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Balanced Effort Helps Messiah To Roger Williams Invite Crown
Messiah wrapped up its second straight invitational win Saturday, finishing with 10 individual place winners, four finalists and two champions.

Bristol, RI — For the second time in two weeks, the Messiah wrestling program claimed the top team finish at an invitational, claiming high honors at the Roger Williams Invite Saturday.

In similar fashion to last week’s team triumph at the Messiah Invitational, the Falcons were sustained by 10 wrestlers placing among the top four in their respective weight classes, with four of those athletes making it to the finals and two claiming championships.

It was all worth the seven-hour drive to Bristol, Rhode Island for head coach Bryan Brunk and company, as Messiah heads into next week’s first dual matches of the season on a surge of momentum.

“It was a dominating performance for us,” Brunk said late Saturday. “We had a lot of awesome performances besides those four (place winners), and I’m really pleased with where we’re at as a team.”

Junior Matt Cross claimed his second consecutive individual title of the season in the 165-pound weight class, again going unbeaten to push his season record to 9-0. Cross took out his first two competitors by fall Saturday, eventually edging MIT’s Ryan Madson by a 3-2 score in the 165-pound championship.

Junior Tim Stewart captured Messiah’s other championship in the 184-pound weight class, rebounding from what Brunk called a “disappointing finish” at the Messiah Invite a week earlier. After losing his opening match and eventually being defeated by senior teammate Mike Hojnacki in last week’s consolation bracket, Hopkins looked spry Saturday, pinning Norwich University’s Charles Constantino in just 38 seconds before earning a 10-5 decision over the host’s Phillip Ernst in the title bout.

Sophomore Ty Kanouff advanced to the finals in the 141-pound weight class before falling by a 6-2 decision to Rhode Island College’s Michael Trasso in the championship tilt, while senior Tim Hopkins finished second overall in the 197-pound bracket — the first time Hopkins had made a championship tilt in his collegiate career. Hopkins battled Johnson & Wales University’s Brennan Ward in the final match, but eventually dropped a hard-fought, 11-6 decision.

Messiah’s success on the day was not limited to solely its finalists, as senior Pat Hogan was among the team’s 10 place winners in the heavyweight decision. Hogan pinned Johnson & Wales’ David Weidenaar in 2:32 to open his day, before being defeated by a 2-1 score in the second round by Roger Williams’ Nick Cambi.

In the wrestle-back bracket, Hogan was a beast, winning thrice — including a win by fall over Johnson & Wales’ Humphrey Swift — before falling in the fourth-place match to the Wildcats’ Jon Flegel, 7-5.

“We moved Patrick Hogan up to heavyweight this year, and he’s had a really good showing,” Brunk said. “He nearly finished third today, and he’s figuring out how to wrestle heavyweight. He’s going to make our team a lot better.”

Messiah’s 146.5 team points outdid the host Hawks and Johnson & Wales’ 120 points. Rhode Island finished fourth with 116.5 points while the University of Southern Maine rounded out the top five with 95 points.

“Across the board today, I started calling us the ‘never give up, never surrender’ team,” Brunk said. “We have just decided that we don’t care what happens early in the match. Whether we go ahead big or get behind big, or we’re wrestling a great opponent, whatever, our guys have just kept pressuring and wrestling like they believe they can win. To me, that’s what I’m most excited about after this weekend: The fact that we’ve started to carry that general motto of, ‘never give up, never surrender.’”

The Falcons will have a week’s preparation before taking their collective talents to the first team competitions of the season, as Messiah will compete in dual matches against York College, Waynesburg University and Lake Erie College next Saturday. To be wrestled at York, the Falcons will kick things off at 12 p.m.