Three Knights push forward to Nationals

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While you were preparing for spring break – whether finalizing plans for a trip down south or back home to family – Gannon University’s wrestling team was competing in postseason play at the 2015 NCAA Division II Super Regional One tournament held Feb. 27 and 28.

Hosted by West Liberty University, the event involved 15 wrestling programs fighting for spots in the Division II National Championships.

Top three finishers in each weight class earned the right to compete in nationals, which take place Friday and Saturday in St. Louis.

Redshirt seniors Matt Turek (second) and Zack Zelcs (third) along with sophomore Nick Budd (second) each qualified for nationals with their respective finishes.

Turek at 125 pounds, won his semifinal match with Pitt-Johnstown’s Evan Link by injury default. He led 16-9 when the match was called.

That victory, which put him in the finals, also moved him past Brandon Monin (2005-09) and into seventh place all-time at Gannon with his 97th career victory.  The nation’s second-ranked 125-pound wrestler in the country then lost to Willie Bohince 10-8 in the title bout.

Zelcs, 174 pounds, lost his semifinal match against Mercyhurst’s August Mizia before winning two matches to secure third place and a ticket to his fourth national championship appearance.

Coach Don Henry was proud of Turek and Zelcs for their ability to compete through pain.

“Matt and Zack have fought off injuries for most of the season so getting them healthy at the end of the year was a blessing,” Henry said.

“And last year, Nick (Budd) had a terrible regional tournament and had to watch a guy he had beat during the year qualify and become an All-American.  That motivated him all season.”

Budd at 285 pounds, began the second day of the regional tournament with a 2-0 semifinal victory over James Louison of LIU Post before losing in the championship match against Kutztown’s Ziad Haddad – Division II’s top-ranked heavyweight wrestler.

Gannon finished fifth with a final team score of 69.  Notre Dame College (Ohio) placed first in the regional with a score of 133.

Henry is no stranger to success at the Super Regional One tournament with team finishes of fifth or higher during seven of the last eight appearances.

“I am always happy when we qualify guys to nationals,” Henry said.  “We were in third place at the end of day one and had put five guys into Saturday’s semifinals, so we wrestled pretty well.”

When asked whether his team surprised him, Henry said the guys he expected to place in the top six did.

The 2015 NCAA Division II National Championships are scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Maryville University in St. Louis.

ADAM BLAZEK

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