Spring is right around the corner, which means the collegiate wrestling championship season is upon us.
Hofstra will wrestle in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) Championships March 3 and 4 at Bucknell University.
The EIWA is a premiere wrestling conference in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and will qualify 43 wrestlers to the NCAA tournament – the second most in any conference.
Only the Big Ten conference will qualify more wrestlers.
Each weight class will qualify a different number of wrestlers to the tournament.
In the EIWA, the 125 lbs. class will qualify the least number of wrestlers with only two, and the 184 lbs. class will qualify the most wrestlers with seven.
Six of the 10 EIWA champions from last year are returning to the mat.
Darian Cruz (Lehigh, 125 lbs.), Matt Cimato (Drexel, 149 lbs.), Dylan Palacio (Cornell, 157 lbs.), Brian Realbuto (Cornell, 174 lbs.), Gabe Dean (Cornell, 184 lbs.) and Brett Harner (Princeton, 197 lbs.) all return to try to repeat as champions.
One matchup to keep an eye on is a potential rematch for the 149 lbs. title between Cimato and Joseph Galasso of Cornell.
Cimato won the match last year by a score of 5-4.
But they are not the only two wrestlers in contention for the championship at 149 lbs.
Laike Gardner of Lehigh, who is ranked No. 11 in the nation, could be wrestling for the gold as well.
The EIWA has nine wrestlers who are ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight-class.
Some of the top wrestlers in the EIWA include Cruz, who is ranked No. 5 in the nation; Josh Terao of American (125 lbs.), who is ranked No. 10; Scott Parker of Lehigh (133 lbs.), who is ranked No. 9; Matt Kolodzik of Princeton (149 lbs.), who is ranked No. 5; Jordan Kutler of Lehigh (157 lbs.), who is ranked No. 4; Palacio, who is ranked No. 9; Brian Realbuto of Cornell (174 lbs.), who is ranked No. 2; Ryan Preisch of Lehigh (174 lbs.), who is ranked No. 5 and Dean, who is ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Dean has been unquestionably the most dominant wrestler in the EIWA.
Dean is 26-0, 24 of those wins coming with bonus points.
Eighteen of his 26 wins came by fall.
He is a wrestler to keep an eye on, not only in the EIWA tournament but also later in March in the NCAA tournament.
Cornell won the EIWA last year with a score of 170.5 team points.
The Big Red had four champions in the 2016 tournament.
Lehigh came in second place with 160 team points and two champions.
The EIWA has lots of potential this year, and should have a great showing in the NCAA tournament, taking place March 16-18 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.