|EIWA Championship Notes for Sunday, March 5|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Tanner Garrett just wins and wins and wins
Navy's top performer this year has been its senior heavyweight Tanner Garrett, who earned a spot in the finals and was seeded No. 1 coming into the meet. Garrett is not known for his exciting wrestling, but has shown the ability to win, regardless of how the match looks to the fans.
"He's been consistent. Rock steady," said Navy coach Bruce Burnett. "He is not a gifted athlete. That is how it is with our team. Eight of our 10 guys are workhorses. They are plodders. They stay in good position all the time. Tanner isn't going to make any mistakes. He is just steady. You know what you are going to get from him. He is staying in his strong areas. You won't see anything flashy from him."
Garrett has held a high national ranking at his division all year, and has hopes of placing in the high medal standings at the NCAA this year.
"He has two losses coming in. One was to Cole Konrad of Minnesota in the finals of the Southern Scuffle. The other one he was winning 14-4 late in the match, shot a single and got pinned at the buzzer."
"He is a light 225, but he is very strong. Everybody who is successful in this level have a special gift. For him, it is good hips and strong hands."
A senior, he has a military career ahead of him, going into the Navy SEALS after graduation.
Harvard's four finalists has Crimson fans smiling
Harvard wrestling fans are excited about how the team has stepped up this year, placing four athletes in the gold-medal finals. Coach Jay Weiss can't remember ever having four finalists during his tenure there, even during the year that Harvard won the EIWA Tournament.
Wrestling during the gold-medal finals are Robbie Preston at 133 pounds, Max Meltzer at 141 pounds, freshman Andrew Flanagan at 157 pounds and Bode Ogunwale at 285 pounds.
"I'm excited. They were all top three seeds, so getting to the finals is the goal. The last three weeks they have wrestled their best," said Harvard coach Jay Weiss.
Weiss can't say enough about his wrestlers, not only as athletes, but also as people.
"Bode is pre-med and has a heavy workload, a super kid. He and Meltzer are our co-captains, and there is a reason for it. They are true leaders. Flanagan can beat a lot of people. He is a dangerous wrestler, and is getting man-strength. Preston can beat anybody on any given day. They are super kids. They are even better people than wrestlers," said Jay Weiss.
Harvard often has had challenges during the regular dual meet season, as the program lacks some of the depth that is necessary for consistent performances. However, the post-season is what Weiss and his staff have worked hard to prepare for, and it is now making a difference.
"It's hard in our dual season. We get banged some time, and have to give up six points sometimes. However, we do everything for this weekend and for the NCAAs. It is what my program does, and what the school allows me as far as admissions," said Weiss.
Jesse Jantzen won a NCAA title for Harvard, and helped put the program on the map on a national scale. The program is now recruiting more talented athletes who are also dedicated to the academic opportunities there.
"Jesse elevated the program. He showed now we can put guys on the blue mat at the NCAA finals. We live for the EIWAs and NCAAs," said Weiss.
Army vs Navy battles always get intense
One of the final matches in the consolation rounds at the EIWA Tournament was a third-place match between of Charles Martin of Army and Charles Pogue of Navy at 197 pounds. The match was close and intense, with Martin scoring a 6-4 victory. The Army coaches celebrated with their athlete after the match, because winning an interservice showdown is always very important to both programs.
"That's the fourth time they have wrestled in three weeks," said Army coach Chuck Barbee. "It was nip and tuck each time. I think their record is 2-2. There is always a lot of intensity and there is a lot on the line. I am very proud of him. He's a kid who didn't even go to the Pennsylvania state meet, and he was a second teamer with us."
Barbee gets excited every time his team faces Navy, in dual meets and in tournaments.
"It is like any other great rivalry. You have national goals and objectives and you have rivalry goals and objectives. We haven't won them all yet, but we are working on them," said Barbee.
Army and Navy are very close in the standings here at the EIWA, with Navy in fourth and Army in fifth, with less than a 10 point difference going into last session. Barbee is very proud of his team's effort for many reasons.
"This team has faced more adversity. They lost a teammate to a drunk driver and we lost five wrestlers to season-ending knee surgeries. I couldn't be more proud of them. To wrestle back in the consolation rounds shows a lot of fortitude," said Barbee.
Over the Thanksgiving break, one of the team's starters, Tony Severo, went home to Pennsylvania for the holiday, and was killed in an auto accident in which a drunk driver caused his death.
"We have a tight team to begin with. This was a challenge to the max. The team bonded together and made it happen this year," said Barbee.