Knights look to NCAA qualifier

The Gannon University wrestling team concluded its regular-season campaign in style with a hard-fought 23-22 victory over No. 18 Lake Erie College

Friday. The team was able to avenge last season’s  loss to Lake Erie.

Both teams battled back and forth to command a lead throughout the match. With only three matches left, the teams were deadlocked at 16 points each.

In the 184-pound bout, Zack Zelcs gave his team a late 20-16 advantage after a decisive 9-0 major decision over Jared Merrit of Lake Erie. Zelcs, who has an 11-1 overall record this season, will head into this weekend’s Super Region One qualifying tournament in Johnstown ranked No. 2 regionally and No. 5 nationally.

Lake Erie was quick to rebound as it recaptured the lead after a pin at the 197-pound weight class. The Knights were down two points in the team score going into the final bout of the night.

True freshman Nick Budd, ranked No. 5 in the region,  was able to obtain a 3-2 decision victory with the entire match on the line.

Budd’s decision over Robert Zappitelli came by way of a last- second takedown and secured the close 23-22 team victory for the  Knights as he improved his overall record to 13-12.

“I didn’t even really think about me having to win for the team to win,” Budd said. “I just let my mind go numb so I’m not focused solely on winning because then I wrestle better.”

Budd’s clutch performance earned him Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Wrestler of the Week honors. The conference encompasses various teams including four NCAA Division I programs indicating the significance of this accolade.

“I plan on carrying this momentum into regionals and using it to my advantage when I’m the underdog in a big match down there,” Budd said.

The Knights concluded their regular season with a record of 8-4 in dual meet competition, which marks the team’s eighth consecutive winning season under coach Don Henry.

The Knights’ long-time coach will be receiving the greatest honor as a coach in NCAA Division II wrestling. Henry has been selected to be one of this year’s inductees to the NCAA Division II Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In Henry’s 30 years as the head coach of Gannon’s wrestling team, he has compiled a long list of accolades and honors including three NCAA Division II Region One Coach of the Year honors and two National Wrestling Coaches Association Robert Budd Coaching Excellence awards, which are presented to the coach who best exemplifies the qualities of a role model and a mentor.

Henry has produced 31 All-Americans and 64 national qualifiers as the head coach of Knights thus far.

The Gannon University wrestling team begins post-season competition this weekend at The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown for the NCAA Division II Super Region One championship.

The Knights have several regionally ranked wrestlers who are gearing up to compete in the NCAA regional qualifier.

The most notable of the group being Zelcs at the 184-pound weight class and Matt Turek at the 125-pound weight class. Both are ranked No. 5 in all of NCAA Division II in their respective weight class. Turek is also the top-ranked wrestler in the Super Region One going into the regional qualifier.



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