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EIWA Newsletter: ARMY WINS!

EIWA Newsletter: ARMY WINS!

Excerpt from the EIWA Newsletter on Army-Navy and EIWA Tickets

Army Edges Navy in 2024 Star Match

Austin Sommer, EIWA Sports Information Director

The Army Navy rivalry may be the greatest rivalry in all of collegiate sports. This is no different in wrestling. The annual matchup occurred this past Friday night. Army claimed the victory by a tight 18-17 score, coming down to the wire. This was the first win for Army over their archrival since 2020. Even though Navy leads the all-time series between the two in dominating fashion 52-11-5, this year’s bragging rights belong to the Black Knights of Army West Point. The Star Series is the name of the yearly game in every sport between the two academies throughout the collegiate seasons. The biggest star game is the famous football game held every December. Each athletic competition has a similar rivalry – each one as heated as the others.

Coming into the match, Army Head Coach Kevin Ward and his squad were considered underdogs on paper. “We knew we needed an upset somewhere – especially with the match being at Navy” Ward stated. He continued, ‘We knew it would be a tight dual where every point matters. We had to give extraordinary effort.” Coach Ward was persistent, and always has been, about why dual meets are great for the sport. His claim that “Every person has a chance to be a hero in a dual meet” is an intriguing idea. In a tournament format, you typically have to win a bunch of matches, sometimes over a span of multiple days. In a dual meet, you can be a hero by performing great in one match.

The dual meet started at 157lbs, where Coach Ward and staff love to start. Senior, Nate Lukez began the match with a major decision for Army. The returning NCA qualifier did his job. The Black Knights were up 4-0 after one bout. The next bout is where one of the “heroes” showed up. The 23rd ranked freshman, Gunner Filipowicz, upset 16th ranked Andrew Cerniglia. Cerniglia came into the match with a 15-bout winning streak and has been on fire this entire semester. Coach Ward stated the obvious saying “This was a huge win for Gunner.” The other positive remarks about Gunner from coach included, “His output is always high. He competes with a ton of effort. He’s fun to watch, and coach, because there’s always action in his matches.” Ward smirked when he mentioned “Sometimes, maybe he should do a little less. But he’s so tough to wrestle because of it.”

The lead was now 7-0 in favor of Army. They had Ben Pasiuk up next. His 15th ranking in the nation, and being a senior leader gives the team so much confidence in him. He won by decision over Navy’s tough freshman, and 27th ranked, Danny Wask. This made the lead 10-0, but it did not last long. Navy rallied off three straight wins at 184lbs, 197lbs, and 285lbs. The heavyweight bout, although a loss for Army’s Lucas Stoddard, brought some positivity to the staff. Stoddard is a freshman holding a national ranking of 27th. He took last year’s EIWA champion, Grady Griess, to the brink. He lost a heartbreaker in sudden victory after a locked hands call with short time remaining in regulation sent the match to overtime. The locked hands call came after a Navy challenge, and the review took nearly five minutes to complete. Stoddard’s improvement since November has been incredible. “Being in position to win that match was a positive step for Lucas. He’s right there against a very quality opponent” Ward said about his heavyweight.

Army got back on track at the next two weights with #32 Ethan Berginc at 125lbs and #31 Braden Basile at 133lbs. Berginc had a technical fall while Basile (another freshman) defeated Brendan Ferretti. Ferretti was an NCAA qualifier a season ago after placing fourth at EIWA’s. Coach Ward mentioned “Ethan getting bonus was huge, and Braden won a toss-up we needed over an NCAA qualifier in Ferretti. Everyone stepped up. It was a great effort overall.”

Army led 18-9 heading into the final two bouts. The match was far from over, as Navy’s highest ranked wrestler was stepping onto the mat at 141lbs. Josh Koderhandt is a multiple time NCAA qualifier, ranked 14th in the country. His job was to go out and earn bonus points for the Midshipmen. Army’s Logan Brown somewhat limited the damage, only giving up a major decision. Army’s lead was 18-13 heading into the final bout. Navy needed a tech fall to tie and a pin to win. Navy’s Kaemen Smith ended up with a nine-point major decision victory. He had Army’s Matt Williams on his back, but failed to get the pin. Much of the Navy crowd was in shock that a pin was not called. This controversy (depending on who you ask) may have been the perfect way to end this rivalry dual.

Regarding the overall experience, Coach Ward explained “Navy does a great job creating a great atmosphere. There was a lot of energy in that building.” This is what makes dual meets fun, especially a dual meet of this caliber. ‘Personally, I have a lot of respect for the dual. I appreciate being involved.’ He then said, with a chuckle, “it’s the ultimate military appreciation night – and you don’t need to wear camo to prove it.”

I’m going to steal a quote that Army West Point Assistant Coach, Scott Green, states multiple times a season. “It’s bigger than wrestling.” This encapsulates this dual and rivalry perfectly.

Looking back on the season, Army has come a long way since November. “I believe we are good enough to be a top 20 or 25 team” Coach Ward stated confidently. Their lone loss in EIWA duals was to #15 Lehigh, whom was undefeated against EIWA competition. The dual came down to one takedown making the difference. They have senior night coming up against American this weekend to end the dual meet season.

Looking into March, Army will be in the mix to be a top-5 team in the EIWA, potentially even higher. Understanding that most of his guys are ranked from 20th to 33rd, Coach Ward was not quite sure how many wrestlers will make the national championships. “We can have anywhere from two through seven or eight qualifiers to NCAAs. But, I can guarantee we will wrestle hard no matter the outcome. We will focus on getting better and performing our best when it matters most.” If the team performs like they are capable of, wrestling fans can expect to see “a small army” competing in Kansas City at the NCAA Championships in mid-March.

Army 18 – Navy 17
157: Nate Lukez (Army) 11-1 over Jonathan Ley (Navy), M. Decision
165: Gunner Filipowicz (Army) 5-4 over Andrew Cerniglia (Navy), Decision
174: Ben Pasiuk (Army) 7-3 over Danny Wask (Navy), Decision
184: David Key (Navy) 4-1 over Dillon Sheehy (Army), Decision
197: Cael Crebs (Navy) 7-1 over Wolfgang Frable (Army), Decision
285: Grady Griess (Navy) 7-2 over Lucas Stoddard (Army), S.V. Decision
125: Ethan Berginc (Army) 18-3 over Dayton DelViscio (Navy), Tech. Fall
133: Braden Basile (Army) 5-4 over Brendan Ferretti (Navy), Decision
141: Josh Koderhandt (Navy) 13-3 over Logan Brown (Army), M. Decision 149: Kaemen Smith (Navy) 17-8 over Matthew Williams (Army), M. Decision

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