As the wrestling postseason approaches, it’s time for the Quakers to embrace their inner Terrell Owens and become a little bit selfish.
While a “me-first” mentality may seem counter intuitive, it makes much more sense if you know what is at stake at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships.
The EIWA tournament will be held at Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena this Saturday and Sunday, and will feature 13 teams all fighting for the season crown.
However, while each team will be looking to place as high as possible, each individual wrestler will have his own interests in mind, looking to earn a spot in the NCAA Championships, which will take place later this month.
The NCAA determines how many automatic bids each conference is given. The EIWA was awarded 41 bids this year, which will be divided among the 10 weightclasses.
Wrestlers can also make the tourney if they obtain an at-large bid, but that selection is made by the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee and is out of the grappler’s control.
So if junior Scott Giffin — whose 174-pound weightclass has four automatic qualifiers — wants to ensure a trip back to the NCAAs, he will have to place within the top four at EIWAs.
The co-captain looks primed to secure one of those spots after coming off arguably his best match all season.
In a dual meet against Lehigh, the then-No. 19 Giffin upset No. 16 Robert Hamlin 12-5, coming just one point shy of a major decision.
“Beating Hamlin was just a big confidence-booster, knowing that I could beat some of these better guys in the country and actually proving it,” Giffin said.
While Giffin’s spirits may be high, he will still be faced with a tough weightclass that includes both Hamlin and Cornell’s No.1 Mack Lewnes.
Also wrestling in a challenging weightclass will be senior No. 16 Matt Dragon. After battling a nagging shoulder injury all season, the co-captain will be put to the test in a 157-pound weightclass that features three of the top seven grapplers in the nation.
Still, Dragon has been here before. The co-captain, who Coach Rob Eiter believes is “capable of beating anybody” is a two-time EIWA champion.
On the flip side, someone who has not been in this position, but is looking to make some noise is sophomore Mark Rappo (125).
Rappo has not faced perhaps his three toughest competitors — Cornell’s No. 2 Troy Nickerson, Rutgers’ No. 19 Joe Langel and American’s No. 20 Jasen Borshoff — yet he is confident that he will be right there in the mix.
“I feel like I’m very capable of beating both Langel and Borshoff,” Rappo said. “Right now … the goal is set to be in the finals.”
But while many of the Quakers will be focusing on top finishes to punch their tickets to Omaha, Neb., for the NCAAs, the EIWAs are still, after all, a team competition.
The Quakers finished tied for third in last year’s event, but in an improved conference that currently features three top-25 teams, it will be a challenge to duplicate last year’s finish.
“It’s probably going to be one of the toughest EIWAs in a long time,” Eiter said.
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