The past three weeks have been busy ones for West Chester University’s wrestling team, beginning with this year’s NCWA National Dual Championships in Dalton, Georgia and culminating with this past weekend’s meet against the University of Delaware, with eyes looking forward to the National Championship tournament at the beginning of next month.The team stumbled a bit from last year’s performance to finish sixth in this year’s National Dual Championships dropping from a 4th to 6th place finish.
“Our goal has been: five years, national title,” head coach Joe Miller said, “and the result here doesn’t change that.”
It was the second time this season that they had lost a close match to The Apprentice School and they lost their final match to Marion Military Institute (MMI) 27-26.
“That is what makes wrestling a great sport. The guys went hard for two days and we just came up short against Apprentice and MMI.” Although they were not able to match last season’s results, the team’s national title hopes were reinforced by the performances of John Dickinson (125), Dustin “Tank” Tancredi (165), and Kevin Bacci (184). The three were a combined 14-0 with five falls and one major decision.
In the wake of the tournament the team continued their excellent season with a 54-6 drubbing of the University of Delaware on Saturday. Mike Flynn got the winning started at 133 with a 7-2 decision and was followed up by a similar performance from Luke Bilyeu at 149. Jordan Knaub earned a fall at 157 which began a series of falls from Tancredi, Bacci, Brandon Banks, Thomas Dwyer, and Ryan Kreppel. Tancredi pinned his man in 21 seconds.
With this result in the rearview mirror, the Golden Rams will be set to encounter their next stepping stone to national glory, the Mid-East Conference Championships, and the team feels confident in their defense of their conference title. Coach Miller shares that confidence.
“We should repeat this year,” he said. “We have five returning champs and a whole team of solid guys. If we wrestle the way we’re capable of we should be fine.” But even with this tournament in the headlights everyone is getting ready for nationals.
The team’s two leaders, Bacci and Tancredi, are the two embodiments of the teams strive from success.
“I think I earned it [being the teams leader] winning nationals last year, and this year it’s all about defending that title,” said Bacci, the teams point leader, “it’ll be tough.”
Tancredi began this season with high expectations after finishing second in the nation last year and is looking on track to get to that next level.
When asked about last year’s results as motivation for this season, Tancredi said, “Last year I talked about it [winning nationals], but this year I really believe I can win it. I got lucky at times last year, in the quarters and semis, but hopefully this year I’ll be able to go out and win them myself this year.”
In its third year as a club program the team is making more and more strides to regain the type of recognition it had over 30 years ago, and results like conference and national titles can only help.
“It doesn’t matter what level we’re at, whether it’s club or Division I, we wrestle for one thing, championships,” Coach Miller said. West Chester University’s location is arguably the nation’s toughest scholastic wrestling state would make it an ideal location for a Division I or II program somewhere down the line and winning can only help that dream.
“That’s their decision [making the wrestling program school sponsored], we’re just happy to have what we have,” coach Miller said, “but it sure wouldn’t make anyone less happy to have a national title in the trophy cabinet next month.”
Brian Johnson is a third-year student majoring in English. He can be reached at BJ669485@wcupa.edu.