LANCASTER, PA - Army-Navy maybe the highlight football game of the week, but the United States Military Academy will be involved in another showcase match-up this week as the #23 nationally ranked Black Knights visit Franklin & Marshall College on December 2 in the 28th meeting between the two Division I Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association rivals.
The Diplomats enter their first home and dual match of the season looking to make history as Franklin & Marshall stands at 599-469-21 in 79 seasons. Now in the 80th intercollegiate season of the sport at the College, Franklin & Marshall will look to join the Black Knights among the programs with 600 wins.
Leading the way for Franklin & Marshall is first year sensation Al Gianforti (Fr., Canandaigua, NY/Canandaigua Academy) who has compiled a 10-2 record, including the freshman/sophomore 149 lbs. championship at the Central Jersey Open hosted by The College of New Jersey, in his first intercollegiate matches.
His bout could be a highlight of the F&M-Army match as Gianforti could match-up with Army's Patrick Simpson who finished as the runner-up at the Oklahoma Gold/Brockport Classic on November 12 at SUNY-Brockport and won the 149 lbs. title at the Body Bar Systems Invitational hosted by Cornell University on November 19.
Simpson used four consecutive decisions en route to the crown at Cornell as the Nashville, Tennessee native downed Oregon State's Derek Kipperberg, 9-4, in the preliminary round before getting past Andrew Schiaffer of Maryland, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.
Simpson, the top-seeded wrestler in the 149-pound weight class, upended Purdue's Mark Powell, 8-2, to reach the championship bout. In the final match, he needed to grind out a 3-1 decision over second-seeded Joey Ecklof of Pittsburgh.
Last season, Simpson forged a 23-13 record, including a 10-6 mark in dual meets, as he finished second at the All-Academy Championships at 149 lbs. and won the New York State Championship at 141 lbs.
Army marches into Lancaster on the heels of breaking into the national rankings as the Black Knights are currently listed # 23 in the country, according to the latest USA Today/NWCA/InterMat NCAA Div I Coaches' poll.
The Black Knights, who tied then #16 Hofstra 19-19 on November 15 in their dual meet opener as Simpson earned a technical fall in the final match as Army rallied from 16-8 deficit after seven bouts, come into the match looking to defend their national ranking.
Army (0-0-1) was a regular in the national rankings last season when the Black Knights authored a 12-5 dual match record and will be looking to pick up their first win of the year against the Diplomats.
Historically, the Black Knights have engineered a 19-7-1 series lead versus the Diplomats since the first meeting between the two institutions at West Point on January 15, 1926. In that first skirmish, the Diplomats, under head coach Charlie Mayser, handled Army 12-11 as F&M went onto finish the season 6-0. The last time the two teams met, Army rolled to a 44-3 victory as the Black Knights used four pins, a technical fall and three majors to hold off the Diplomats in West Point on December 8, 2003.
The Diplomats will be seeking their first win against Army since 1939 when Franklin & Marshall handled the Black Knights 26-6 in West Point. Further, F&M has not defeated Army in Lancaster since March 7, 1936 when the Diplomats concluded the 1935-36 season with a 34-0 rout of Army.
Match time is set for 7:30 p.m. in the Mayser Center. Admission is free.