Knights rebound from loss, whip Shippensburg

The men’s and women’s basketball teams aren’t the only ones learning how to rebound this season.

( Gannon wrestler Zack McKendree. The senior is six victories away from setting the all-time wins record in Gannon program history.

After losing its first home match since the 2008-09 season, the Gannon University wrestling team bounced back, defeating Shippensburg University 27-7 on the road Saturday.

“We needed to make a point,” said coach Don Henry. “We had to show that the Kutztown match was a fluke. Shippensburg was a complete turnaround.”

The Knights (6-2-1) have won 11 of their 14 meetings in the Hammermill Center since the 2007-08 season. 

Despite falling two spots to No.16 in the national rankings, the Knights battled Shippensburg with one of their strongest efforts of the season.

Gannon went undefeated in the first eight bouts against the Red Raiders one week after winning only one of its first four matches against Kutztown.

“We are finally wrestling healthy and motivated,” Henry said. “We can finally see light at the end of the tunnel and are looking forward to the Regionals.”

Junior Jose Matos, the No. 7 wrestler in the NCAA Division II 125-pound weight class, got things started for the Knights with an 8-6 overtime victory.

Matos holds a 16-4 record while posting a 7-1 record in dual meets this season.  

Gannon’s newest member of the 100-win club, redshirt senior Zack McKendree, earned a 14-5 victory on the back of six takedowns.

The 165-pound McKendree is now 26-8 this season while recording an unblemished 9-0 mark in dual meets.

He has recorded at least 20 wins in four of his five seasons at Gannon.

At 102 career wins, the Vandegrift, Pa. native needs only six more wins to capture the all-time wins record in program history.

According to Henry, Matos and McKendree are examples of the improvements the team has made in recent weeks.

“Zack is on fire,” Henry said. “Matos is looking better – even though he gets a lot of wins, he’s started to win bigger. But everyone has been making improvements and taking steps to getting better.”

The other wrestlers made their improvements evident against Shippensburg as redshirt seniors A.J. Milanak and Tony Petrella, senior Scott Baron, redshirt junior Ethan Swope and redshirt sophomores Chris Boyd and Sam Brehm pushed the Knights’ win streak to eight bouts.

Milanak recorded five takedowns in the 141-pound weight class win while Petrella, who ranked second in the nation in the 174-pound class, recorded an 11-4 victory.

Petrella is now a perfect 8-0 in dual meets while Milanak boasts a 6-2 mark in dual meets.

Baron and Swope reigned supreme in their matches as they won by seven and eight points in the 133- and 149-pound weight classes, respectively.

Baron is 9-10 on the season while Swope, who is second on the team in victories, has already quadrupled his win total from last season by posting a 20-10 record.

Boyd and Brehm sealed the victory for Gannon with the two closest matches of the evening.

Boyd, who is second on the team in falls, won 6-3 as Brehm came out victorious in his 157-pound match to push his dual-meet record to an even 4-4.

After posting one of its biggest victories of the season against the Red Raiders, the Knights will now have three matches before hosting the NCAA Division II East Regional Finals in the Carneval Athletic Pavillion at the end of February.

It’ll be the first time that the Knights have hosted the event.

“We’re so used to traveling to the regionals that this will be different,” said Henry of the event. “Having the chance to sleep in your own bed and wrestle in your own gym means a lot. We’ll be sure to be ready.”

The Knights play host in their final dual match of the season as they welcome West Liberty State College to the Hammermill Center at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Gannon, which comes into the meet with a three-match win streak over the Hilltoppers, beat West Liberty 25-16 on Feb. 16, 2010. 


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