PRINCETON, N.J. – Rick Durso won the second Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championship of his career; Antonio Pelusi secured fifth place to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and Scott Stevens took eighth at 133 to cap off one of the most successful conference championships for Franklin & Marshall in recent memory.
The trio of Diplomats guided F&M to a 12th-place finish out of 16 teams with 36.5 points, finishing ahead of Hofstra, Sacred Heart and Brown. Cornell registered 170.5 points to earn the team title, followed by Lehigh in second (160 points) and Bucknell in third (84 points). Complete results can be found here.
Durso, now a four-time NCAA Qualifier, and Pelusi punched their tickets to the upcoming Tournament, taking place at historic Madison Square Garden on March 17-19, by grabbing automatic bids in their respective weight classes. It marked the first time since 1994 that the Diplomats are sending multiple wrestlers to the NCAAs.
The 141-pound title marked his second title, with the other coming in 2013, and fourth time in Durso's career he placed at the EIWAs. The milestone was also the 10th time in program history a Diplomat captured a conference championship. He reached the first-place match with a 7-4 decision over Princeton's Jordan Laster (No. 5) in the semifinals, clinching the win with a takedown in the closing seconds.
Facing off against Harvard's Todd Preston (No. 2 seed, No. 10 in the nation) in the finals for the second time this season, Durso (No. 11 in the nation) once again found success against the Crimson standout. Preston registered an early first-period takedown, but a reversal and pair of nearfall points gave Durso a lead he would not relinquish en route to the 7-4 decision victory.
Pelusi continued to defy the odds in one of the conference's toughest weight classes, snagging one of the six automatic bids at 285 with a redemption win against Drexel's Joseph Goodhart (No. 8) in the consolation round of four. Goodhart had taken the previous two meetings between the heavyweights during the 2015-16 season, however, with a takedown in sudden victory, Pelusi grabbed the win that mattered the most with a 4-2 thriller.
In his next match, Pelusi was pinned by the No. 3 seed Mike Hughes of Hofstra at 1:07, placing the Diplomats' grappler in the battle for fifth against Cornell's Jeramy Sweaney (No. 4). Two takedowns and a pair of nearfall points in a high scoring second period propelled Pelusi into the final frame with a 7-1 advantage. Sweaney fought back with a pair of takedowns to pull within two, but Pelusi hung on for the 9-7 decision to secure fifth place.
Scott Stevens (133) fought hard against No. 3 seeded Angelo Amenta of Columbia, but ultimately fell by a 4-1 decision in the consolation round of four. In the battle for seventh, Stevens was edged out by Drexel's David Pearce (No. 4) in a 7-1 match and was awarded eighth in the weight class.
The weekend's results marked the first time since 2012 that F&M had three wrestlers place at the Championships. Brackets for the NCAA Championship will be released on Wednesday evening and will be made available here.