MIT Wrestling finishes a historic season with one national champion and two additional All-American wrestlers
The women’s team finished fourth place out of 31 teams
The MIT Wrestling team qualified seven wrestlers for the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) National Championships, wrapping up their competition with three All-Americans, including one national champion. The women’s team also finished in fourth place out of 31 competing teams.
“I knew what the team was capable of this year, but they still had to go out on the mat and prove it,” MIT Wrestling Coach Donald McNeil said. The team “proved that they could compete with some of the best wrestlers in the country,” he added.
Sarah Sams ’24, MIT’s national champion, was the first national champion in women’s wrestling for MIT. She is also only MIT’s second women’s team NCWA finalist (Elena Glassman PhD ’16 finished in second place at the 2010 NCWA National Championship).
Sams “wrestled extremely well all weekend to bring home the title at 191 pounds, going 3-0 on the weekend,” McNeil wrote in a statement to The Tech.
“In her first two matches she pinned both of her opponents in the first period,” McNeil wrote, adding that in the finals, “she met up with Kiley Hubby of Big Bend Community College, the 2022 Junior College National Champion … [and] ultimately won via an 11-7 decision.”
"This is a huge win for” Sams, because “Hubby was a tough wrestler” and Sams “wrestled extremely well to get the win,” McNeil said. “I am so happy for [Sams], this is a culmination of a lot of hard work in the wrestling room throughout the year.”
According to McNeil, Sams finished the season with “an impressive 9-0, with 8 pins, an individual national championship, and a Northeast Conference Championship.”
The week prior to the NCWA National Championships, Sams also competed in a Division One Women’s Wrestling all-star match at Cornell University, where Cornell, Columbia University, Princeton University, Drexel University, and Lehigh University also sent athletes.
Sams won her match against Giselle Kimball of Lehigh by way of 10-0 technical fall.
McNeil said that Sams “learns quicker than anyone that [he has] ever coached.” As an example, he “taught her a ‘leg lace’ two weeks before this event and she is already better with it than [he] ever was.”
Sams “is only a sophomore and everyone on the team” aside from the first year “lost a year due to COVID-19,” McNeil said. “I think the sky’s the limit for her in the sport of wrestling. She puts in the work each week and I am very confident that she could compete against anyone in the country, in any division.”
Viveca Pannell ’25 also completed an All-American run, placing third at the NCWA Nationals at 123 pounds, going 4-1 on the weekend. Pannell’s “weight class was the toughest weight class in the tournament. She pulled off a very impressive performance to take third,” McNeil said.
Pannell’s only loss of the tournament was to Lauren Stone, the champion and “outstanding wrestler” of the entire women’s division. Pannell finished her season an “impressive 12-2, with 10 pins, and a second place finish at the Northeast Conference Championship,” McNeil wrote.
Pannell “is one of the toughest wrestlers that I have ever coached. She is a quick learner and is extremely tough. She put in so much work in the wrestling room this year. I was so happy to see it pay off for her,” McNeil said.
Keith Skaggs ’22 was MIT Wrestling’s third All-American, finishing in seventh place, going 5-2 on the weekend. Keith finishes his career with MIT as a two-time All-American (he also placed eighth in 2019).
Skaggs also finished as the NCWA Northeast Conference runner-up and had an “impressive 18-4 record, including four pins on the year,” McNeil wrote.
“I am very proud of [Skaggs] for this incredible accomplishment. [He] is one heck of a wrestler,” McNeil said. “He dropped a tough match early in the tournament and rattled off three wins in the consolation bracket to earn All-American honors. He is as tough as anyone. It is not easy to rebound after a loss,” but Skaggs “was determined to finish in the top eight and he went out and got the job done.” Along the way, Skaggs defeated “some formidable opponents,” McNeil added.
MIT had four additional national qualifiers, including Sam Calvert ’25, Zoe Pasetsky ’24, Brendan O’Neill G, and Logan Madrigal-Silver ’24. “Although they each fell short of all American honors, I am so proud of them. They all wrestled really well throughout the year,” McNeil said.
Calvert had a “great season, going 13-8 on the year with 7 pins,” McNeil wrote. Calvert bested the number three seed in his weight class, but ultimately fell one win shy of an All-American performance.
Calvert “has a great gas tank. He works so hard at practice every day and is one of the most coachable people I know. I know if he keeps it up he can be at the top of the podium next year,” McNeil said.
Pasetesky also had a “great season,” McNeil wrote. She won her first match at the NCWA Nationals and dropped her next two against more experienced opponents. This is Pasetesky’s first year wrestling, and she finished 6-5 on the year, winning six matches by fall and taking home the Northeast Conference Championship.
“Zoe is so strong and has such great mat awareness. With another year of training under her belt she will be a title contender,” McNeil said.
O’Neill also competed well for the team at nationals. He dropped two “tough matches to fall shy of his goal of becoming an All-American,” McNeil wrote. O’Neill “has continued to improve throughout the year. If you look at where he was in September and where he is now, you notice a world of difference,” McNeil said. “He still has so much potential for his last season and I am excited to see what he can accomplish.”
Madrigal-Silver also competed “well at nationals, dropping two matches, falling short of All-American honors,” McNeil wrote.
“I am glad that [Madrigal-Silver] had the opportunity to compete at nationals. He is so strong and has a lot of potential to put together a strong season next year.”
“The team has so much to be proud of this year,” McNeil wrote. “My goal was for everyone to have fun and work hard. I felt like the wins would follow. Luckily they did.” McNeil added that he is “very proud” of the team and hopes that “each of them are proud of the work they put in. They should be very proud of their accomplishments.”
“Finishing in fourth place in the women’s division as a team at the national tournament was the icing on the cake and shows the group effort that everyone put in all year,” McNeil wrote. “Everyone helped each other throughout the year. More experienced wrestlers took their time to work with newer wrestlers to ensure that they were up to speed with what we were learning. I am proud of them both as wrestlers and as people.”
The NCWA Nationals were held March 10–12 in Allen, Texas. Students should contact firstname.lastname@example.org if they are interested in joining the team or have any questions.