The Thunder wrestling team traveled to Fort Wayne, Ind. this past weekend to compete in the NCAA Division III Midwest Regionals. Eight of Wheaton’s varsity wrestlers aimed to qualify for the NCAA Division III Championships held March 10-11 in La Crosse, Wis. To do so required a Thunder wrestler to place top three in his respective weight class. As the meet concluded on Saturday Feb. 25, Wheaton ended up with four representatives, seniors Mikey Swider, Jared Fekete and Logan Walkup and junior Carlos Fuentez, who all placed second.
The Thunder started out strong on Friday with seven of its eight wrestlers winning the first matches of Round 1. In the quarterfinals, the winning streak was continued by Carlos Fuentez (125), Mikey Swider (197), Jared Fekete (184), Logan Walkup (174) and senior Stephen Aiello (165). Friday ended with seven of the Thunder’s eight still in position to finish in the top three, with Frank Aiello (157) and Max Gierke (285) beginning in Saturday’s consolation bracket, and Mikey Swider, Jared Fekete, Carlos Fuentez, Stephen Aiello and Logan Walkup to resume in Saturday’s semifinals.
In the semifinals, Fekete earned a 10-3 decision over Jason Lynch of University of Chicago, Swider won a 5-2 decision over Drew Kasper of Otterbein University, Walkup was victorious with a 4-3 decision in the second tiebreaker period over Tyler Grimsley of Olivet College and Fuentez won a 7-6 decision over Michael Schmidt of Olivet College. Stephen Aiello fell in a 6-4 decision against national champion Logan Hermsen of UW-Stevens Point. Aiello quickly bounced back with a 4-3 decision over Mitchell Hertel of the University of Wisconsin.
Both Frank Aiello and Gierke were off to a positive start in the consolation bracket. Gierke earned a pin in 3:53 against UChicago’s Patrick Mulkerin and Aiello also pinned U of Otterbein’s Willy Plaisir in 2:42. Aiello reached the consolation semis with a 7-4 decision in the first tiebreaker period over Michael Murnane of University of Wisconsin, but lost in a 4-3 decision. Aiello finished strong in fifth place with an 8-1 decision over U of Ohio Northern’s Gavin Nelson. Gierke went on to fall to a tech fall by U of Ohio Northern’s Nathan Barcaskey.
In the finals, Walkup fell to a 3-0 decision to Richard Carlson of UW-La Crosse, Fekete fell to an 8-2 decision to Jordan Newman of UW-Whitewater, Swider submitted a medical forfeit and Fuentez fell to a 11-3 major decision to Zac Denny of UW-Whitewater. Stephen Aiello went on to lose the third place match to Davon Jackson of Olivet College by a 13-8 decision.
When asked about the team’s performance, Gierke explained, “Although Stephen Aiello didn’t qualify for the national tournament … left it all out on the mat.”
Though the team was obviously hoping for all eight of the Thunder wrestlers to advance to nationals, the Thunder are confident their four representatives at the Division III Championship will leave it all on the mat, just like Aiello.