Wrestlers Take 11th at New EnglandsBy Will Hafer
and Pawan Despande
MIT wrestlers finished their season with peak performances this weekend at the New England Conference tournament at Roger Williams University. Ranked at the bottom of the conference coming into the tournament, MIT finished eleventh in a field of 15 and placed three All-Conference wrestlers, two of whom were not previously ranked.
Head Coach Tom Layte said he was happy with the team’s performance. “I was never content with MIT being last in the conference. This weekend, these guys showed that they weren’t content, either.”
Lambert, Hafer, Walker place
Michael J. Lambert ’02 was MIT’s highest place-winner, battling his way to third at the 133-lb weight class. Though Lambert also placed his freshman and sophomore years, a bumpy regular season had kept him off the rankings. “Coming into New Englands, no one thought I could place except me and [Coach Layte],” Lambert said. “Even when the season was going badly, I always had my eye on New Englands.”
Coach Layte said he was happy with Lambert’s performance, but he hoped next year he wouldn’t wait so long to start wrestling well. “He’s going to be working out during the pre-season, I can tell you that right now,” Layte said.
MIT’s second place-winner was William T. Hafer ’03, who came away with sixth at 165 lbs. Hafer wrestled his way to the top six, then injured his foot during a match and was forced to forfeit out. “It was a shame that that had to happen,” Hafer said. “There was a minute to go and I said, ‘This is it, it’s time to start wrestling.’ Then -- something went crunch in my foot.”
Hafer also had not been ranked coming into the tournament. “I had a lot of false starts this season, with injuries, or school, taking me away from wrestling for awhile. I didn’t get in the zone until, basically, this weekend.”
The last grappler to place for MIT was heavyweight Gregory T. Walker ’03. Walker placed fourth, losing his final match in overtime to the eventual tournament champ. “I made some mental mistakes, and it cost me,” Walker said. “I knew I could beat him, [but] I wasn’t careful enough on my feet.”
Walker had been ranked second coming into the tournament, and seventh in the nation. “He just had a bad tournament,” Coach Layte said. “Sometimes the mat can be merciless like that.”
Miller barely misses placing
Lambert, Hafer and Walker weren’t the only Engineers with impressive performances. Paul G. Miller ’05 came one match away from placing, while wrestling up a weight class, at 184. “The guys were big, but most of it was fat,” Miller said. “My strategy was to tire them out until they were hating life. The Plymouth State guy [Miller’s final loss] basically just sat on me.”
Even MIT’s less experienced wrestlers turned it on for New Englands. Gregory P. Fonder ’05, who had never wrestled before this season, posted his first victory ever with a first-period pin. “It was a Wayne’s roll,” Fonder explained. “It’s the only move I know how to take people down with. [Assistant Coach Dave Grundy] got me really psyched up before the match, and I went out and hit it.”
Fonder attributed his win to his coach's nutritional advice. “Coach said he used to eat a mayo sandwich before his matches,” he said. “I tried it, and it actually gave me a lot of energy.”
“It’s always great to see somebody get their first college win,” Coach Layte said.
“We wrestled a lot of good matches this weekend,” Layte said. “It’s easy to say, ‘We’re MIT, we’re ranked last,’ and just lose, but nobody told these guys that. They deserve a lot of credit.”
Next year, the grapplers will be led by Lambert and Jack E. Williard ’04. “I’m looking forward to next year already,” Williard said. “Mike [Lambert]’s going to go to Nationals, and I’m going to have to go there with him.”