The Gannon University wrestling team has been on a positive streak since the beginning of 2017 and the Knights are looking to continue that streak at this weekend’s NCAA Division II national championships, set for Birmingham, Ala.
Gannon saw nine wrestlers place among the top five finishers in their respective weight classes at the Division II Super Regional One tournament last month at Mercyhurst, helping the Knights to a second-place team finish.
Just as importantly, five Knight wrestlers earned the right to compete at this weekend’s national tournament — Carmine Ciotti (133 pounds), Eric Lewandowski (157), Jake Stratton (174), Nick Costa (184) and heavyweight Nick Budd.
Action will get underway Friday at the CrossPlex-Harris Arena and conclude Saturday.
This is the most successful season for the program since 2010 when the team also finished second overall at the regional tournament and sent six wrestlers to the national tournament.
Coming in second at this year’s regional tournament required the team to show a fantastic display of talents.
This included Ciotti, Lewandowski and Costa all going to the finals in their respective weight classes.
Ciotti had an outstanding weekend with a quick pin and a decision in the first day, then a 6-0 decision to reach the finals. There, he unable to claim the gold medal and had to settle for silver when he lost in overtime to second-seeded Dustin Warner of Wheeling Jesuit.
Lewandowski and Costa also finished second in the tournament after each claiming dominating victories beforehand.
Lewandowski prevailed in a 6-2 quarterfinal decision then reached the finals with a 17-0 technical fall in the semifinals.
In the finals, Lewandowski lost 16-4 to Cody Law of Pitt-Johnstown.
Costa earned his first win of the tournament with a 2-1 decision, followed by a pin at 2 minutes, 2 seconds of his match with Collin Schildt of Kutztown.
Costa then decisioned Mike Green of Mercyhurst, 9-5, before losing by technical fall to Garrett Lineberger of Notre Dame College of Ohio in the finals.
Budd started his tournament 2-0 on the first day, then ran into a familiar face in Mercyhurst’s Andy Welton, who was ranked first in the region and sixth in the nation, in the semifinals.
Welton prevailed 1-0, but Budd rallied to whip Maxwell Lacey of Wheeling Jesuit, 3-1, and then pinned Ryan Appleby of Kutztown 13 seconds into the second period of their third-place match.
Stratton split his first two matches, won in the consolation semifinals, then fell in the third-place match to John Blankenship of Pitt-Johnstown.
Stratton did not have to wrestle a true fourth-place match due to his victory earlier in the day over Millersville’s Shane Ruhnke.
Gannon had four other wrestlers who finished fifth, putting them just one match shy of being a national qualifier.
The Knights’ fifth-place finishers were Abraham Guarriello (125), George McGuire (149), Garret Smith (165) and Ethan Budd (197).