Whether referring to an individual bout, a single team match, or an entire season, Franklin & Marshall's wrestling program has had a knack for finishing strong. The 2018-19 campaign was no different as the Diplomats claimed their best Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) finish since 2016 and sent a wrestler to the NCAA Division I Tournament for the third time in the last four years.
The program's grit and determination were on full display at the 2019 EIWA Championships in early March when F&M produced three place winners - the most since 2016.
Antonio Pelusi '19 became the first heavyweight in Diplomat history to place at three EIWA's, securing his career-best finish of fourth - the highest for an F&M heavyweight since 1976. Wil Gil '21 took the 141-pound bracket by storm with a 4-2 record over the weekend to finish in fifth, while Paddy Quinlan '19 concluded a noteworthy career with a seventh-place showing.
As a team, F&M finished 12th out of 16 teams with 31 total points, placing ahead of such prestigious programs as Bucknell, Harvard, and Hofstra in the standings.
Pelusi's fourth-place showing clinched him an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships, which took place at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh from March 21-23. His third time qualifying for the sport's pinnacle Tournament was a feat unaccomplished by a member of his weight class throughout the program's 94-year history.
Gil's performance at the EIWA's caught the nation's attention and nearly earned him an at-large spot at NCAA's. He was selected as the first alternate for his weight class and made the trip to Pittsburgh, but unfortunately didn't receive his chance to compete.
Ending his career as one of the most decorated grapplers in F&M history, Pelusi fell to eventual national champion Anthony Cassar of Penn State before dropping a narrow decision to EIWA-rival Joey Goodhart of Drexel. The pair of defeats eliminated Pelusi from the Championships as he concluded his career with 85 wins, good for fifth on the Diplomats' all-time list.
The 2018-19 regular season had its share of ups and downs. When healthy, F&M's dual lineup displayed the ability to dominate. Never was that truer than at home against Davidson on Jan. 4 when the Diplomats blew out the Wildcats by a 35-4 score - the largest margin of victory over an opponent since 2014.
Four Diplomat wrestlers placed at the David H. Lehman F&M Open the following day - the most ever for the Diplomats at their home tournament. Quinlan and Pelusi led the way with second-place showings while Gil claimed sixth and Emmett LiCastri '20 secured fourth.
Gil paced F&M with a 29-12 record on the season and tied for 10th on the Diplomats' all-time season wins list. Pelusi was close behind with a career-best 27-10 mark and entrenched his name in the season record books as well in 14th. Quinlan also reached the 20-win plateau with a 20-14 overall record. He climbed up to 15th on the program's career wins list with a 69-56 record while in Lancaster and finished his career in eighth place with 23 pins.
Overall, nine Diplomats registered double-digit win totals while four wrestlers recorded five or more pins, including a team-leading eight by Philip Robilotto '19.
LiCastri and Reid Robilotto '20 were honored for their work in the classroom when both earned the EIWA Academic Achievement Award, reserved for student-athletes who have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.2 or above and participated in the 2019 EIWA Tournament.