Gannon loses first home match since ’08-’09 season

Milestones have been easy to come by for the No. 14 nationally ranked Gannon University’s wrestling team this year.

Zack McDermott
(Zack McDermott) Senior wrestler John Fleming wrestles against the University of Pitt-Johnstown's Matthew Scherich in the Knights' 28-6 victory Jan. 13. Fleming is No. 5 in the 133-pound class in the latest regional ranking.

After going 1-0-1 against nationally ranked opponents and beating Mercyhurst College for the second year in a row on Thursday, the Knights were able to add another accomplishment to their already-successful 5-2-1 season. 

Redshirt senior Zack McKendree, ranked No. 3 in the region at 165 pounds, recorded his 100th victory in a 12-3 individual win over Mercyhurst wrestler Pat Leahy.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said coach Don Henry. “He’s been consistently winning 15-20 matches a season for us and that’s hard to do at D-II.”

McKendree’s 101 victories have put him in rarified air as only five other Knights have ever crossed the century mark for wins.

The Vandergrift, Pa., native is one win shy of climbing to fourth on Gannon’s all-time list and only seven victories shy of breaking Todd Proper’s all-time mark of 107 wins.

McKendree is also ranked No. 8 in program history in pins with 28.  

As for the other Knights, their work has not gone unnoticed as the team is ranked No. 4 in the latest NCAA Division II East regional rankings with Gannon wrestlers occupying seven of the 10 weight classes.

Despite having a majority of starting wrestlers ranked, the Knights were unable to defeat instate rival Kutztown University as Gannon dropped a 22-12 decision at the Hammermill Center Saturday. 

“Up until Kutztown I’d say we were wrestling really well,” Henry said. “We’ll reevaluate, regroup and come back. I’d still say we’re wrestling well.”

Redshirt senior Tony Petrella keeps his top spot in the regional rankings in the 174-pound class. Petrella has reigned supreme in eight of his last nine matches and is an undefeated 6-0 in dual meets.

“Last year at Duquesne [University] he figured out a way to win,” Henry said. “He’s kept it up. It’s ugly but successful.”

Junior Jose Matos jumped to No. 2 in the region after serving as one of the Knights’ lone bright spots in the loss to Kutztown.  Matos, who is 15-4 in the 125-pound weight class, earned a takedown with seven seconds left in the second overtime period.

Redshirt senior A.J. Milanak, an Apollo, Pa., native, held his grip on the No. 2 regionally ranked position in the 141-pound class with an 8-5 record. Three of his losses came against Division I opponents.

Redshirt junior Ethan Swope was also able to hold onto a second place ranking.

Senior John Fleming and redshirt sophomore Sam Brehm were ranked fifth and sixth in their 133- and 157-pound divisions.

Gannon’s next hurdle to overcome will be Saturday when the Knights travel cross-state to face Shippensburg University at 7 p.m. The match will serve as a good bounce-back opportunity as the Red Raiders are 4-10-1 on the season.

“We need to win the first five out of seven matches,” Henry said. “If we can do that against anyone, we can win. In both of our losses this year we’ve lost at 141 and 149 pounds. I’m not taking away anything from A.J. [Milanak] and Ethan [Swope] – they’re two of our best wrestlers – but the team follows what they do.”

ZACK MCDERMOTT

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