West Chester Finishes 4th at NCWA National Duals
The West Chester University wrestling team took another huge step forward as a program, in just their second season, by claiming 4th place at the NCWA National Duals on January 29 & 30 in Shelbyville, TN. After a long trek through an uncharacteristic snow storm in central Tennessee, the Golden Rams won big in their debut against Virginia Military Institute. Johnny Dickinson got things started for WCU with a 57 second fall at 125. After Tommy Bisset came up on the short end of an 11-7 battle, Steven Armor answered with a 17 second fall at 141. Dillon Evans then received a forfeit, which was followed by a workman like 10-2 major at 157 by Steve Rathfon. Consecutive first period falls by Dustin "Tank" Tancredi and Kevin Bacci brought the team score to 34-3. At 184, Abe Brooks racked up five plus minutes of riding time in a dominating 13-3 major decision. Forfeits at 197, 235 and 285 made the final team score 56-3. That victory put West Chester into the championship pool round on Saturday, where they were paired up with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Southern Indiana and three-time defending national dual champion Grand Valley State. WCU made a major statement by knocking off the defending champs and going 3-0 in the pool to advance to the semi-finals.
They opened up on Saturday morning, by hammering sixth seeded RPI, 43-3. Pins by Steven Armor, Dustin Tancredi and Sean Fitzgerald, a major by Cody Carrigan and a tough 2-1 win by Steve Rathfon over 3x All-American Ryan Michaels carried the Golden Rams. Next up was the much anticipated showdown with third seeded Grand Valley State. John Dickinson got things off on the right foot with a major decision at 125. A couple of hard fought, one point decisions by Steven Armor and Dustin Tancredi, sandwiched around a 13-2 major by Dillon Evans (over returning All-American Mike Leonard), put WCU up 14-6. A 7-2 victory by Kevin Bacci at 174, coupled with a huge first period fall by Sean Fitzgerald, stretched the lead to 23-6 with three bouts remaining. Grand Valley answered with a fall of their own at 197. The Golden Rams Brian Nicholson then showed what it means to be “Army Tough” in holding off Adam Martin’s relentless attack in attempting to secure the fall that GVSU needed to have a chance at winning the dual. Nicholson refused to be turned while dropping a 9-5 decision that sealed the historic victory for West Chester. Grand Valley forfeited the final bout to make the final score 29-15. In their final pool match, WCU rested some starters, but still handled Southern Indiana, winning 38-21. Jason Mandragona and Matt Rooney both received forfeits against USI, while Cody Carrigan and Abe Brooks recorded falls and Ryan Rozniakowski won his second bout of the day.
In the semi-finals against the second seed, The Apprentice School, the Golden Rams fell behind 18-0 after just three bouts. But major decisions by Dillon Evans, Dustin Tancredi and Kevin Bacci (over returning All-American Will Harcum), along with a decision by Sean Fitzgerald got WCU back within striking distance at 24-15 with two bouts to go. However, Apprentice won those final two by decision to take a 30-15 victory and advance to the finals against Marion Military Academy, who knocked of top seeded Central Florida in the other semi, 26-20. MMI then defeated Apprentice 27-15 in the championship match.
In the battle for third place with Central Florida, each team would take turns leading. WCU again found themselves in an early hole, but Steven Armor and Dillon Evans gave the Golden Rams a 12-9 lead with a couple of first period falls. The match at 157 would prove to be a turning point in the dual. WCU’s Steve Rathfon had a 2-0 lead midway through the second period and was working toward earning more back points, when he fell victim to a rare, but devastating defensive fall that put UCF back in front. The Golden Rams answered with a fall by Dustin Tancredi at 165 and a solid 7-2 decision by Kevin Bacci at 174 (over returning All-American CJ Hauser) to go back up 21-15. Three straight decisions at 184, 197 and 235 would put Central Florida on top 24-21 heading into the final bout. Needing at least a major to secure victory for West Chester, Mike McEntee gave it all he had, but was downed by UCF’s Daniel Rowe late in the third to make the final score 30-21.
All eighteen wrestlers contributed to the team’s effort with the following going undefeated for the weekend: Dustin Tancredi 6-0, Dillon Evans 4-0, Kevin Bacci 4-0, Cody Carrigan 2-0, Ryan Rozniakowski 2-0, Jason Mandragona 1-0 and Matt Rooney 1-0. As a long, exciting and tiring weekend came to a close, the WCU team can hold their heads high in returning home with a strong 4th place finish, as they made it known throughout the NCWA that West Chester is a team to be reckoned with. The Golden Rams return to the mats again this week with a home dual on Wednesday with Williamson Trade and an away dual on Thursday at Thaddeus Stevens. With the Mid-East Conference Tournament just 3½ weeks away, they will turn their focus toward training and preparing for a run at winning the NCWA National Tournament that will take place on March 11-13 in Hampton, VA.