For at least one day, a sense of normalcy returned to the Columbia wrestling team, as senior Austin Coniker and junior Garrett Ryan each won titles at the New York State Championships.
After the Columbia Athletics opted to cancel last weekend’s meet amid a team scandal, Sunday marked the Lions’ season debut under new head coach Zach Tanelli. Tanelli replaced Carl Fronhofer this past summer and entered the meet with just one senior, Coniker, who had not competed since the spring of 2015.
Disciplinary issues had sidelined Coniker for the 2015-2016 season, but he showed no signs of rust on Sunday. The Pittsburgh native proceeded to earn a trio of decisions to reach the 174-pound final. He then pinned Cornell’s Milik Dawkins on the Big Red’s home mat. to take first place.
Meanwhile, Ryan picked up where he left off a year ago, as the Scottsdale, Arizona native continued to dominate the heavyweight bracket.
He cruised through the opening slate of matches, with a standout 11-2 major decision over Binghamton’s Sean Dee. But his championship match with Oneonta State’s James Bethel was a different story.
The tilt became one of endurance, but Ryan prevailed 8-5 to cap a strong weekend in upstate New York, which also yielded a pair of top-three finishes. Junior Dan Reed took second place in the 149-pound bracket, battling through a tough early match against SUNY-Oswego’s Joey Bush to reach the championship. But ultimately, Reed fell short against Buffalo’s Colt Cotton 10-1.
The Light Blue’s first-year Alec Kelly later added a third-place finish in his collegiate debut in the 133-pound bracket. Kelly lost his second match to Hofstra’s Vinny Vespa before rebounding with a pair of victories, including a pin of Army’s Connor Ziegler to clinch third place.
The squad will return to action on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Head coach Zach Tanelli was not made available for comment.