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EIWA Championship Notes for Saturday, March 4

Nickerson is the real deal

Cornell coach Rob Koll won the competition to recruit last year's most sought-after recruit in New York's Troy Nickerson. Now, a year into his career, Nickerson enters the EIWA Championships as the top seed in the tournament, and has more than lived up to his pre-season hype.

"He is 28-1. His only loss was to Sam Hazewinkel (of Oklahoma) in a tight match. That tells what we think of him as an athlete. He is a very good student. Nobody outworks him. It is a nice combination."

Nickerson is one of those captivating wrestlers who attract attention from fans and the media, something that Koll knew coming in and has experienced first-hand all year as his coach.

"He has got an amazing following in upstate New York," said Koll. "For an under-attended sport, it is easy to promote Troy Nickerson. Everybody knows him. Everybody wants their kids to wrestle like he does. Every kid wants to be like him."

"I don't think there is a kid in the country with as much spotlight on him. Unfortunately, with the internet, there is not a day that goes by that he is not attacked on the personal or wrestling level. You can't help but know it is going on. There are a million kids who would die to have that kind of attention. You appreciate it, even though it is not always positive. Wrestlers are always in the shadow of basketball and football. If you get a kid that gets that kind of attention, you can't be upset," said Koll.

Nickerson advanced to the championship finals on Sunday, where he will face No. 2 seed Matt Fisk of Lehigh, also a true freshman

Silengo giving it his best last shot

The No. 3 seed at 125 pounds at this year's EIWA Championships is a senior who is getting his last shot to make a statement with his college career. Mike Silengo of Penn has paid his dues in the program, but did not get to compete much on the varsity team, often behind 2004 All-American Matt Valenti. However, this year, Valenti moved up to 133 pounds, where he is now seeded No. 1 in the conference. Silengo earned the chance to show his stuff as the starter, and has taken advantage of the opportunity.

He enters the tournament with a 15-6 record, losing all of his matches by either one or two points. He has shown signs of excellence in those losses, falling in overtime to NCAA champion Joe Dubuque of Indiana, 12-10, and dropping an 8-7 bout to EIWA top seed Troy Nickerson.

A two-time state champion from tiny Hilltop Baptist High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., Silengo was coached by his father Tony. He often worked out with wrestlers at the U.S. Olympic Training Center during his years back home.

"He has been behind Matt Valenti and Mason Lenhart, both excellent wrestlers," said Penn coach Zeke Jones. "I think it is like what happens with the U.S. World teams. When you finally make the team, you have a shot to win a medal. Once Mike got his shot, he was already competing at a level to be an All-American. His goals are high, and he wants it this year."

"Working out at the Olympic Training Center provided him with a chance to train with the best wrestlers in the nation. Combine that with his knowledge from the Penn program, and let's see what he can do," said Jones.

Silengo was defeated in the semifinals, and will have a chance to qualify for his first shot at reaching the NCAA Championships through Sunday's wrestlebacks.

Newcomers look to help Lehigh to defend

Lehigh Univ. has built a national wrestling tradition with athletes who have won national titles and All-American honors throughout its storied tradition. However, when it comes to winning EIWA conference team titles, often it is the unheralded wrestlers or the underclassmen on the starting team that make a difference in the final standings.

Among those who will be counted on to make a difference in this year's meet are two freshmen, No. 2 seed Matt Fisk at 125 pounds and No. 6 seed Trevor Chinn at 149 pounds. Another newcomer to the Lehigh lineup at this year's tournament is No. 8 seed David Helfrich, a junior competing at 184 pounds. Lehigh may be needing that again this year if they wish to win a fifth straight EIWA title, and all three are playing a big role in the tournament so far this year.

Both freshmen Fisk and Chinn have qualified for the gold-medal finals, while Helfrich almost knocked off the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the nation in the quarterfinals, and remains alive in the consolation rounds.

Fisk won both of his matches for the day, including a 7-2 win over Mike Silengo of Penn in the semifinals. Chinn won all three of his matches, including two spectacular wins in overtime. In the quarterfinals, Chinn stopped No. 3 Thomas Kniezewski of American, 3-1, with a takedown in overtime. In the semifinals, Chinn scored another takedown in overtime, this time in the second sudden death portion, to beat No. 7 Keith Dickey, 5-3.

"Trevor is that kind of good if he let himself," said Lehigh Coach Greg Strobel. :He was a little inhibitited, lacking in confidence earlier this year. Now he is wrestling like he can. Matt Fisk really wrestled well, even though he is the No. 2 seed. He is my first true freshman NCAA qualifier as a coach here."

Helfrich almost upset Josh Glenn of American, ranked No. 1 in the nation, losing 5-4 in the tiebreaker. However, the next two matches in the wrestlebacks were victories for Helfrich, giving him a chance to wrestle above seed and score additional team points for the Mountain Hawks.

"During the seeding meeting, I almost argued for a higher seed for him," said Strobel. "When I saw Mazzurco was in the bottom bracket, I said that the No. 8 seed was OK. It was a matter of styles. I thought he might have a chance to beat Glenn, and he almost did it."

Toughest bout to type

Journalists on press row were having a fun time trying to get the spelling correct on the semifinal match at 165 pounds which went as follows:

Muzaffar Abdurakhmanov (American) dec. Craig Dziewiatkowski (Navy), 9-5.

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