Senior wrestler Jay Albis has had one of the best careers of any Johnson & Wales University student-athlete. On Saturday, March 9, he was deemed the NCAA Division III National Champion at 125 pounds—for the second year in a row. As a team, the Wildcats finished third with 63 points, exceeding 2017’s fourth-place finish as the best in program history.
“It was an amazing season, and these seniors really set the bar high for years to come,” says Lonnie Morris, JWU wrestling head coach and assistant athletics director, and 2019 National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Coach of the Year. “The seniors – Jay Albis, Bobby Jordan, Joe Ferinde, Tommy Grippi, Adrian Gonzalez, Michael Gargano, Khamri Thomas, Chris Behen, and Watna Cunha – stayed together all four years and this is what happens when you stick together through the ups and downs.”
A pair of takedowns got Albis out to an early 4-2 lead over Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Mike Tortorice, the number two seed. Albis took him down again, and that time, did not let him up as he pinned him at the 2:26 mark. Albis finished his career with a 12-1 record at the NCAA Championships.
“Jay Albis re-wrote the record books here at the university and became the top-winning wrestler in program history, passing former All-American Tim Ruberg (145) for most wins with 152,” says Morris.
In addition to Albis, Johnson & Wales had a pair of third-place finishers, seniors Bobby Jordan at 133 pounds and Khamri Thomas at 184-pounds. Jordan got an overtime takedown to beat the sixth seed, Charles Nash of Baldwin Wallace, 5-3 and end his career. Another overtime takedown allowed Thomas to wrap up his career with a third-place award as he beat the Merchant Marine Academy’s Josh Glantzman, 3-1.
Head coach Lonnie Morris will have to replace six of the nine NCAA qualifiers next season. The three student-athletes returning are qualifiers Da’mani Burns, who earned the award for the most pins this season of any Division III wrestlers, Michael DiNardo and Tommy Wrzesien.
“JWU Athletics continues to raise the bar for all our programs,” says Morris. “Our students deserve a championship culture on campus, and several of our teams are competing on the national stage now and it's awesome to be part of.”