Wrestler breaks fifteen-year-old NCAA drought

Tassoni hopes to be W&L’s second All-American wrestler and the first since Rich Redfoot was an All-American in 1989.


Tassoni has had a record-setting career at W&L. He has held several records including single-season takedowns, wins and career takedowns. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Caroline Blackmon

For the first time in fifteen years, a Washington and Lee wrestler will compete in the NCAA championship meet.

Wrestler Ron Tassoni, ‘16, will be competing in the NCAA Championship after placing third in the NCAA East Regionals on Feb. 29.

Along with Tassoni, Alex Pollera, ‘18, Brandon Lefore, ‘18, and Zach Bylykbashi, ‘19, all placed in the top six of their respective weight classes.

“It’s not just Ron having success,” Head Coach Nathan Shearer said. “The team is having collective success as well.”

Tassoni is in his fourth year on the team and he said that he could feel the difference at his final Regional meet.

“I took a lot of pressure off myself [this year] and I tried to step back and not approach it with so much intensity,” Tassoni said.

He also said that one of the biggest factors in his success was the crowd that showed up to support him on the second day of the meet.

“There were a lot of people there for my third and fourth matches and I just want to thank them,” Tassoni said. “I swear it helped me, hearing them screaming out.”

Going into the second day, Tassoni was seeded third and fell in his semifinal match to NYU’s William Gockel-Figge, ‘18. He then, however, recovered in the consolation semifinals by winning 5-2, which set up a third-place battle with Dan Wojtaszek, ’17, from the College of New Jersey.

Tassoni won the final match 9-8, which made his record 33-5 in the season, placing him third overall. The top three wrestlers at Regionals qualify for Nationals.

“I didn’t do as well as I wanted to,” Tassoni said. “But it set me up to try to reach my goals.”

Tassoni’s and Shearer’s main goal for Nationals is for Tassoni to place in the top eight wrestlers, which would qualify him to be All-American.

“There has only been one All-American in W&L wrestling history and that was in 1988,” Shearer said.

Tassoni was happy when he won his final match at Regionals, but he knows that the hard work towards Nationals is just beginning.

“It was awesome. I got my hand raised and I was really glad,” Tassoni said. “But I knew that five minutes later, I would have to start working again. I didn’t want to dwell on the moment too much.”

Shearer said he thinks Tassoni really deserves this chance to compete in Nationals because he has put in a lot of work this season.

“He has wrestled a tough schedule that has prepared him for the regional tournament,” Shearer said. “He has maintained a great attitude and worked hard for the entire season.”

Both Tassoni and Shearer feel confident that Tassoni’s performance is a good indicator of where W&L’s wrestling program is going.

“We have been building our program for the last five seasons and this result is a testament not only to Ron’s hard work, but to the progress that the program has made,” Shearer said.

Tassoni said he hopes this will be the start of a great run for the wrestling team.

“We have solid guys to build the program around,” he said. “This way, there [hopefully] won’t be that long of a gap anymore and every year we have qualifiers.”

To prepare for Nationals, the wrestling team will continue to train with Tassoni, which he is grateful for.

“The kids on my team are still practicing with me, which is great because their season is over but they’re sticking around,” Tassoni said.

Shearer said that the coaches will continue to push Tassoni hard in practice and with his conditioning sessions in preparation for the tough competition at Nationals.

“We are thrilled for Ron and excited to have the opportunity to continue to compete with the best in the country,” Shearer said.

The National meet is being held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on March 11 and 12. Each day of competition will start at 11 a.m.