Seven West Liberty Wrestlers Qualify for Nationals

February 28, 2009

ERIE, Pa. - The West Liberty wrestling team finished a strong third in this weekend's NCAA Division II Super Region I tournament at Mercyhurst College and qualified seven wrestlers for the NCAA Division II Nationals in Houston later this month.

Newberry won the regional title with 135.5 points with Pitt-Johnstown taking second place at 108.5. The Hilltoppers piled up 92 points to easily outdistance Gannon (80.5) for fourth place while host Mercyhurst was fifth with 71 points.

West Liberty senior Doug Surra won the 141-pound title and will be looking to earn his third straight All-America certificate while Mitch Knapp will be making his second straight NCAA trip after claiming runnerup laurels at 184. Nick Wykoff (133), Seth Phalen (165) and Cody Tominack (285) punched their NCAA ticket by finishing fourth in their respective weight classes.

Kayne Melko (149) and Mitch Smith (157) finished fifth in the tournament but took advantage of the tournament's "true fourth-place" rule to earn their NCAA trips in a wrestleoff.

The "true fourth-place" rule allows the fifth-place wrestler to challenge the fourth-place wrestler to a wrestleoff for the NCAA spot if the fifth-place wrestler had defeated the fourth-place wrestler earlier in the regional or if the two wrestlers had not met during the tournament.

The NCAA Division II nationals will be held March 13-14 in Houston.

Wykoff, the No. 6 seed at 133 pounds, dropped a 3-2 decision to No. 3 seed Andrew Young of Newberry in Friday's quarterfinals but battled through the wrestlebacks on Saturday to claim a fourth-place finish. Wykoff clinched his NCAA berth with a 9-7 win against No. 5 seed Michael Baxter of Mercyhurst in the wrestleback semifinals before dropping a 5-2 decision to Young again in the third-place match.

Surra, the No. 1 seed at 141 pounds, made an impressive run to his regional championship. After handling Limestone's No. 5 seed Jeremy Parker, 3-1, in Saturday's semifinals, the Hilltopper senior routed No. 6 seed Adam Whetstone of UPJ by an 11-6 count in the title match.

Melko, seeded No. 5 at 149 pounds, battled No. 1 seed Latra Collins of Newberry to the wire and beyond in the semifinals before Collins pulled out a 3-1 sudden victory overtime decision. Melko came out on the short end of a 2-1 score against No. 7 seed Ryan McIntyre of UPJ in a wrestleback semifinal but kept hope alive with a 4-0 shutout of No. 2 seed Nick DiCarlo of Anderson in the fifth-place match. Melko then beat Mercyhurst's Lenny Calhoun in a true fourth-place wrestleoff for the NCAA bid.

Smith, the No. 1 seed at 157 pounds, also earned his trip to Houston by prevailing in a true fourth-place wrestleoff. Smith was a 6-4 upset victim of No. 5 seed J.J. Jackson of Anderson in the semifinals and dropped a 10-6 decision to No. 2 seed Mike Rogers of Carson-Newman in the wrestleback semifinals. But Smith bounced back with a 12-5 romp against No. 7 seed Chris Chambers of Kutztown in the fifth-place match and knocked off No. 4 seed Brandon Monin of Gannon in the true fourth-place wrestleoff.

Phalen, the No. 6 seed at 165 pounds, worked his way through the wrestlebacks to earn his NCAA bid after being defeated in Friday's quarterfinals. Phalen notched two falls and a technical fall in his three wrestleback matches before dropping an 8-4 decision to No. 2 seed Brandon Kelly of Newberry in the third-place match.

Knapp, seeded No. 4 at 184 pounds, stunned top-seeded Bryant Blanton of Newberry, 4-2, in the championship semifinals but settled for second place honors when No. 2 seed Jacob Tazzi of Gannon eked out a 3-1 win in the title match.

Tominack, the No. 8 seed at 285 pounds, lost to top-seeded Cy Wainwright of Newberry in Friday's quarterfinals but came on strong Saturday to earn an NCAA bid. Tominack beat No. 4 seed Charles Robinson of Carson-Newman, 6-1, before shocking No. 2 seed Trey Moss of Limestone with a first-period fall at 2:22 in the wrestleback semifinals. Tominack finished fourth after dropping a rugged 7-4 decision to No. 5 seed Chris Dempsey of UPJ in the third-place match.

NCAA Division II Super Region I Tournament
(at Erie, Pa.)

Team Scoring
1. Newberry 135.5
2. Pitt-Johnstown 108.5
4. Gannon 80.5
5. Mercyhurst 71
6. Kutztown 53
7. Carson-Newman 49; 8. Shippensburg 47; 9. (tie) Anderson, Belmont Abbey 44; 11. UNC-Pembroke 41; 12. Limestone 38
13. Seton Hill 18
14. American International 13
15. St. Andrew's Presbyterian 0.

West Liberty National Qualifiers
141: Doug Surra

Second Place
184: Mitch Knapp

Fourth Place
133: Nick Wykoff; 149: Kayne Melko; 157: Mitch Smith; 165: Seth Phalen; 285: Cody Tominack

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