The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


The Student News Site of Gannon University since 1947


Wrestling sends three to nationals

The Gannon University wrestling team saved its best for last. And that’s all right with coach Don Henry.

The Knights produced two champions and collected a fifth-place finish as a team at the NCAA Division II Super Regional Feb. 24 and 25.

Now, the Knights have set their sights on the National Championships Friday and Saturday in Colorado, where they will send out senior Ethan Swope and redshirt freshman Zack Zelcs, both of whom wrapped up regional titles in Pembroke, N.C., to kick off spring break. Junior Robert Blotzer also qualified after finishing fourth in the tournament.

“We wrestle all year to prepare for this,” Henry said. “I think the three who qualified for the national tournament did an outstanding job.”

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Swope entered the tournament as a second seed in the 149-pound weight class, and did not disappoint, racking up a 3-0 record that culminated with a 7-5 overtime win over third-seeded Nathan Link of Pitt-Johnstown.

“The three of us moving on won to qualify, which is the important thing at this point of the season,” said Swope, who is currently ranked eighth  nationally. “Regionals was just a step towards the goal of winning a national title. Our coaches have done pretty much everything possible in physically preparing us up to this point, so it’s just up to us to prepare ourselves mentally and execute.”

For Zelcs, a fourth-seed, the road to the finals was not a smooth one.

In each of his three bouts, Zelcs defeated ranked opponents, including a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Kutztown’s Giovanni Ortiz in the championship match. Zelcs trailed by one point in the final minute, but managed a takedown with seven seconds remaining.

The Knights placed fifth out of 13 teams at the regional tournament with 73.5 points. Newberry, which is ranked second in the nation, won the event with 131 points.

In addition to the wrestlers’ success, Henry was named the 2012 Regional Coach of the Year.  This year marks the third time he has won the award, having received the honor last in 2010.

Henry said the award was meaningful to him following the death of his wife,—- , in early December.

“It’s been a tough year,” Henry said. “I wasn’t sure how well I was going to coach the team with everything that’s happened, but I think the team worked even harder when they saw what I was going through. You never know how you’re going to respond to adversity, but we never gave up when we could’ve fallen apart.”

Gannon, which finished the year on a three-dual-match winning streak en route to a 10-5 record, snuck into the 20th slot in the latest national rankings.

The Knights reverted to a youth movement in 2012 after graduating all-time wins leader, Zack McKendree, and two former all-Americans, Tony Petrella and A.J. Milanak.

Out of Gannon’s 13 freshman wrestlers, three reached the podium Saturday, as redshirts Matt Turek (125), Adam Weinell (133) and Chaz Lear (285) all took fifth place.

“There’s three young guys who barely missed out on going to the nationals, it’s awesome,” Henry said.

In addition to Swope and Zelcs, Robert Blotzer also advanced to the national tournament, after the junior emerged from his unseeded position in the 165-pound division to lock up fourth place. Blotzer drew the unenviable task of wrestling each of the top-four seeded wrestlers in the first four rounds, but managed a 3-2 record.

The top four finishers in each weight class will compete in the Division II tournament Friday and Saturday at Pueblo, Colo.



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