The American University wrestling team (6-11) was defeated 31-6 by the Drexel Dragons (5-8) in the Eagles’ first match of a doubleheader at Bender Arena on Feb. 4. The Eagles’ only points came from freshman 157-pounder Kaden Milheim and graduate student heavyweight Will Jarrell.
The Drexel Dragons shut out the Morgan State Bears 43-0 at 11 a.m. prior to their dual with the Eagles. The meet began with a celebration of Black History Month and the “Black national anthem,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” played before “The Star Spangled Banner.” Despite having four normal starters unable to compete due to injury, the Eagles’ came into the match eager for a chance to wrestle against their conference rivals.
The 125-pound weight class kicked off the Drexel-American dual. AU junior Shamil Kalmatov faced off against Drexel redshirt sophomore Desmond Pleasant. Kalmatov was successful in his escapes each period, but Pleasant’s explosive speed produced four takedowns in his win with his added riding time points amounting to a 14-3 major decision. The major decision started off Drexel’s team points early with 4.
Juniors Max Leete and Jaxon Maroney faced off next in the 133-pound weight class. Leete began the first period with a takedown of Maroney, but the bout was soon delayed by several resets for out-of-bounds and false start warnings from the official. After some frustration at the referee from Drexel’s side of the mat, the first period ended in a 4-4 tie with both wrestlers having a 1-point escape and a 3-point takedown. The second period contained more warnings, and Maroney jumped up a point with an escape. With the advantage for Leete, he chose the down position to start the third period, attempting a comeback. He achieved a 2-point reversal with a crash onto the mat, and had the win until Maroney escaped to even the score 6-6 at the end of the period.
With the score tied, Leete and Maroney entered into sudden victory, where the first wrestler to take control would be crowned the winner. The crowd grew energized from the long bout’s exciting conclusion, but Maroney pinned Leete quickly. Leete’s impressive battle ended in a loss and 6 points added to Drexel’s team score.
Another close dual followed with the 141-pound bout between Eagle freshman Cael McIntyre and Dragon sophomore Jordan Soriano. The first period saw McIntyre and Soriano each earn a takedown and an escape, but the second period allowed McIntyre to take the lead when Soriano got a false start penalty. However, Soriano balanced the score again with a late escape. Circling each other, there were several close moments in the third period before a stalling penalty against American gave Soriano the lead in the third period. Soriano ended with enough riding time to win the match 6-4.
Another Eagle freshman, Gage Owen, stepped up to the mat next in the 149-pound class. His opponent was redshirt freshman Dom Findora, who started the match with a takedown. In the second period, Findora flipped the script on Owen’s dominant position, earning two points for a reversal. American coaches requested a review of the reversal, but the challenge failed and the points stood for Findora. Owen came back in the third period with a takedown, but officials soon waved it off and the frustration from American’s bench swelled, resulting in a warning from the referee. Findora won the match with a 9-2 decision, continuing Drexel’s dominance with a 16-0 lead.
The first team points for American came from Milheim’s win in the 157-pound class against Drexel redshirt senior Tyler Williams. Despite the age difference between the two wrestlers, they were equally matched between the first and second periods as no points were awarded. In the third period, Drexel held the advantage and Williams chose the down position to begin, earning an escape. Milheim did not allow his opponent to best him however, as he performed a takedown near the end of the period to secure the Eagles’ first points in his 3-1 win by decision.
The momentum was short-lived however, as AU redshirt junior 165-pound Ryan Zimmerman lost in a 17-2 technical fall to redshirt junior Cody Walsh in the bout that saw a stalling penalty called on American. Despite the Dragons’ win, a Drexel fan had some heated words on the official’s calls and was promptly ejected from Bender Arena.
The next match, in the 174-pound class, was between two redshirt sophomores – Lucas White for the Eagles and Jack Janda for the Dragons. The bout started off slow until the wrestlers exploded into action which quickly made them reset for going out of bounds. Going into the second period, the dual was scoreless, and the only points gained in regulation was a nice escape from White. Janda retained control for enough of the riding time to earn a point at the end of the third period and tie up the score and force sudden victory — the second time that day for the Eagles. The wrestlers were laser-focused in the sudden victory round and the crowd reached its loudest cheers of the meet, but Janda would soon perform a rough takedown of White to win individually while also securing the victory for Drexel, due to the now-impossible point difference.
When asked about the two sudden victory defeats of the day, head coach Jason Borrelli said, “The best way to improve on it is to not end up in overtime, to figure it out in regulation.”
Borrelli also commented that he was excited to work on those improvements with his wrestlers through watching film, getting healthy and preparing for the postseason, which is set to begin on March 8.
Continuing on for the 184-pound match, AU graduate student Brad Kata lost to redshirt freshman Ethan Wilson in a major decision 10-1 with Wilson performing two takedowns. The match saw the first instance of a dangerous positioning call resulting in a point awarded to Drexel.
Redshirt freshman Liam Volk-Klos began with a back-and-forth battle in the 197-pound class against Drexel’s junior Ibrahim Ameer. The second period ended with a 2-point deficit for Volk-Klos to strive to close going into the third, but Ameer quickly escaped from Volk-Klos’s hold and managed a takedown to win in an 11-5 decision.
In the final match of the day, team captain and AU graduate student Will Jarrell took down redshirt senior Santino Morina in a close dual that was tied at zero until Jarrell performed some third-period magic by performing an escape and securing enough riding time for a 3-0 decision victory to cap off the meet against Drexel.
With the team's defeat, the Eagles fell to a 0-3 record in the EIWA. Three true freshmen were able to compete in the match versus Drexel, which Borrelli said was “Good and exciting for us” as “it gives our other guys opportunities, our young guys.” Freshman Kaden Milheim’s victory was the first of his career.
The Eagles’ next dual is at Air Force on Feb. 11. They return home on Feb. 18 when they’ll face off against Queens University and Lindenwood for senior day celebrations.
“Our team is pretty resilient,” Borrelli said. “We’ll bounce back. We’ll be okay. And I’m excited.”
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks and Isabelle Kravis.