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Popolizio named CAA wrestling Coach of the Year
April 3, 2012Tweet
After an exceptional season that culminated with a program-best 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championship, Binghamton wrestling has garnered all three major end-of-the-year awards from the Colonial Athletic Association. In a vote of the CAA coaches, head coach Pat Popolizio was named CAA Coach of the Year, junior 149-pound Donnie Vinson earned Wrestler of the Year and freshman heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski was selected as Rookie of the Year for the 2011-12 season.
Counting Vinson’s Most Outstanding Wrestler honor from the CAA Championship, Binghamton captured the four highest honors for the season – just the fourth time in 21 years that a team swept all four and the second time in the last three years that the Bearcats have done it.
Popolizio earned top coaching honors for the second time in the last three seasons. His 2011-12 squad went 15-4 to set a program record for win percentage (78.9 percent), finished as CAA runner-up by the slimmest of margins and then showed its prowess at the NCAA Championship. In St. Louis, Binghamton’s five national qualifiers produced 18 wins and crowned two All-Americans in Vinson (3rd) and Gwiazdowski (8th). Popolizio, 81-53 in his six seasons as head coach, has churned out 21 NCAA qualifiers and four All-Americans. The 14th-place national finish is the highest of any sport in Binghamton’s 11-year Division I tenure and the highest NCAA finish for a CAA wrestling program in the last five years.
Vinson capped a remarkable season with a memorable performance in St. Louis. As the No. 4 seed, he shook off an opening round defeat to record the highest NCAA finish of any Binghamton wrestler in the Division I era (third) and highest overall in 15 years of wrestling at the University. Vinson was the only wrestler among 330 elite athletes to win seven consecutive matches and was the first wrestler in six years to accomplish the feat. Four of Vinson’s seven wins were dominating bonus wins – two pins, a technical fall and a major decision. His only loss was to All-American Nick Lester of Oklahoma and Vinson avenged that loss with a commanding 16-5 major – a swing of 16 points. Vinson, who captured his first CAA crown and went 18-1 in duals during the season, finished his junior season with a 40-5 record – the second-most wins in the program’s 42-year history. He will bring 99 career wins into his senior season in 2012-13.
Gwiazdowski came to Binghamton as a much-heralded recruit and delivered in his first collegiate season. He captured a CAA crown, was ranked throughout the season and then won five matches at the NCAA Championship to become the only “true” freshman heavyweight to become an All-American and one of just six “true” freshmen across all 10 weights to earn top-8 honors. Unseeded at the NCAAs, Gwiazdowski recorded a pin and a major decision and his only losses came to the eventual champion, third-place wrestler and seventh-place finisher – all All-Americans. He became the school’s first Division I freshman All-American and finished his rookie season with a 30-9 overall record (13-3 duals).
Additionally, Binghamton freshman 174-pound Caleb Wallace was chosen for the CAA All-Freshman team. Wallace won 11 matches and placed third at the CAA Championship, narrowly missing an NCAA berth.