LEWISBURG — Bucknell juniors Tom Sleigh and Tyler Smith are headed to the 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships after earning automatic bids with their performance at the EIWA Championships on Friday and Saturday.
Sleigh earned his third straight trip with a runner-up finish at 197 pounds, while Smith will also make a third consecutive appearance after taking fourth at 141 pounds.
Those two wrestlers, as well as a fourth-place showing by freshman Jordan Gessner at 125 pounds, helped Bucknell finish sixth at the 16-team event held at Sojka Pavilion. The Bison finished with 75 points, coming up just a half-point shy of fifth-place Navy.
Cornell won its 11th straight title with 163 points, while Lehigh (117.5), Princeton (113), and Army West Point (82.5) followed in second through fourth.
Sleigh went 3-1 on the day to earn what is easily his best finish at the EIWA Championships in his three-year career. He had taken seventh in each of his first two appearances, both of which came at 184 pounds.
Sleigh, attempting to become Bucknell’s first-ever EIWA champion in the 197-pound weight class, advanced to the finals with a 3-1 decision over Army West Point’s Rocco Caywood in the semifinals.
Caywood was in the national rankings earlier in the season, but entered the tournament unseeded after returning from an injury.
In the finals, Sleigh wrestled to a 3-3 tie through two sudden victory periods, but gave up a reversal in the final rideout that proved to be the difference in a 4-4 TB2 loss to third-seeded and 17th-ranked Frank Mattiace (Penn) in the title match.
The loss ended a 22-match winning streak for Sleigh, but he enters the national tournament with an impressive record of 31-5. He needs just one more victory to crack the top-10 of the program’s single-season win list.
Smith was 3-2 in the tournament and competed in the consolation final for the second time in his career. The other came his freshman season when he took third with a 5-1 record.
The Bison received fifth-place finishes from seniors Victor Lopez at 157 pounds and Tyler Greene at heavyweight. Freshman Joey Gould took eighth at 133 pounds to give the team six total placewinners.
The NCAA Championships will be held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on March 16-18. Bucknell wrestlers that did not earn automatic bids will find out their fate when the at-large selections are announced on Wednesday.