The Gannon University wrestling team has started its season with strong performances in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with help from familiar wrestlers, but the team has also added many new members.
Coach Don Henry said the team brought in 19 new faces this year – 16 true freshmen and three transfers.
“We wanted to add depth to the roster and we brought the roster number to 40,” Henry said. “Most of the guys we brought in this year are not in the starting lineup, but will get experience needed to contribute to the team next year.”
Zack Zelcs, the junior wrestler and returning All-American, dominated Saturday in Gannon’s most recent matchup against the Seton Hill Griffins with a win by technical fall at the 184-pound weight division. Henry said that Zelcs has helped the new wrestlers become acclimated to Gannon’s style of wrestling.
“Zack is a lead-by-example style of leader; his actions speak louder than words,” Henry said. “There is a core of wrestlers that I rely on to step up and dominate when asked. Zack is one of them.”
The other returning All-American is junior Matt Turek and he has led the team in victories – posting a 16-5 record on the young season. Turek was awarded his most recent victory against Seton Hill by forfeit at the 125-pound weight division because the Griffins did not have a wrestler in his weight class.
Henry said that Turek had worked very hard in the offseason to become a complete wrestler, and noted that he emphasized his weakest position.
“Wrestling from the top position,” Henry said. “In the past, I would never have Turek choose top; now he not only controls his opponent from the top position, he scores near fall back points.”
Gannon’s 29-12 win over Seton Hill was also highlighted by freshman John Marotto winning by a medical forfeit at the 141-pound weight division, true freshman wrestler Eric Lewandowski winning by a decision at the 149 weight class and true freshman heavyweight Nick Budd pinning his opponent to close out the contest.
The Knights will take on Shippensburg University at 7 p.m. Friday in the Hammermill Center. Henry said that each member of the team has a unique mentality heading into every match.
“Every person has to prepare themselves differently for a match,” Henry said. “They all do the same warm-up routine but to get ready as an individual some may need to get hyped up and others need to relax.”
Henry said it was his job to recognize what they need to do.
“As a team we want to be physical and outwork our opponents,” he said. “Very few teams train as hard as we do. We win matches just because we can go harder longer than our opponents. If all 10 individuals win we can’t lose. Individual parts working together for a common goal.”
Turek said the team is physically prepared and added that they need to be mentally prepared.
“Our mindset going against Shippensburg is that we have to wrestle to our best ability to beat them,” Turek said. “Every match counts in a dual and if we can get the momentum on our side from the start of the dual and keep it in our favor, we should be able to win.”
The Knights will then travel to Jamestown, N.Y., for the Jamestown Jayhawk Open, which takes place Sunday.
“Jamestown Jayhawk Open is an opportunity for the wrestlers who are not in the starting lineup to get matches,” Henry said. “It is scheduled specifically for those guys.”