Young Wrestling Squad Using Challenging Schedule to Grow

Jonathan Swann ‘19

Sports Writer 

Davidson’s wrestling team is looking to use a difficult regular season schedule, highlighted by matches against No. 8 N.C. State and No. 13 Pittsburgh, to build a foundation of success for the veterans and the large first-year class. There are eight first-years, out of seventeen grapplers total, on the squad. Four of them won state titles in their respective classes in high school, giving Coach Andy Lausier the tools to move the squad up the Southern Conference standings these next few years.

This past Sunday, the squad faced a familiar SoCon foe in Chattanooga, losing a hard-fought battle 9-34. So far this season the team has a 2-8 record, but that includes losses to NC State, Brown, and Hofstra, all teams in the upper half of their respective conferences.

Leading the way for the squad are Kyle Gorant and Mitch Trigg ‘22, Conor Fenn ‘20, and Tony Palumbo ‘19. Fenn finished 3rd last year in the SoCon championship in the 184-pound weight class, missing Nationals by one podium spot. This season, Fenn has a 11-11 record, including notable victories against grapplers from VMI, UNC-Pembroke, and George Mason.  

Fenn says that “wrestling top tier teams gives us a higher standard which we need to hold ourselves to; this year, I believe our tough schedule is designed to show us the level of wrestling our coach wants us to be at.”

All the first-years have made their mark on the squad this season, but Gorant has flourished the most, with an 12-8 record and 6 falls to his name.  He has notched big wins in meets against tough competition from NC State, Hofstra, and Brown. The transition from high school wrestling to D1 college wrestling was a significant adjustment for Gorant, but he credits first-year Assistant Coach Joey Dance (who was a two-time All-American at Virginia Tech) for helping him and other incoming wrestlers manage the difficult transition. Gorant notes that college wrestling is a full-time job in many ways and “everyone in college is here to compete.”

Gorant also says Dance has “helped [me] with diet and weight management, and just adjusting to college life.” Overall, Gorant says the team feels fortunate to have Dance provide a mentoring role. Dance’s coaching has helped Trigg as well, who wrestles in the heavyweight division, boast a 12-10 record with 4 falls. Other young wrestlers, including Caleb Ziebell ‘22 and Lachlan Rosato ‘22, are holding their own against the demanding competition.

Finally, Palumbo, who wrestles at 157 pounds, carried a 32-37 record into this season and is looking to finish the strong again, as he won multiple matches in last year’s SoCon tournament.

Head Coach Lausier, now in his second season at the helm of the program, came from Sacred Heart University and also had a previous stint working at Princeton. He says that while rebuilding is in progress, the team’s future looks bright.

“In our stage of rebuilding Davidson Wrestling, we currently measure success by progress,” said Lausier. “The current freshmen are the roots for the future of this team. They are my first recruiting class and I am so excited about their contributions this season…and moving forward.”

The team will face No. 13 Pitt before ending the regular season with SoCon matches against Appalachian State, the Citadel, Gardner-Webb, and Campbell, respectively, before the conference championship in early March.

Three of those matches, including February 9th against Pitt, February 12th against App State, and February 22nd against Gardner-Webb, are at Belk Arena, so Davidson fans can cheer on their wrestlers. The hard work the wrestlers put in everyday may not pay off every match, but, as Gorant says, “getting [your] hand raised makes it worth it.”

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