PLYMOUTH, N.H. – With five wrestlers placing in the top four in their weight classes, the Plymouth State College wrestling team brought home third place from the New England College Conference Wrestling Association Championships last weekend in Bristol, R.I.
Plymouth State had six individual placers overall, including one individual champion and three others who finished runner-up. PSC scored 97.5 points, behind two-time champion Springfield College (186) and second-place Norwich (157.5) and comfortably ahead of fourth-place Western New England College (73.5). The tournament, which ended Sunday night, was held at Roger Williams University.
Senior Brian Borkowski (Sabattus, ME) earned the Panthers’ only individual title, winning his second crown at 158 pounds, while three PSC wrestlers placed second – sophomore Ben Baker (Gardiner, ME) at 167, junior Ryan Carr (Salem, NH) at 190, and senior Dave Lucia (Haverhill, MA) in the 275-pound weight class. Junior Russ Pamulak (Indianola, IA) placed fourth at 177 pounds, and junior Todd Oljey (Byfield, MA) finished sixth at 142.
The Panthers were strongest in the heavier weight classes, with five of the place-winners coming at 158 pounds and heavier. In fact, in the bottom five weight classes, PSC placed first, second, fourth, second and second, but got hurt with only one sixth place finish in the lighter weight classes.
"Everyone wrestled very well," said PSC third-year head coach Dave Carlson. "We wrestled to our potential, and everyone we had there won at least one match and made a contribution to the team score. That’s never happened since I’ve been here. I’m very proud of that. We also had the highest number of finalists we’ver ever had (four). Even the year we won it (’96), we only had three finalists."
Borkowski continued his sensational season, remaining undefeated for the year by capturing the New England 158 pound title for the second straight season. He went 5-0 in the tournament, improving to a remarkable 30-0 this season and 95-20 in his career, and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. Borkowski, who is ranked fourth nationally at 158 pounds, defeated Norwich’s Dave Hamel in the New England title match, 10-5. Hamel is ranked sixth nationally.
"Brian wrestled extremely well," said Carlson. "He dominated all five of his opponents, just as he has all year. I believe, with a little luck, he’ll be in contention for a national title."
Joining Borkowski at the NCAA meet will be Dave Lucia, who received a wild-card selection and will make his second appearance in three years at the national meet. The New England 275-pound title came down to Lucia, ranked seventh nationally, and Springfield’s Joe Gabourey, who’s ranked fourth nationally. Lucia defeated Gabourey 7-1 in a semi-final match, but Gabourey came back through the wrestle-backs and met Lucia in the finals, where Gabourey won, 3-1 in overtime, to earn the title. Lucia finished the tournament with a 4-1 record, and takes a 24-4 record to the NCAAs.
"This is the best I’ve seen him (Lucia) wrestle all season," said Carlson. "I believe he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in, and he’s in better condition than anyone he’ll see at the NCAAs. He’s a strong All-America candidate."
Carr fell just shy of winning the 190 pound weight class, finishing runner-up for the second straight year. He advanced to the finals, but was forced to default to Mike Gaydos of Springfield with a broken foot. Carr finishes his season with a 17-11 overall record.
Baker also advanced to the finals before his chance at a 167-pound New England title ended. He was defeated in the finals by Springfield’s John Roden, and finished the tournament with a 3-2 record. Baker had top finishes at two other tournaments this season, and finishes with a 19-11 overall record.
Pamulak placed fourth in perhaps the toughest weight class in the tournament, 177 pounds. The champion, Jason Venne of Norwich, defeated Lance Baden of WPI, who was ranked No. 1 in the nation. Pamulak went 4-2 in the tournament, completing an outstanding season at 28-12.
Oljey became a New England place-finisher for the second straight season, placing sixth after finishing third a year ago. He drew a first-round bye and won his first match, but dropped the next two and settled for sixth. After missing the first semester with an injury, Oljey finishes the season at 12-7 and improves his career mark to 52-32.
PSC’s other competitors at the New Englands included sophomore Nick Volpe (Holmdel, NJ), who went 2-2 at 126 pounds and wrapped up his season with a 12-19 record; sophomore Mike DeRoehn (Warren, NH) at 134 pounds, who finished the tournament 2-2 and completed his season at 13-19; and sophomore Shawn Kain (Lakeville, MA), who won one of three matches and finishes the season 13-16.
The Panthers completed the dual matches with a 10-8-1 record. Borkowski and Lucia will compete at the NCAA Division III Championships on Mar. 6-7, at Cedar Falls, Iowa.