The American University wrestling team (1-5) fell to the Hofstra University Lions (2-2) 27-13 but notched their first win of the year against the Duke University Blue Devils (3-4) 22-18 during a Dec. 5 tri-meet in Bender Arena.
The Eagles won their first three consecutive matches against Duke with gritty wins by freshmen Andy Fallon and Jack Maida along with sophomore 141-pounder Ethan Szerencsits. The Blue Devils then went on to win four of the next five matches.
With three matches left, the Eagles’ lead shrunk to 16-12. It was then that the 165-pound redshirt junior, Tim Fitzpatrick, trotted to the center of the mat to face off against Duke’s 184-pounder, Vincent Baker. Fitzpatrick, who found himself wrestling up two weight classes, came in clutch for the Eagles, earning a 6-3 decision over Baker to extend the lead to 19-12.
“Tim’s a great leader for us and a state qualifier,” head coach Jason Borrelli said. “So when we talked about it [wrestling up two weight classes] with him before the duals, he had no problems. Tim challenges himself with a lot of 184 pounders in our room. So I knew the size wouldn’t be something that would mentally get in his way,” Borrelli said.
Sophomore heavyweight Isaac Righter clinched the win in the final match for the Eagles. Righter defended a late takedown attempt in the third period against junior Jonah Niesenbaum, winning his match 5-3 and giving coach Borrelli his first win as American University’s head coach, 22-18.
“Our guys showed a lot of resilience,” Borrelli said. “Our attitude is to remain positive despite any setbacks or heartbreaking losses. Our guys stay positive and they keep coming to practice eager and hungry. I think that mentality pays off and I’ve shared that message with them.”
Hofstra, who beat both AU and Duke at the tri-meet, handily beat AU 27-13, but not without controversy. Fitzpatrick’s match saw three sudden-death overtime periods and two coach’s challenges before its conclusion. Two controversial calls went against Fitzpatrick, one reversed takedown and one non-takedown in which Borrelli’s challenge was upheld. Fitzpatrick eventually lost 2-1.
“I thought we had a takedown,” Borrelli said. “We had both legs. The guy was on his hip. He was defenseless other than holding his [Fitzpatrick’s] toe. That shouldn’t negate the takedown but unfortunately, the referee didn't see it that way.”
Despite the loss to Hofstra, Borrelli said the Eagles should be proud of performing under pressure.
“Sometimes people don’t see the struggle that programs and individuals go through,” Borrelli said. “They just see the end result and they think that people just get there. In reality, there’s a lot of hard work but also a lot of setbacks that go into being great.”
The next time the Eagles take the mat will be on Dec. 19 in Nevada at the all-day Reno Tournament of Champions.