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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

2006 Middle Atlantic Conference Wrestling Championships Preview

ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. --- Elizabethtown College will host the 2006 Middle Atlantic Conference wrestling championships at Etown’s Thompson Gymnasium Saturday, February 18. The NCAA Division III Championship qualifier tournament will pit wrestlers from seven schools against one another, including Delaware Valley College, Elizabethtown College, King’s College (Pa.), Lycoming College, Messiah College, the University of Scranton and Wilkes University.

Last year, Delaware Valley captured its fourth consecutive MAC title, edging second-place Lycoming 175-131.5. The top-finishing Aggies won six of the ten weight classes, while Lycoming won two. Messiah placed third in 2005 with 117 points, King’s finished fourth with 95 points, Wilkes was fifth with 87.5 points, Elizabethtown placed sixth with 46.5 points, and Scranton was seventh with 40.5 points. Albright College, which will not compete at this year’s MAC Championships, placed eighth with 23.5 points last year.

Going into the 2006 championships, both Delaware Valley and Lycoming are nationally ranked. Delaware Valley is ranked 21st in the February 14 Brute-Adidas/NWCA poll for NCAA Division III, and Lycoming is right behind with a national ranking of 22nd.

Only three MAC Champions from last year return. Delaware Valley returns two of its MAC Champions from 2005, as junior Dan Hall (141) and senior Jamall Johnson (197) return for the Aggies. Lycoming returns one of its MAC Champions from 2005, senior Tom Snyder (285). There are also two wrestlers who are currently ranked in the top eight in their weight class nationally who will be competing Saturday, and they are both competing in the same bracket: Johnson of Delaware Valley (2nd) and junior Jason Reilly (8th) of King’s will both be competing at 197 pounds.

Here is a look at the upcoming MAC Championships by weight class, based on entry submissions as of the morning of February 15:

125 pounds:

The 125 pound weight class will feature Josh Proctor (7-5) of Delaware Valley, Peter Achilles (13-13) of Elizabethtown, Jeff Mazurek (9-16) of King’s, James Saxton (8-8) of Lycoming, Josh Cragg (13-7) of Messiah, Richard Russell (15-6) of Scranton and Felipe Querioz (22-6) of Wilkes. The field is wide open with only two returning place-winners from last year, including Cragg, a sophomore who was fourth as a rookie, and Russell, a sophomore who placed fifth as a rookie. Querioz, a first-year student, has gone 6-0 against MAC opponents during the 2005-06 season.

133 pounds:

Competitors at 133 pounds include Justin Shorts (12-14) of Delaware Valley, Dave Morgan (21-2) of King’s, Sean Cullen (17-4) of Lycoming, Craig Gin (12-18) of Messiah, Ryan McDaniel (8-13) of Scranton and Joshua Pauling (18-7) of Wilkes. Cullen, a junior, was the 2005 MAC runner-up at 133 pounds, and he is the only returning place-winner. However, Morgan, a sophomore, defeated Cullen 10-5 at the MAC Duals January 28. McDaniel has won three bouts against MAC opponents this year, and Gin has won two.

141 pounds:

The 141 pound bracket will feature Dan Hall (13-10) of Delaware Valley, Justin Martin (5-14) of Elizabethtown, Ryan Richard (5-7) of King’s, Kyle Hopkins (13-9) of Lycoming, Barry Thrush (0-3) of Messiah, Robert May (2-11) of Scranton and Adam Penberthy (26-10) of Wilkes. Hall is the defending MAC Champion at 141 pounds, and Martin placed sixth at 133 pounds last year. Penberthy has had a strong sophomore season for Wilkes, racking up 26 total victories and four wins against MAC opponents. Hopkins, a junior, also has four wins against MAC opponents this year, and Richard has three MAC wins.

149 pounds:

Taking the mat at 149 pounds are Jaryd Steinbacher (10-11) of Delaware Valley, Jereme Heisey (10-17) of Elizabethtown, Ryan Trees (1-18) of King’s, Drew Barder (1-2) of Lycoming, Kevin Gin (16-14) of Messiah, Donell Young (20-0) of Scranton and Erik Smith (18-13) of Wilkes. Young placed sixth in this bracket at the MAC Championships last year and has enjoyed a monster junior season in 2005-06. Both Young and Etown first-year student Heisey have four wins against MAC opponents this season, while Gin, a junior,and Steinbacher, a first-year student, have three MAC wins. Smith, another first-year student, has gone 2-2 in the MAC.

157 pounds:

A veteran-heavy 157 pound field includes junior Ryan Herwig (18-10) from Delaware Valley, Rob Bozart (16-7) from Elizabethtown, Drew Dehaut (15-4) from King’s, Jason Smith (5-2) from Lycoming, Trey Speers (5-20) from Messiah, either Tim Simansky (3-5) or Steve Gray (2-3) from Scranton, and Justin Barowski (21-4) from Wilkes. Dehaut, a junior, was last year’s MAC runner-up at 157 pounds, and Smith, a senior, placed third at 157 last year. Additionally, Bozart, another junior, moves up to 157 after finishing as the MAC runner-up at 149 pounds last year. Herwig won five bouts against MAC opponents this year, while Barowski, a first-year student, won four.

165 pounds:

Competing at 165 pounds are John Powell (18-8) of Delaware Valley, Robert Rosario (7-18) of Elizabethtown, Bobby Williard (5-8) of King’s, Heath Oberlin (12-10) of Lycoming, Derek Ricker (28-5) of Messiah, Steve Tatum (19-10) of Scranton and Steve Franko (10-13) of Wilkes. Ricker, a junior, placed third at 165 pounds last year. Tatum, a sophomore, placed fifth in the MAC at 165 as a rookie, and Powell, a senior, was last year’s fifth place finisher at 157 pounds.

174 pounds:

The 174 pound bracket will see Ryan Pope (11-10) of Delaware Valley, Brian Issac (1-12) of Elizabethtown, Zach Dietrick (8-15) of King’s, Derek Crane (14-7) of Lycoming, Anthony Dill (20-12) of Messiah, Rob Schwarting (4-13) of Scranton and either William Bleiler (4-14) of Wilkes or Thomas Leggio (3-5) of Wilkes compete. Crane, a senior, was last year’s MAC runner-up at 174 pounds. Pope, a junior, placed fourth at 165 pounds in the 2005 MAC Championship, and Dill, a junior, placed fourth at 157 pounds last year. Leggio, a sophomore, placed sixth at 165 pounds last year.

184 pounds:

The lineup at 184 pounds includes Mike Berlanda (23-11) of Delaware Valley, R.J. Mount (5-16) of Elizabethtown, Zach Wilkinson (7-16) of King’s, Matt Miller (13-5) of Lycoming, either Mike Orfanos (12-17) or Matt McHugh (5-4) of Messiah, and Rex Harris (30-5) of Wilkes. Miller, a sophomore, placed fourth at 184 pounds last year, and Orfanos, a senior, placed fifth at 197 pounds. Berlanda and Harris, both seniors, have each gone 5-1 in bouts against MAC opponents this year at 184 pounds, and Berlanda has also gone 2-0 in the MAC at 197 pounds.

197 pounds:

The 197 pound weight class features not one, but two, nationally ranked competitors this year. Competing are Jamall Johnson (19-4) from Delaware Valley, who is the 2005 national runner-up and All-American, and is the defending MAC Champion and currently the second-ranked 197 pound wrestler in Division III, James Campolongo (5-21) from Elizabethtown, Jason Reilly (24-1) from King’s, who is currently ranked eighth in the country, Bryan Kopesky (6-5) from Lycoming, Mike Lengel (18-14) from Messiah, David Rohan (0-14) from Scranton and Brandon Kelly (20-3) from Wilkes. Kelly, a junior, was last year’s runner-up at 197 pounds, and Reilly, a junior, was last year’s third place finisher.

285 pounds:

Competing at 285 pounds include Kevin Orr (19-7) of Delaware Valley, James Bishop (8-2) of King’s, Tom Snyder (20-1) of Lycoming, Ethan Bucarey (4-22) of Messiah, Trevor Needham (12-17) of Scranton and Keith Altiery (13-15) of Wilkes. Snyder, a senior,is the returning MAC Champion at 285 pounds and was an All-American in 2005. Bishop, a junior, was the 2005 fourth-place finisher at 285 pounds at the MAC Championships, and Bucarey, a junior,placed fifth at 285 in 2005. Needham, a senior,was the MAC fifth-place finisher at 184 pounds last year. Orr, a first-year student, has gone 5-1 against MAC opponents this season, while Altiery, a junior, has three MAC wins.

The MAC Championships will begin at 10:00 a.m. Saturday with the quarter-finals. The semi-finals and first round consolation bouts are scheduled to begin at 12:00 p.m., and the finals will take place at 4:00 p.m.

The cost of admission to the MAC Championships is $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for senior citizens, $2.00 for students and free for children under the age of six.

The MAC wrestling championships return to Elizabethtown Saturday after a long hiatus; according to MAC records, the last time Etown hosted the conference championships was in 1977.