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At this past weekend’s Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships, Harvard wrestling saw four members of its squad qualify for the NCAA Tournament later this month. The Crimson had an exciting weekend, featuring five podium places and earning 63 team points good enough for an eighth-place finish. The crew, which will compete at NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla. is made up of sophomore Diego Sotelo, juniors Philip Conigliaro and Joshua Kim, and senior captain Yaraslau Slavikouski.
“Coach brings up every year that if you have gratitude and you have thanks, then you can’t be anxious at the same time,” said Kim, who placed fifth in the 165-pound weight bracket, when asked about the team mentality headed into the weekend.
This will be the California native’s first trip to the national tournament — and it didn't come easy. Kim faced three overtime matches over the weekend en route to the podium, one the first day and two on the second. Wrestling is a grueling sport, and even regular time matches are exhausting, but Kim feels this year's training prepared him well.
“The coaches helped me a lot. They always tell me ‘we are ready to wrestle for fifteen minutes if we have too.’ So wrestling an overtime match is still a part of the normal match to me, not an extension or something that you have to overcome,” commented Kim when asked about the matches. “If I made it that far, there is no way I can lose, right? If I can take my opponent this far into the match, then I have every right to win this match.”
Kim is excited about the opportunity to compete at the national tournament. He looks forward to supporting his teammates as well, including Conigliaro. The Massachusetts native, and 2022 EIWA champion at 165 lbs, has not had an easy year by any means. Coming in following an injury obtained early in the the season, Conigliaro fought hard to return to the mat in late February. His weekend at the EIWA tournament would not be any different — seeded seventh place at 174 lbs, he dropped his first match to tenth-seeded Ross McFarland of Hofstra.
“I just tried to keep a positive mindset and know that the training that I was able to do was going to be able to prepare me for the tournament — having a strong mentality going in is important, especially if you are going in not at one hundred percent,” Conigliaro expressed. “Losing the first match didn't give me a lot of confidence, but that's where I kind of had to step back and refocus myself.”
He then went on to win four matches in a row, placing fourth and qualifying for the NCAA tournament. This is the third year Conigliaro has qualified for the national tournament — but will only be his second time competing due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which resulted in the cancellation of the tournament his freshman season.
The other member of the squad making his NCAA debut, despite also qualifying in 2020, is heavyweight Slavikouski. The Belarus native is ranked tenth nationally at 285 lbs, and was seeded first at the EIWA tournament. He won his first two matches before falling to Lehigh’s Nathan Taylor in the semifinals. He also defeated Penn’s Ben Goldin in the consolation match to place third overall. In addition, Slavikouski was named a First-Team All-Ivy League select and is positioned to make noise at the national tournament after not being afforded the opportunity for the past three seasons due to injury and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Crimson’s other All-Ivy selection is 125 pounder Sotelo. The sophomore was seeded fourth at the EIWAs and won two matches before falling to first-place seed Brett Ungar of the Big Red. Sotelo finished in sixth place, enough to send the sophomore to the NCAA tournament, where he is excited to make a name for himself.
“I think me and my teammates are going out there and not many people are going to be looking our way, but we're going to make some noise and maybe to make some upsets,” said Sotelo when asked what he is most looking forward to about the tournament.
Senior Trevor Tarsi also had a great weekend, placing 4th overall. The Pennsylvania native was seeded at sixth and upset the third seed, Columbia’s Cesar Alvan, on his way to the podium. Tarsi — who will graduate this May — will leave Harvard wrestling in a much different place than it was when he came in.
While Cornell came out on top of the tournament, the Crimson qualified more wrestlers than they have in over a decade. Coach Jay Weiss, in his 29 seasons with Harvard, has coached 18 EIWA champions, and countless more place winners.
“I think that's probably the most special thing for me, and that's why I think when I'm going into this tournament — just be thankful that I'm here because a lot of people don't get the opportunity to do it,” said Conigliaro in reference to getting the chance to compete alongside his teammates.
The NCAA Wrestling Selection Show occurred last night to award the Crimson wrestlers of their fate. For the first round, Sotelo is set to wrestle Eddie Ventresca of Virginia Tech. Conigliaro will first take on Nick Incontrera of Ivy foe Penn, while Kim will take on Cole Moody of Wyoming. Harvard’s heavyweight, Slavikouski, will then take Owen Trephan of North Carolina State University to the mat. The NCAA tournament will take place in Tulsa, Okla. during March 16-18.
— Staff writer Sydney E. Farnham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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