The Gannon University wrestling team went toe-to-toe with two of the region’s top teams last week.
The Knights, who were the underdogs in both matches against Mercyhurst University and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown were unable to obtain an upset victory in either match.
Coach Don Henry said both matches served a purpose, even if the team lost.
“It was a good measuring stick to see where we are compared to the best teams in the region,” Henry said.
Although the Knights faltered in the team score department, there were several highlights created by Gannon’s wrestlers during the two conference dual meets.
The Knights first squared off against their rival, Mercyhurst, who are currently ranked No. 9 in National Colligate Athletic Association Division II wrestling. The 125-pound junior Matt Turek was able to continue his winning streak as he defeated the region’s No. 3-ranked wrestler, Ryan Bohince of Mercyhurst, with a 7-4 decision. Henry took notice of Turek’s strong performance.
“Matt continues getting better as the competition gets better,” Henry said.
Turek has defeated top-ranked opponents in the region during his last three matches.
Another highlight of the match for Gannon came during the 184-pound bout as Zack Zelcs, ranked No. 2 regionally and No. 5 nationally, remained undefeated with a 6-4 decision over the region’s No. 6-ranked wrestler, Angelo Bortoluzzi.
The Knights then traveled to Pitt-Johnstown for another conference dual meet. Despite falling to the No. 12-ranked team in the nation at Division II by a score of 27-8, the Knights wrestlers were able to obtain a few key individual victories.
At the 125-pound bout, Turek once again displayed dominance as he was able to knock off the region’s top-ranked wrestler Dave Fogel. Turek was just short of majoring the nation’s No. 3-ranked wrestler, winning by a score of 12-5.
He was able to avenge a loss to Fogel, which occurred earlier in the season at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament.
Henry said Turek has defeated the No. 1-, No. 3- and No. 6-ranked wrestlers in the region in the past three matches.
“Friday he will see the No. 5,” Henry said.
Buddy Blotzer also claimed a 11-5 decision over UPJ’s Heath Coles, returning from an injury to his eye, which kept him out of the lineup for the match against Mercyhurst. No. 5-ranked Blotzer improved his record to 4-2 overall.
“I don’t think the eye injury had any effect on the outcome of the match,” Henry said. “I sat him for the Mercyhurst match because it was still swelling shut.
“He was fine for UPJ and was very close to getting a major decision against a decent opponent.”
Freshman Nick Budd, who is currently ranked No. 5 regionally, also obtained a close decision victory over the No. 4-ranked Josh Duplin in the heavyweight class matchup.
“I have really been impressed with Nick,” Henry said. “He is a fierce competitor.”
Henry compared the freshman heavyweight wrestler to three-time All-American Todd Proper.
“He has a valid shot at qualifying for the NCAA tournament and once you get there, anything can happen,” Henry said.
The Knights look to rebound Friday against the region’s No. 8- ranked team West Liberty University. The match won’t be easy, Henry said.
“West Liberty is a team that is starting to wrestle well, and they will be a challenge,” Henry said.
The head coach stressed the importance of teamwork this week.
“If we wrestle as a team, we will win,” he said. “A team has to work together to have success.
“Fighting for the last takedown to win or fighting off one’s back not to get pinned and give up bonus points are as much for the team as they are for an individual’s pride.”