Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Club sports spotlight: UMass club wrestling shines on the national stage

(Courtesy of UMass Club Wrestling)

When one walks by room 118 of the Recreation Center, sometimes there’s people stretching and doing yoga, while other days there are men and women dressed in all-white gear practicing their fencing techniques.

But on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, the activity room becomes home to some of the best wrestlers in not only the school or region, but the entire country.

The University of Massachusetts club wrestling team is a co-ed organization that competes within the Northeast Conference of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association. Though only a club sport, it has multiple standout athletes that have effectively built a threatening reputation for UMass in the club wrestling world.

“We’ve had a rebuilding season this year, we have three seniors so we had a lot of young freshman come in,” said senior captain Greg Williams. “It’s been fun trying to raise them up and teach them how to take over the club.”

Although Williams said UMass is reloading this year, the team’s results in the NCWA Northeast Conference championship at the University of New Hampshire on Feb. 27 said otherwise.

In a fierce competition that included more than 13 schools including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Connecticut, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Maine and Northeastern among others, Williams himself earned the 141-pound conference champion title.

Williams isn’t the only standout on the team either.

Junior Billy Martin placed fifth in the 125-pound conference tournament, senior captain Sean O’Connor placed seventh at 141 pounds and freshman Jordon Balskus placed eighth in the 157-pound class.

The trio of Williams, O’Connor and Balskus continued their success at the NCWA Championships in Kissimmee, Florida starting on March 10, where they competed against wrestlers from more than 100 different schools from all over the nation.

Williams went 2-2 with wins over wrestlers from Grand Canyon University and Maine. O’Connor and Balskus, the latter who was one of the few freshmen to attend nationals out of all wrestlers, both went 0-2 in their respective weight classes.

Both Williams and O’Connor ended their UMass wrestling careers as three-time national qualifiers.

“We compete against a lot of teams that do have coaches and are real programs, so it’s kind of hard to push yourself and learn new moves,” Williams said. “You miss that structure a bit.”

On the women’s side, there has been a significant increase in female participation over the past few years, with this past season seeing the most significant growth.

“When I came in as a freshman, there was one senior girl. The next year, I was the only girl. This year, we had five girls who attended nationals and even more who stopped by practice,” senior captain Cassie Corey said. “It’s been really great to see the women’s team grow.”

Along with Corey, Sara Andresen, Michelle MacDavid, Aly Bruneault and Natalie Saloio all competed at nationals. The Minutewomen finished in fourth place behind teams that all came equipped with a coach and a full-funded program.

Andresen, who earned an All-American title last year, battled a reigning national champion and placed fourth out of eight girls in her weight class, just one spot away from achieving her second All-American title.

Corey finished second out of six in her weight class, making her only the second woman in the NCWA to be a four-time All-American. Her performance at nationals also earned her her third year of being an academic All-American.

The women’s team will attend a freestyle tournament at Springfield Technical Community College hosted by their women’s team on April 9. Last year, roughly 97 women from all across New England showed up, and this year more than 100 wrestlers are expected.

“It will be a great opportunity for our girls to experience freestyle wrestling, which is one of the kinds of wrestling done at the Olympic level,” Corey said.

The ultimate goal for the club wrestling program is to expand and gain more attention throughout the campus. With more notice to their program and with a hefty amount of new members it could become a fully funded program in the future.

“Well, I’m a senior this year so my season’s done,” Williams said. “But I’m looking forward to watching the team grow in the coming years.”

Mollie Walker can be reached at [email protected].

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