Despite having injuries and several miscues at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Southeast Regional Championships Saturday, the Florida A&M wrestling team had four individuals qualify to compete at the NCWA national tournament.
The Rattlers took ninth place overall out of 26 teams in the Al Lawson Center Saturday. The Rattlers finished in third at last year’s regional tournament.
“We made more minor mistakes tonight than we normally do,” head coach Abdul Sharif said. “There is definitely room for improvement.”
The University of Central Florida won the tournament with 213 points, followed by second-place Marion Military Institute with 188 points and third place Kennesaw State University with 94 points. The UCF Golden Knights currently have three of the top 10 NCWA wrestlers in the nation on their roster.
At the start of the tournament the Rattlers had another setback as last year’s regional champion, senior Saunders Hamilton suffered a knee injury in his first match-up. He later returned to win an additional match, but his injury kept him out of action for the remainder of the tournament.
“Saunders definitely could have helped us,” Sharif said. “With his absence, we certainly lost some veteran leadership.”
The Rattlers, led by sophomore Roland Pitts (197), finished in fourth place after losing a close match-up in the fourth round. Pitts currently leads the Rattlers in points this season with 66.95 overall.
Regardless of how they placed overall, the Rattlers’ season is still alive with four wrestlers qualifying for the NCWA national tournament.
Florida A&M’s Martavis Frazier (157), Tavarius Hicks(174), Branden Griffin(184), and Roland Pitts (197) all qualified.
“I’m pleased with the four qualifiers that made it to the national tournament,” Sharif said. “They definitely deserve it.”
Although the Rattlers did not win the southeastern regional crown, coach Sharif was still satisfied with the team’s performance.
“Overall we came out and had a pretty decent performance tonight,” Sharif said. “I felt like our guys came out and gave a 100 percent effort.”
With the national championships nearly two weeks away, the Rattlers hope to regroup and practice hard. Coach Sharif said he is going to push his team to the limit in preparation for the national tournament.
“We’re going to practice six days [each week] for these next couple [of] weeks,” Sharif said.
“We have to correct the mistakes that we made at regionals.”
The Rattlers will continue toward reaching their goal as they travel to Hampton, Va. to compete in the NCWA national championships from March 10-14.