The Gannon University wrestling team is on possibly its best hot streak going into postseason action.
This all started when the calendar turned to 2017, but hit another high point last week as the Knights beat their rival – the nationally ranked Mercyhurst Lakers – 22-16 on Feb. 8 and then overpowered West Liberty, 41-8, Saturday.
Both wins came at the Hammermill Center and left Gannon 7-2 overall and 5-2 in dual meet action entering the season’s final dual meet of the year at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against host Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio.
The Knights’ win over Mercyhurst was their fourth against a nationally ranked opponent this season. Mercyhurst entered the contest ranked No. 8 in the nation among Division II schools and No. 4 in the region. Gannon is not nationally ranked, but is ranked No. 5 in the region.
The meet went back and forth throughout and came down to the last few heavier weight classes. It was at 197 pounds where Gannon true freshman Ethan Budd swung the meet in favor of the Knights, as he beat fifth-year senior Wes Phipps, who is a transfer from Penn State.
Budd wound up being named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference wrestler of the week after he added a forfeit victory Saturday against West Liberty.
Budd’s match with Mercyhurst’s Phipps started with Phipps scoring the first points with a takedown, but he couldn’t hold Budd down for long as Budd scored his first points with an escape.
It was after this that Budd hit the biggest move of the night and tossed Phipps for the two-point takedown, then proceeded to receive four near-fall points. Phipps tried to fight back with another escape and another takedown to make the score 7-6 at the beginning of the third period.
Budd, who entered the matchup just 1-6 in PSAC dual meets this season, would go on to score another point with an escape in the third, which was enough to give him the 8-6 decision.
“It was just about not stopping,” Budd said about the dramatic final period. “You’ve got to keep wrestling that whole time.”
Other highlights from the meet came from Eric Lewandowski, who recorded a technical fall in less than 2 minutes of his 157-pound match, and Carmine Ciotti, ranked 11th in the nation, who earned a 6-1 decision at 133 pounds.
Also adding victories were Jake Stratton at 174 and Nick Costa at 184, as both claimed major decisions. Costa told WERG-FM’s “Prime Time Sports Guys” show on Thursday that “any dual meet is very important. We just beat a very good Mercyhurst team but that’s in the past and we need to move forward. Focus on what’s coming up and obviously that is West Liberty.
“We just need to come out there and do what we do and that’s wrestle hard for seven minutes.”
That is exactly what the team did Saturday against the Hilltoppers in the Hammermill Center as the Knights celebrated Senior Day.
The Knights honored five wrestlers — Brad Beiter, Garret Smith, Johnny Marroto, Nate Reckner and Alex Shafer — for their commitment to the team and guidance to the younger wrestlers.
Gannon performed at the same caliber as earlier in the week with its 41-8 win.
This included exceptional matches from George McGuire (149), Nick Budd (heavyweight) and Stratton (174), who each claimed pins for the day.
Along with the dual meet victories, Gannon also competed in the John Carroll Open in Ohio Sunday.
Leading the team in this tournament was junior Jared Sample (157), who finished with a 3-1 record and standing firm in second place.
Additionally, the Knights had four other place winners in Trevor Beiter, who placed third at 197; Christopher Matthews, who finished fifth at 174; and sixth-place finishers Justo Hernandez (141) and Travis Schmelling (197).
Wednesday’s matchup with Lake Erie College will be the Knights’ sixth against a nationally ranked opponent, but facts like that haven’t held them down yet.
Depending on how the lineups materialize, five weight classes could see battles between regionally ranked wrestlers.
Following the meet with Lake Erie, Gannon’s next action will come in the Super Region One tournament Feb. 24-25, hosted by Mercyhurst.