Over the weekend, the Thunder wrestling team hosted the annual Pete Willson Invitational, a massive tournament featuring 34 of the 100 wrestling programs in NCAA Division III, and the oldest tournament in the country, save the Division I national tournament.
Head Coach Jim Gruenwald described the Pete Willson Invitational as a “mini national tournament,” since it is patterned after the national tournament in its size and format. The tournament spans 2 days and features 2 separate weigh-ins. According to Gruenwald, nearly half the coaches in this year’s tournament have wrestled in the Pete Willson Invitational in past years, and some even go as far as calling it their favorite tournament of the year.
The Thunder performed admirably, as five wrestlers placed in the top five of their weight class, and the team finished fourth overall, their highest finish at the event in decades. Carlos Fuentes led the way for the Thunder as he placed second in the 125-pound class, defeating the second-ranked wrestler in the nation, Zac Denny, in the semi-final, before falling to the top 125-pound wrestler in all of Division III, Lucas Malmberg, in the final.
Senior Stephen Aiello finished fourth in the 165-pound class, marking the fourth time he’d placed at the tournament, and Frank Aiello finished fourth in the 157-pound class. Seniors Logan Walkup, competing in the 174-pound weight class, and Mikey Swider, in the 197-pound weight class, both finished fifth for the Thunder.
“Coming in fourth is still a huge blessing,” Gruenwald explained. “It’s not first, but still… these little things keep adding up to thanking God for a great performance on a tough weekend.”
The Thunder will hit the mats next on Saturday as they travel to Naperville to take on rival North Central College Cardinals.