By: John Robbins
This past Saturday, the Thiel Wrestling team claimed a record-breaking 24th Presidents Athletic Conference (PAC) championship, breaking a tie for most with John Carroll. Although it was a split title with W&J, it marks back-to-back titles for the Tomcats.
The tournament came down to the last weight class of the day, 285 pounds or heavyweight. Thiel sophomore, Seth Phillips, managed to upset the first-seeded, fellow sophomore Trevor Manley of W&J in a 3-2 decision. The decision put both teams at 105.5 team points, resulting in the split title.
The match of the day for the Tomcats could arguably have gone to the 184-pound title match. As Jared Curcio, a Thiel junior, battled W&J wrestler, Nick Funovitis, to a 20-13 decision win. That gave Curcio his first career PAC individual title.
“It was a really great feeling, especially being in front of the home crowd,” stated Curcio about winning a PAC title in Beeghly Gymnasium. Thiel desperately needed a win to continue their pursuit of a team PAC title. Jared mentioned his feelings for the pivotal match. “[I] really just tried to stay focused and stay within myself and wrestle my match. Having such great coaches in my corner makes it so much easier.” He also remarked on the team aspect Thiel had despite being a mostly individual sport, “[it] was absolutely a team effort and all hands-on deck to win another PAC title, no one match won it.”
Jared also talked about winning the second of back-to-back PAC team titles. “[Winning the PAC] was a great feeling and a special moment. I love being able to compete with my team and being able to bring another PAC title home with my teammates and coaches, [it] means the world.”
Three other Thiel wrestlers won individual titles, all of which were repeat winners. Sophomore Evan Whiteside at 125, senior Hunter Martz at 149, and senior Peyton Hearn at 157.
Evan Whiteside won his title without wrestling a second due to him getting byes into the championship match and ending up facing a Thiel wrestler. It was a clear difference from how he won it last year after the match was forfeited in favor of Whiteside. He elaborated on his emotions saying that he viewed it “as improvement.” As he helped his teammate win the semifinal match to set up the all-Thiel final. “I watched EJ [McCarthy] get majored by the W&J kid and I worked with him the last two months and he wrestled outstanding in the semi-finals match.”
Now switching gears to the upcoming NCAA Regionals, wrestlers like Whiteside have to look towards bigger goals as he lost in regionals last year. “It leaves a very sour taste in my mouth; I know the talent I have and the way I wrestled didn’t show it so I’m coming out firing on all cylinders.”
He also further stated his goals and motivation as they go into this grueling and difficult part of the season. “I got simple goals and difficult goals, first, Coach Thurber has never had a national champion, so I’m making it my sole purpose to help him get his goal,” Whiteside stated emphatically, “but at the end of the day I love having fun with my boys, I love going in that room to work hard and continuing to have fun.”
Thiel and the individual wrestlers will be competing at the NCAA Southeast Regionals at York College on February 24th and 25th.
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