(PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN GRIFFIN / STONYBROOK.EDU)
The Stony Brook club wrestling team, under the direction of coach Alex Blank, headed to Madison Square Garden last weekend to face the Montclair State Red Hawks at the third annual Grapple at the Garden. This is the team’s first season without former Head Coach Shaun Lally, who took on a position at Muhlenberg College in October. (PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN GRIFFIN / WWW.STONYBROOK.EDU)

Last Saturday, Stony Brook’s club wrestling team took to the mats at arguably the grandest stage of the year, Madison Square Garden, to take on the Montclair State in a dual-meet at the third annual Grapple at the Garden. Despite a fast start, the Seawolves fell to the Red Hawks by a final score of 39-15.

“It’s nothing like any of us had ever seen before,” SBU wrestling coach Alex Blank said. “Walking into a place like Madison Square Garden, you know, just the arena itself is incredible and noteworthy. It presents a whole new take on the sport. Not to mention, you’re mixed in there with top-tier D1 teams. I feel like our guys were appropriately stressed throughout the whole day, being able to focus on what they needed to do and being able to take in the experience that they had.”

Freshman Eric Overton tried to build strong momentum early, winning his 125-pound bout by a score of 5-4 after successful takedowns in the first two periods.

“I give Eric Overton a world of credit,” Blank said. “If we were to have a first semester MVP, he would be it on the mat because [Eric] never stops working, both in and out of the classroom. He is always focused on getting better.”

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Stony Brook hit a tough stretch from then on, beginning with sophomore club president, Jonathan Crespo, losing his match after a second period reversal and subsequent cradle for a pin by Montclair State to win the 133-pound bout.

Bouts three and four were forfeited by Stony Brook due to a lack of wrestlers at the 141-pound and 149-pound weight classes.

Freshman Darren Sergnese, 157 pounds, was pinned within two minutes of the fifth bout after an early takedown, and three back points were awarded to Montclair State.

Junior Shaun Holliday, 165 pounds, followed with a 4-7 decision loss, with all four points being awarded from escapes. Scott Dunkirk, a 174-pound junior, could not break the streak, as he was pinned after a reversal in the second period.

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“It wasn’t that they wrestled poorly or that they were underprepared, it was more in just of terms of that they ran into a tough opponent,” Blank said. “They will continue to put in the work in the practice room.”

Stony Brook found bright spots on the day in the forms of junior Preston Garrick, 184 pounds, and freshman Connor Watson, 197 pounds. The two successfully recorded back-to-back pins, both in the first period of their respective bouts, with Garrick’s coming in only 24 seconds.

“It’s very tough. I was a lightweight, so I’m glad I never had to deal with that, but I give those guys more credit,” Blank said in response to a question pertaining to the difficulty of wrestling when the match has already been lost. “Those two guys were very focused on what they wanted from the day and they went out there and took it.”

The Seawolves were not able to end on a high note, as 285-pound Peter Lannon was pinned in the final bout, wrapping up a 39-15 Montclair State victory.

This has been Stony Brook’s first semester in two years without Head Coach Shaun Lally, who left in October for a Muhlenberg College coaching position.

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“Losing a guy like Coach Lally, you know, is a blow, just in the sense that he did so much for the program, in terms of building it up, giving it notoriety amongst the wrestling community,” Blank said.

Despite losing such an integral and influential member of the staff, Blank remains optimistic and confident about the rest of the season.

“We’re cruising into [the] second semester with a lot more experience, in terms of how to manage ourselves on and off the mat,” he said. “At the end of the season, I’m looking to finish out with three or four All-Americans. I think that if everyone does their job and continues to commit to the club, we can achieve that.”

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