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    Columbia set for EIWA Championships

    Columbia wrestling coach Brendan Buckley has been anticipating the 2007 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships since the first day of the season, way back in October. In truth, though, he's been waiting for this moment for nearly seven years.

    "I've been working toward this since I came to Columbia seven years ago," said Buckley, a Fresno State All-American who was an assistant coach at Virginia before taking the Columbia position prior to the 2000-01 season. "Our wrestlers have been preparing since the day after last season ended."

    Just as Buckley's preparation dates back to his first days at Columbia, his wrestlers' also goes way back. Especially his seniors, five of whom will take the mat Friday in the 103rd EIWA Championships in Koehler Fieldhouse on the campus of East Stroudsburg University.

    "I'm excited for our whole team in this tournament, but especially for our seniors," said Buckley, the Andrew F. Barth Head Coach of Wrestling at Columbia. "We brought them in here for the express purpose of excelling in the Easterns and advancing to the NCAA Championships. They have worked hard for four years with that goal in mind. They believed in it, and I believe in them."

    Milestones have been plentiful for Columbia wrestling in recent years. Two years ago, the 2005 edition of the Columbia team finished fourth in the Easterns, its best finish in 74 years, and sent a school-record five men to the NCAA Championships. Last year's team produced seven EIWA placewinners, another Columbia record.

    This season's team finished in a tie for second in the Ivy League, its highest since 1985-86, and earned its first national ranking. Columbia wrestlers are ranked in the top six in every weight class for the Easterns, the only school that can make that boast.

    In the pre-tournament team rankings, the Lions are slotted in a three-way tie for third, with Lehigh and Penn, all trailing Cornell and Navy. Harvard, Army and American complete the top eight schools.

    "Both our team ranking, and that of our wrestlers, reflects the progress that our program has made," the coach notes. "To be at or near the top of our conference, with the possibility of several men reaching the EIWA finals and the NCAA Championships, is a testament to many, many years of hard work."

    Matt Palmer and Justin Barent are the two highest-ranked Lions in both national and EIWA rankings. Palmer, a senior from Germantown, Md., who was an All-American at 165 pounds in 2005, is ranked second in the EIWA and 10th nationally at 174. After taking a leave of absence from school for the first semester, Palmer compiled an 11-1 record; he is 81-22 in his career.

    Barent, one of Columbia's four co-captains, is ranked third in the EIWA and 18th in the nation. The senior from Worland, Wyo., is 18-4 this season.

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