The Gannon University wrestling team remains in sole possession of the second place ranking in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference with a decisive 25-9 victory over Shippensburg University Friday night.
The victory improves the Knights’ overall record to 6-2 and their conference record to 4-1. Gannon was able to develop an early 7-0 lead in the match due to key victories in the 125-pound and 133-pound bouts.
The match started in exciting fashion as two regionally ranked wrestlers went toe to toe. No. 2 Matt Turek of the Knights was able to thrust his team ahead in the early goings of the match with a 14-6 major decision over No. 6 David Calambas.
Redshirt junior Adam Weinell kept the momentum rolling with a hard fought 3-0 decision to add to the Knights’ early lead. Weinell, who is back down at the 133-pound weight class after wrestling all of last season at 141, has been a major contributor to the team’s success this season, coach Don Henry said.
“He did well at 141, but he was a little undersized,” Henry said. “At 133 pounds he is taller than most of his opponents and that gives him leverage, which he uses well.”
Weinell describes wrestling at the 133-pound weight class as “much more labor intensive as opposed to wrestling at the 141-pound weight class,” now that he must pay close attention to his diet in order to manage his weight effectively.
“The weight cut has been a bit difficult for him, but he remains firm that it was the best option for the team,” Henry said.
Weinell said he feels “very competitive at the weight class.” He said he hopes to end his season strong with an All-American finish in the Division II national championship tournament.
The Shippensburg Raiders were quick to rebound as they were able to pick up two consecutive decision victories in the 141- and 149-pound weight classes, tightening the gap on the scoreboard to 7-6.
The Knights were able to recapture the momentum following an electrifying win in the 157-pound bout. Redshirt freshman Nate Ross, who was stepping into the starting lineup after an injury to a teammate during practice several days before the match, was able to obtain a dominating 8-3 victory.
Ross excited the sizeable crowd with a strong throw at the end of the second period, scoring a two-point takedown and three near fall points. The explosive move brought nearly everyone in attendance to their feet for a standing ovation.
Henry was very confident that Ross would be able to perform well even with a short notice.
“Nate is always ready to step in and dazzle,” Henry said. He compared Ross’ role on the team to that of a sixth man on a basketball team.
“We have a tough room,” Ross explained. “I stepped in and did my job. I have all of my team to thank for the win against Shippensburg Friday night.”
After Ross’ momentous win, the Knights took control, winning four of the final five bouts in the match.
Another highlight of the match occurred during the 184-pound bout as fifth-ranked Zack Zelcs was able to remain undefeated with a 4-0 decision over Casey Hebash. Zelcs has posted an overall record of 8-0 since his return to the team early in January.
Henry highlighted the impact of Zelcs’ exceptional work ethic.
“As long as Zack continues to challenge himself in practice, winning will take care of itself,” he said. “Going undefeated is a secondary result of wrestling well.”
The Knights are underdogs going into their next two important conference matchups. First, they will square off against their city rivals, Mercyhurst University, on Wednesday. Henry is treating the contest as, “Just another match. Nothing more or less.”
The Knights’ coach said he believes the matchup against No. 7 Mercyhurst will give the team an indication of where its currently and what areas it needs to improve in.
The team then travels to the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Saturday. Henry recognizes that his team is assuming an underdog role – at least on paper – going into these two important conference matches, but this does not have him rattled.
“If we can beat either UPJ or Mercyhurst, it will give us a boost,” he said. “We will do what we can to not lose either.”