Two Bison punch their tickets to the NCAA tournament at EIWA’s

Roger Mellado, Contributing Writer

The Bison wrestling team had a strong showing Friday, Feb. 26 at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) championship tournament, which was held at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex in Manheim, Pa. The team put up 84.5 total points, earning them sixth place in the conference. Two Bison wrestlers and roommates stood out on the mat: Zach Hartman ’22 and Darren Miller ’23 both earned bids to the NCAA Tournament to compete with the best wrestlers in the country. 

Hartman came into the meet as one of the favored wrestlers in his weight class (165lbs). A two-time EIWA runner up, two-time national qualifier, and, prior to Friday, the eighth ranked wrestler in the country at 165 pounds, Hartman was ready to make his championship run. After handling his first bouts over Army and Drexel with ease, all Hartman had left in his sights was the wrestler who had forced him to take silver the year prior, Navy’s Tanner Skidgel. 

In true champion fashion, Hartman dominated yet again, beating Skidgel 9-0 with a majority of his points coming in dramatic fashion during the final period. Not only did Hartman finally earn his much anticipated gold finish, but he also won the coaches award for the EIWA’s Championship Meet Outstanding Wrestler. Hartman is only the fourth Bison to earn this coveted award, joining the prestigious ranks of none other than former Bison great and current assistant wrestling coach Kevin LeValley ’11.  

Hartman commented on his historic performance and the team’s struggles throughout this whole season. “I personally felt that it was a struggle for all of us because of the uncertainty throughout the entire year, but at the end of the day, we pulled our straps up and took each day as it came to the fullest. I prize my guys for pushing through the way that they did and I couldn’t have asked for more. We really grinded this season and although it didn’t result in favor for a lot of guys, I saw them put their mind and soul out there on the mat. We were there for each other throughout it all, and that’s what makes this team family,” Hartman said.

What is more impressive than his performance on the mat, is his dedication to his teammates and to being a leader in the Bison wrestling room.  “I honestly was more excited to see my roommate, Darren Miller, qualify for his first ever NCAA tournament than I was to win both my first championship and OW. It was a milestone for me to see one of my guys break through the way that he did, and it makes me genuinely happy as a leader. I prioritize leadership above everything, and so seeing that was the highlight of my tournament. It’s easy for me to keep myself in check and do what I do, but it’s more than anything to see one of my brothers finally break through. I’ve found out that you can’t do this alone, and so we are taking these next  two weeks to fully prepare not only our bodies, but our minds. It’s about family at the end of the day, and we share a bond like no other,” Hartman said.

Miller took the 133 pound division by storm. Miller came out hot after a first round loss to Navy’s Jacob Allen, going on a 4-0 run after his first round loss, securing a third place finish at the tournament, and punching his first ticket to the NCAA tournament. Miller will be joining Hartman on their business trip to the Enterprise center in St. Louis, Mo. on Mar. 18. 

Overall, the Bison Wrestling team entered the EIWA’s with a young line-up. The team only had two seniors, Matthew Kolonia ’21 149lbs and Frankie Guida Jr. ’21 at 174lbs, who led the charge. Following their lead were two juniors, Hartman at 165lbs and Brandon Seidman ’22 at 125 pounds. Following them were four sophomores Vincent Andreano ’23 (174), Jaden Fisher (157), Mason McCready ’23 (197), and Miller (133). Rounding up the herd were two newcomer freshmen Dorian Crosby ’24 (285) and Kurt Phipps ’24 (141). 

The future looks bright as the Bison’s regular season comes to a close and two of the herd begin to prepare for their individual postseason competitions. 

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