West Chester University’s wrestling team entered this year’s Mid-East Conference Championships at Lafayette College in Easton, PA as the reigning champions, and walked out with the same title. Their performance capped off a 15-4 dual meet season and helps to propel the team forward heading into Nationals in two weeks time. “Overall we’re happy,” said head coach Joe Miller, “They really dominated out there today.”
And what coach wouldn’t be happy? Of the 17 wrestlers who went to the tournament, nine qualified for Nationals. Of the nine, six were in their respective weight class’ final. As a team they finished with 15 pins and a 40 point lead on their closest competition, Penn State-DuBois.
Luke Bilyeu (141), Dustin Tancredi (165), Kevin Bacci (184), and Thomas Dwyer (heavyweight) all won their weight classes. The teams captain Bacci, wrestling up a weight class from last year, recorded three pins on the road to repeating as champion.
However, it was Tancredi who put on a show, pinning his way to a second straight conference title. He recorded three pins, each in under two minutes, including the fastest pin of the tournament. His performance earned him the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award, which is voted on by the coaches of all the teams participating in the competition.
“It was awesome [receiving the award], I haven’t won one of those since high school,” Tancredi said, “I mean it’s great, and it shows how great everyone [on the team] is. It shows how good the guys I get to wrestle everyday are.”
Joining the four champions are Brandon Banks, who was the runner- up at 197, and Ryan Kreppel, who was the runner-up in the heavyweight division, finishing behind his teammate, Thomas Dwyer. “That was one of our goals,” Coach Miller said, “to get two guys from the same weight class to Nationals.” He continued, “That is one of the great things about our division, in the NCAA you can only get one guy in the finals, in the NCWA you can get two. And the more guys you can get to nationals the better chance you have.”
Rounding out the Golden Ram’s entries to the National Championships are Jason Mandragona (4th at 125), Nathan Snyder (4th at 149), and Max Barsky (3rd at 157). John Dickenson’s 5th place finish in his weight class opens up the opportunity for him to enter the National Championships as a wild card, which would increase WCU’s contingent to ten wrestlers.
“We brought two to Nationals our first year, six our second year, and this year we have nine, maybe ten,” Coach Miller recalled, “And this year I think we’ve got some guys who can definitely win their weight classes, so hopefully we can get some of the big guys to go there and perform, and we may be in a good position.”
Tancredi expressed the team’s mindset for the next two weeks saying, “We’re just gonna get back to practice these next couple weeks, practice hard, and stay focused. Then we will go down there (Dalton, Georgia, the location of this year’s National Championships) and try to make it happen.”
The impressive body of work this group of wrestlers has is helping to reestablish WCU as one of the premier wrestling programs outside of NCAA Division I in only its third year of existence. So when you see one of your wrestler friends, give them a handshake, a congrats, and a ‘good luck’ as they go forward to let the rest of the country know that West Chester University is back, and getting better.
Brian Johnson is a third-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at BJ669485@wcupa.edu.