jump to navigation

Wrestling’s Big Week December 17, 2012

Posted by Sam Angell in Wrestling.
add a comment

Wrestling MSG Grapple at the Garden pic

They walked down the hallways lined with pictures of those that had gone before them. Muhammad Ali. The Rolling Stones. Willis Reed. Wayne Gretzky. Bob Dylan. They came to the tunnel leading onto the floor of Madison Square Garden, introduced to the crowd with pyrotechnics going off around them and the New York Knicks dance team cheering them onto the mats. For most of the Drexel wrestling team, those few moments might be the highlight of their young lives. For head coach Matt Azevedo, it was only the second-biggest highlight of his week.

Just four days earlier, on the easy-to-remember date of December 12, 2012, Azevedo and his wife Brooke welcomed their second child into the world, a boy named Roman Lee Azevedo. At 7 lbs, 6 oz., Roman was not quite ready to make weight and suit up for the Dragons when they took part in the first-ever collegiate wrestling event held at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, on Saturday. Fortunately for Coach Azevedo, he had a team ready for the big stage as they won an important conference match over George Mason, 24-19.

“For us, it was cool to be in that arena and put ourselves on a par with some of the top teams in the nation,” Azevedo said afterwards. “That was huge for our guys. Zach [Sheaffer] pointed out that it really simulated what our guys will experience at the NCAA Tournament. The arena was loud and chaotic with a lot of different mats going on at once. You don’t really get that experience unless you’re at NCAAs, so the more we can something like that, it’s huge for us.”

The history books will show that Drexel’s 125 pounder, Jacob Goodwin, collected the first-ever collegiate wrestling pin at Madison Square Garden, as he took down Mason’s Rich Lavorato just 1:04 into their match. Drexel held onto a back-and-forth match, getting four straight victories from Connor Moran, Kevin Matyas, Bryan Sternlieb and Brandon Palik to ice away the win. Frank Cimato also had a victory at the 141-pound spot, a 6-1 decision.

Following the match, more than 50 Drexel alumni and family members joined the team at Mustang Harry’s, a restaurant two blocks down Seventh Avenue from the arena. They celebrated a historic victory for the Dragons, taking over the upper floor of the restaurant.

Aside from the history and the pyrotechnic show surrounding the event, the Dragons were able to remember that they were visiting New York on business, and grabbed an important conference victory despite missing two of their starters. With that now in the rearview mirror, Drexel can look back fondly on its first experience at Madison Square Garden – just one of the memories from a big week for Coach Azevedo and the Dragons.