competes," said Fronhofer after the tournament. "Steve understands that even though you may deserve to win that you still have to go out and take it."
"This is a real special moment as an individual and a team," commented Santos after the tournament. "We got four qualifiers to the NCAA's which is awesome. Everyone wrestled their hardest and as a senior its good to see all the hard work we put in in the room together come out on the mat here is a great feeling."
Eighth-seeded Bystol was the first Columbia wrestler on the mats in the finals Saturday afternoon, taking center stage against the second-seed, Randy Cruz from Lehigh. Cruz took the early 2-0 lead with a takedown and then was able to procure over 90 seconds of riding time in the opening period. He added an escape in the second, but Bystol made the point back when Cruz was docked for stalling. Bystol made numerous attempts to shoot in the third period, but Cruz recorded a late takedown and came away with the 6-1 decision. With only the top two at 133 pounds earning NCAA automatic qualifying bids, Bystol and Cruz will represent the EIWA in Des Moines, Iowa.
"It doesn't really matter which weight class you're in, you know your going to have to beat someone good, someone you're not suppose to beat," said Bystol regarding his victories over higher-ranked opponents.
Houldworth reached the finals after downing two higher-ranked opponents in Friday's first two sessions. The junior defeated second-seeded Corey Lear from Bucknell and sixth-seeded Nicholas Visicaro from Rutgers in the quarters and semis to earn his spot in Saturday's finals.
Houldsworth faced the toughest challenge of the day, going up against the top-ranked wrestler in the nation at 165 pounds, Cornell's Kyle Dake. Houldsworth showed his resiliency throughout the match, but Dake performed well in front of the favorable crowd, topping Houldsworth with a major decision.
"I've known how good he could be for three years, I just don't think he knew it and I think he realized it this year," commented Fronhofer on Houldsworth.
"This is what we've been working for all year, this tournament, to be able to make it to the NCAAs and now our goal is All-America," said Houldsworth on both his and the team's performance.
O'Hara and Navy's Bobby Barnhisel went head-to-head in a close third-place match, but it would be the Midshipman that walked off the mat with a 4-0 decision.
Columbia's final wrestler, Gottfried competed in the morning session Saturday across from Navy's Patrick Prada in the seventh-place match. In a rematch of the opening round match between the two, the result ended in similar fashion with Prada taking a 4-2 decision.
Columbia's four automatic qualifiers will now turn their attention to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa from March 21-23. The Lions will also be looking to add to that total when wildcard selections are announced by the NCAA on Wednesday.