Three Gannon wrestlers fall at nationals

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Friday the 13th didn’t fare well for three Gannon University wrestlers competing at last weekend’s 2015 NCAA Division II National Championships in St. Louis.

Redshirt seniors Matt Turek and Zack Zelcs both went 1-2 on the first day of the championships and fell short of advancing to Saturday’s second session while sophomore Nick Budd went 0-2 in his first attempt for a national title and also was eliminated.

Coach Don Henry said the national tournament offered a reminder about how difficult it is to be a wrestling All-American.

“It takes hard work and skill obviously, but intangibles like being in the right part of the bracket, against someone whose style is favorable to your strengths is really frustrating,” Henry said.

Turek, who was ranked second nationally for much of the year at 125 pounds, began the day with an 11-9 loss against Nebraska-Kearney’s Connor Bolling before bouncing back with a 7-6 victory against Ouachita Baptist’s Garrett Evans.

The two-time All-America choice, ranked No. 5 in the nation entering the tournament, used a last-second takedown of Evans to seal the win.

Turek, ranked sixth in career wins at Gannon, then faced Minnesota State-Mankato’s Da’Wayne Robertson and was eliminated from the tournament with a 12-9 loss.

Zelcs, at 174 pounds, opened his fourth national tournament appearance with a 9-1 major decision victory against Colorado Mesa’s Randy Boerner – representing his largest margin of victory since a 10-1 major decision against Shippensburg’s Kyle Taylor on Jan. 9.

The redshirt senior, an All-American selection last year at 184 pounds, then lost to hometown wrestler Zeb Wahle of Maryville University – the host school of the national tournament – by way of a pin in 6 minutes, 2 seconds.

Zelcs was then eliminated in his next match when Ouachita Baptist’s Payne Hatter pinned him at the 5:35 mark.

Zelcs finished his career with the 13th highest all-time winning percentage – .667 – at Gannon.

Henry said Turek and Zelcs were the building blocks for the next generation of Gannon All-American wrestlers.

“They both came in as freshmen following the year that we qualified six to nationals and we had five All-Americans,” Henry said. “They had great mentors and now are great mentors.”

Budd, at 285 pounds, began the day with a 9-1 major decision loss to Western State’s Peter Anguinao before being eliminated with a 2-0 setback against Michael Lowman of Augustana (S.D.).

Budd finished the season as Gannon’s leader in victories (25) and pins (5).

Henry said that after Budd’s first trip to nationals that he has learned what he needs to do to become a national champion.

“Nick knows that he is as good as any person out there,” Henry said. “He needs to set his goals higher and work to achieve them.”

ADAM BLAZEK

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