Wrestlers earn berths in NCAA DII National tournament


Before spring break, the Gannon University wrestling team competed at Mercyhurst University for the Super Region One national qualifying tournament, and the Knights were able to live up to the high hopes they set going in.
Three Gannon wrestlers – Johnny Marotto at 141 pounds, Nate Ross at 165 and Christopher Matthews at 174 – all earned berths in this weekend’s NCAA Division II national tournament, to be held in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Each wrestler had an identical start to the regional tournament, advancing to the semifinals after having a winning first day. But each faced tough opponents in his semifinal match.
Marotto lost by major decision to Joseph Alessandro of Seton Hill, Ross fell 5-4 in overtime to Mercyhurst’s No. 2-ranked Francis Mizia – after beating Mizia by the same 5-4 score earlier this season — and Matthews fell 3-0 to John Blankenship of Pitt-Johnstown.
These losses did not keep the three from reaching their goal of advancing to the national stage.
Ross was able to battle back and beat Demadre Turner of West Liberty, 3-1, and then Juwan Edmond from Notre Dame (Ohio) to win a bronze medal for third place.
Marotto saw himself in a tougher situation, as he first had to face No. 3 seed Dylan Nace of East Stroudsburg. Marotto was able to post a 3-2 victory.
In his next match, he was unable to get the upper hand on No. 2 seed Sam Hanau of Pitt-Johnstown, losing by pinfall in the first.
Marotto did not need a true fourth-place match due to a previous victory over would-be opponent Dylan Nance of East Stroudsburg, and he clinched his berth in the national tournament.
Finally at 174, Matthews started his consolation comeback with a 6-4 decision victory over Shane Springer of Shippensburg. He followed with a 5–2 decision loss to No. 4 seed Roberto Rivera of Notre Dame (Ohio).
Matthews had an easy time qualifying for nationals after that, having a 40-second pinfall victory in a true fourth-place matchup against Balboni of Kutztown.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s national tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday, each wrestler’s first opponent should make for an interesting match. Marotto, 16-11 overall, is scheduled to meet unranked Pernevion Shepperd of Wisconsin-Parkside in his first match. Shepperd (28-9) won last weekend’s Division II Midwest Regional.
Ross takes on No. 7-ranked Matt Vandermeer of Lake Erie in his opening match at 165 pounds. Ross brings a 24-6 mark into the match.
Matthews opens against Zeb Wahle of Maryville (Mo.), who is ranked No. 2 in the country at 16-3 and is coming off a Central Super Regional title last week. Matthews is 18-14 overall.
Links to the official brackets are on the Gannon sports website.

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