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ITHACA, N.Y. - The Columbia wrestling team finished in second place at New York State Wrestling Championships with 152.5 points, as the 'A' tournament came to a close Saturday evening. Columbia placed in nine of ten weight classes, including three first-place finishes by Steve Santos (149 pounds), Jake O'Hara (157 pounds) and Stephen West (174 pounds).

"The guys wrestled great, we showed solid improvement from our nice performance at MSU," said Carl Fronhofer, the Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling after the tournament. "We got solid performances from our three captains once again."

No. 14/16 (AWN/Intermat) Santos entered the tournament as the top-seed at 149 pounds and he showed why with four straight wins. The Brick, N.J. product reached the semifinals with a pair of pins over Hofstra's Matt Spataro (1:08) and USMMA's Ian Nisley (3:27). The semifinal match proved much closer for Santos as Bobby Dierna from Cortland kept the match tight, but the Lions came out on the winning end of a 2-1 decision. Army's Daniel Young was Santos' final opponent of the day and he succumbed, 5-2, to give Columbia its first top-finisher of the day.

Similar to his 149- pound counterpart, No. 12/14 O'Hara began the tournament as the top-seed at 157 pounds. After bypassing Alfred State's Anthony Carome in the first round, O'Hara used a 6-4, SV1 decision to defeat Buffalo's Clay Reeb, setting up a semifinal matchup with Niagara's Irvin Buck. Buck was no match for O'Hara, falling via a major decision, 10-0. O'Hara made it two straight titles for Columbia, downing Cornell's Christopher Dowdy with an 11-5 decision.

No. 18/- West entered the NYSC as the three-seed at 174 pounds. In the opening round, West pinned Oneonta State's Anthony Paratore in 1:10 before taking a 5-3 decision over Binghamton's John Paris. The host school, Cornell, sent Marshall Peppelman out to challenge West in the semifinals, but the Columbia senior moved onto the finals with a 6-1 decision. In the finals, West blanked Hofstra's Jermaine John, 6-0, to capture the title.

Santos, O'Hara and West, all seniors, have now all won back-to-back titles to begin the year after each won its weight class in the open draw at the Michigan State Open last weekend.

At 197 pounds, Nick Mills represented the third Lion to reach the finals of his respective weight class. Mills opened the day with a pin (3:10) of Alfred State's Travis Harvey and then topped Cornell's William George, 5-3, to reach the semifinals. Cortland's Jared Myhrberg presented a tough challenge for Mills in the semifinal match, but the South Euclid, Ohio native made it to the finals with a 6-3 decision. Mills though, would settle for second after dropping the championship match to Cornell's Jace Bennett, the No. 1 seed.

"Nick had a good performance today, showing great improvement," commented Fronhofer.

At 165 pounds, Josh Houldsworth edged past Oswego's Blake Fisher, 8-7, in the opening round, before pinning USMMA's Brandon Yeik in 2:30 to reach the quarterfinals. A 7-2 decision over the three-seed, Kris Schimek from Niagara, moved Houldsworth onto the semifinals. Paul Hancock from Army came away with the victory over Houldsworth there, but the Columbia junior responded with an 11-4 decision over Hofstra's Nick Terdick to claim third.

Penn Gottfried (125 pounds) and Joe Moita (133 pounds) each placed fourth in the 'A' tournament. Gottfreid reach the quarterfinals of the main draw before being forced to the consolation draw, while Moita fell in the opening round and wrestled his way through the consolation draw to fourth.

"Joe Moita also competed well in his first collegiate tournament and Josh Houldsworth showed he can compete at his new weight, up from 149 pounds," stated Fronhofer Saturday night.

Drew Rebling (184 pounds) and Chris Manna (285 pounds) both also placed, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively.

Cornell won the 'A' tournament with 183.5 points, while Hofstra took third with 135.5 points.

Action continues in Ithaca tomorrow with the 'B' tournament at 9 a.m.


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