By Claire Olderman
This past Saturday, 17 members of the John Carroll University wrestling team attended the 45th annual Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Invitational and came away with better results than a year ago – a sign that the young Blue Streak team is maturing and making strides toward becoming the team they aspire to be.
Competing against eight other colleges, including two rivals in Baldwin-Wallace College and Case Western Reserve University, John Carroll placed fifth out of nine teams. Last year, the team took sixth of 10 teams.
“We placed fifth, which was better than last year,” said junior Vinny Pizzuli. “Overall, I think we did pretty well.”
The tournament started at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and kicked off with JCU’s 125-pound sophomore John Cobos and ended close to 6 p.m. when senior heavyweight Tim Lambert wrapped things up. Undoubtedly a long day, it was well worth it for a team trying to find itself early in the season.
“RIT was a good day for us,” junior captain Bryan Steinmetz said. “It was our first tournament with Division III teams so a lot of our newer guys got their first wins of the season.”
Some Blue Streaks were yet to get in the win column in 2010 after the season started with matches against Division I Cleveland State University and participation in the Catholic Invitational Tournament – an event that had some Division II teams in the field.
JCU’s only Division III opponent all year had been Case Western last week, a match which the Blue Streaks easily won 32-13.
Senior Kevin Nycz, who wrestled at 133 pounds, echoed Steinmetz’s feelings toward the rewards of the weekend.
“It’s a good way to get the freshman wrestlers to get winning matches in and start to build confidence,” he said.
JCU racked up 84 points, only 10 points shy of Baldwin-Wallace. SUNY Cortland took home the top spot with 148.5 points.
The Invitational was the last match of the semester for the boys, which leaves them looking forward to their annual trip to Florida during Christmas break.
“We take about 22 or 23 guys, based on who earns the trip through offseason workouts, our team fundraising, attitude and work ethic,” said Steinmetz.
Those who qualify for the trip hop on a bus to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for a two-day competitive tournament, the Florida Citrus Invitational, which begins on Dec. 29. Afterwards, the team heads to Key West to train.
“We perform two-a-day workouts between wrestling, lifting and running. Then we spend the rest of the day on the beach, or playing cornhole as a team,” said Steinmetz.
The Florida trip is something that the team looks forward to all year – and then spends quite some time afterwards reminiscing about.
It’s certainly a time for the team to come together, but a trip that is taken seriously within the program. It’s a time-honored tradition for Blue Streak wrestlers, and team leaders show the younger guys “the Blue Streak way.”
“We have veteran guys like Tim Lambert, who have stepped up to take leadership over the upperweights, and Kevin Nycz in the lower weight classes. Then juniors Sean Gill, Vinny Pizzuli, Connor Suba and I fill the leadership positions throughout the rest of the lineup,” said Steinmetz.
The hard workouts and struggle to cut weight to maintain their eligibility help form a bond within the team, and the Florida trip goes a long way in bringing the team closer together.
“The team is like one big family and they’re great to be around. Everyone gets along and it’s always fun. We learn a lot about our team,” said Pizzuli.