Competing in one of the nation's most-challenging and decorated conferences, and facing some of the toughest dual meet teams in the country throughout the 2017-18 season, Franklin & Marshall's wrestling team overcame hurdles and gutted out several impressive wins.
Antonio Pelusi '19 (285 pounds) secured his place as one of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association's (EIWA) best with a 4-2 record at the Championship Tournament to earn an automatic bid into the NCAAs with his fifth-place showing.
His qualification into the sports pinnacle tournament was the second of his career. He became just the 22nd wrestler in the history of the tournament to accomplish the feat and only the second heavyweight after joining Richard Vaughn (1939 and 1940).
Ranked No. 30 in the country, Pelusi once proved he belonged on the big stage, grinding his way to a 2-2 record at the NCAAs, including a 9-6 upset of No. 27 Brett Dempsey from American. His standout season came to a close with a 26-10 overall record, good for 17th in the single-season record book.
Pelusi provided stability for a young Diplomat dual lineup that showed continuous improvement throughout the year. F&M finished with a 4-11 overall record, however, the Diplomats closed out 2017-18 with three consecutive wins. A 22-17 victory, sealed by a first-period pin from 197-pounder Philip Robilotto '19, started the run, while a 24-15 victory over Millersville on Feb. 15 retained the Rupp Cup for the eighth year in a row.
The dual meet season was brought to a close with an exclamation point on Feb. 17 when seven wins in 10 bouts, including a trio of pins, keyed the Diplomats' most-dominant performance of the season in a 37-11 bashing of Sacred Heart.
At the EIWA Tournament from March 3-4 in New York, four Diplomats secured wins with Brett Kulp '21 (141 pounds), Emmett LiCastri '20 (157 pounds) and Josh Young '18 (174 pounds) all claiming consolation round wins to go along with Pelusi's fifth-place run.
Statistically, F&M had four members of its dual lineup tally a winning record. Following Pelusi's 26 wins, Kulp was next with a 19-14 record, including a 9-6 mark in duals. Freshman 149-pounder Wil Gil '21 went 18-17, registered a team-leading five pins, and garnered a first-place finish at the Messiah Open on Feb. 3. Young accumulated a 16-14 record and secured fifth place at the Wilkes Open on Dec. 22.
Tournament competition saw the Diplomats place a total of 16 times. Anthony Mancini '19 won 23 bouts, and Paddy Quinlan '19 was victorious in 21 matches after each Diplomat grappler competed unattached at open tournaments.
F&M grapplers stood out in the classroom as well with Edgar Garcia '18, LiCastri, and Young all earning EIWA Academic Achievement Awards, the most student-athletes the Diplomats have ever had make the list.