Over the weekend of March 10 to 12, WCU sent its wrestling representatives to the 2011 NCWA National Championships in Dalton, Georgia, and came out with a 6th place team finish and four All-Americans, including two national champions. “To have two national champs two years in a row is fantastic,” head coach Joe Miller said. “There are some schools that have been doing this for ten years and don’t have any champions, we’re going into our fourth year and we’ve had two champs two years in a row.”
Over the three years of the program’s existence they have amassed phenomenal statistics on the national level. Including this year’s effort, they have sent a total of 18 qualifiers, nine All-American’s, and five national champions. As a team they have had two 6th place team finishes at the nationals with additional 4th and 6th place finishes at the national dual meets.
The weekend was focused on the wrestlers on the mats. Both team captain Kevin Bacci (184) and Dustin “Tank” Tancredi (165) ended the weekend on top of the podium. Bacci started his defense of his national title with a first round pin, followed by three straight decisions. He finished off the tournament with a pin in the final round of his match against Dalton Hendersen of the United States Air Force Academy Prep. The 0:53 pin capped off his senior year with a second national title.
When asked about his captain coach Miller said, “If you want to write some words on Kevin you can write these, ‘No Excuses,’ that would be his motto. He’ll be a great coach one day,” he continued. “He loves to sit on the corner and help out his teammates.
On Bacci’s performance, teammate and fellow champion Dustin Tancredi said, “I thought Kevin should have gotten Outstanding Wrestler for pinning in the finals.”
Tancredi, a junior, began with high expectations after coming in second place at last year’s tournament and got off to a quick start pinning his first two opponents. The final three wins, however, did not come as quickly or as easily. He edged by the quarterfinals with a 10-8 victory followed by an incredibly tight 3-0 victory in the semis. Tancredi continued to push through his finals match-up with Jordan Peter from Northwest Missouri State University and ended with a 11-4 victory and a national title.
“It was incredible. I still have a smile on my face,” Tancredi said. “I just wrestled within myself like I know how to and everything came together. I just wrestled mean and physical and I was able to win a National Title.”
Coming in 3rd place at 141 was freshmen Luke Bilyeu. Bilyeu was off to a quick start with two straight pins until he dropped his semifinal match 12-4. Not to be discouraged, he rebounded in the consolation bracket with a 2-1 victory in the semis and 5-0 decision in the finals to take home 3rd place along with All-American honors.
Rounding out the results at 235 was sophomore Ryan Kreppel. Like Tancredi and Bilyeu, Kreppel started the tournament with two straight pins, until falling in the quarterfinals and, after a tough quarterfinals loss in the consolation bracket, was able to grind out a 6-3 victory in the seventh place match and take home All-American honors.
At 235 was another sophomore, Tom Dwyer, who unfortunately suffered an injury which prevented him from continuing in the tournament. “If he didn’t dislocate his elbow there’s no question he would have easily placed in the top eight,” revealed coach Miller.
“As a whole I though the team not only wrestled outstanding but we came together,” Tancredi said. “We all supported each other and yelled and screamed for one another which made it a great environment to wrestle. I really feel like we peaked at the right time.”
“We’re excited about the future,” said Miller, “Our goal has always been to win a national title and that not just pie in the sky, it’s right there in front of us…We’re thankful to the university for letting us train, and we’re just going to continue to work and give West Chester back the prominence they had years ago.” And with at least three of this year’s four All-Americans returning next year, and eight of the ten wrestlers who qualified for this year’s tournament (including three freshmen) the future can only get better for West Chester University’s wrestlers.
Brian Johnson is a third-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at BJ669485@wcupa.edu.