Steven Graziano’s wrestling season got off to a frustrating start. But since the calendar turned to 2012, he’s left his struggles behind.
Riding a seven-match winning streak, Graziano (15-6) has energized the team and provided stability at the heavyweight position, which was a question mark for the Quakers entering the season.
Even more impressive than the streak itself, though, is who he’s beaten along the way.
Avenging three losses from early-season tournaments and dual matches, Graziano has defeated Harvard’s David Ng, Hofstra’s Paul Snyder and Rider’s Evan Craig.
The Steven Graziano they faced the second time around bore little resemblance to their first opponent.
After wrestling almost exclusively at 197 pounds last season, Graziano was called up to heavyweight only after regular starter and last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year Kyle Cowan went down to a season-ending shoulder injury.
The initial adjustment proved difficult against significantly larger competition, but Graziano adjusted as the season wore on.
“He’s definitely training harder and [is] more focused in practice,” coach Rob Eiter said. “But mainly his attitude has been great … he steps out on the mat and he knows he’s [going to] win, and that’s half the battle right there.”
Graziano certainly needed his newfound attitude to work in his favor during his most recent match.
With the Quakers facing an 18-16 deficit heading into the final match Saturday, Graziano needed to notch a victory to secure a team win over Columbia on Senior Day at the Palestra.
Complicating matters, his opponent was 2011 NCAA qualifier Kevin Lester, who had a 30-pound weight advantage.
Wrestling aggressively to counteract the size difference, Graziano scored the winning takedown in the final seconds of the third period to seal the match and the contest for the Red and Blue.
For his effort, Graziano was named the EIWA Wrestler of the Week — no small honor for a man who spent over a month out of the starting lineup from November to December with a shoulder injury.
Since his return to the lineup, though, Graziano has developed a working strategy that has helped him keep him undefeated since Dec. 28.
“I’m a little bit more athletic, a little bit faster than these guys,” said Graziano of wrestling heavyweights. “If I can utilize my speed and athleticism, I can try to pull out a win. It’s been working and I’m gonna keep sticking with that.”
If it keeps working, Graziano may find himself wrestling on the NCAA’s biggest stage sooner rather than later.
Graziano is already slated to wrestle in the EIWA Regional Tournament, and it looks increasingly likely that he will be at top seed.
With a strong performance at Regionals, Graziano could earn an at-large bid to wrestle at the National Championships in St. Louis.
For now, it’s all a matter of maintaining positive momentum.
“At Conferences, they’ve got some good guys,” Graziano said. “I’m looking to go in, get an upset, turn some heads and go on to NCAAs in a good position.”