BLOOMSBURG — The Clarion wrestling team saw its greatest number of finalists in seven years, and two Golden Eagles punched their tickets for the NCAA Championships, at the 42nd Eastern Wrestling League championships hosted by Bloomsburg.
The Golden Eagles finished fourth with a total of 48.5 points on the evening.
Jake Gromacki and Brock Zacherl both guaranteed their spots in the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in two weeks, earning automatic bids with top-two finishes at 125 and 141, respectively.
It will be the second straight trip to the big dance for Zacherl, a Brookville graduate, and the first in Gromacki’s career.
Clarion sent three wrestlers to the finals on Saturday night, with Dustin Conti joining Gromacki and Zacherl in their championships matches. In addition, Evan Delong finished in third place at 165 pounds and Jake Keller (Curwensville grad), Dom Rigous and Scott Marmoll all competed in their respective third-place matches.
Gromacki’s day started with a decisive opening round victory, as the redshirt sophomore made short work of Cleveland State’s John Martin. In the span of just 2:41 Gromacki tagged Martin with 18 points, picking up a number of four-point near falls and clinching the 18-0 technical fall before the end of the first period.
Things didn’t come quite as easily in the semifinals, but Gromacki fought off a late shot by Rider’s JR Wert and held on for a 2-1 decision. The win officially clinched him his spot in the NCAA Championships, but Edinboro’s Sean Russell scuttled Gromacki’s chances for an EWL title with an 11-3 major decision.
Conti’s experience more or less mirrored Gromacki’s day, right down to the dominant 18-0 technical fall victory over Cleveland State’s Collin Kelly in the first round. The semifinal bout against Lock Haven’s Tristan Sponseller was all drama, though.
The two wrestled to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation, and neither wrestler got much traction in the first sudden victory period until the waning moments.
A coach’s review wiped out what would have been Sponseller’s bout-winning takedown with one second remaining, while at the same time giving Conti a takedown just seconds before that, giving Conti a trip to the finals.
The championship match against Ryan Wolfe was a hotly-contested one, but Conti ultimately fell by a 9-2 score.
Zacherl entered the weekend as the top seed in the 141-pound bracket, and thus needed just one win to advance to the finals.
He jumped out to a big 6-0 lead on Cleveland State’s Evan Cheek thanks to a takedown and a four-point tilt in the first period, and led 9-3 early in the third period. Cheek notched a late takedown but Zacherl kept him at bay long enough to move on to the finals.
The bout against Lock Haven’s Ronnie Perry was a low-scoring slugfest, though, with Perry building a ride time advantage and scoring a takedown late in the first period that made the difference in a 5-3 loss for Zacherl.
In addition to the three finalists, Clarion had four other wrestlers compete in their respective third-place matches.
Fourth-seeded Jake Keller started things off in the 149-pound bout, winning 3-2 over Rider’s Gino Fluri before falling in his semifinal bout to Edinboro’s Patricio Lugo.
He rebounded with a win in the consolation semifinals, beating Bloomsburg’s Nate Newberry 10-5 to advance to the third-place match. The third-place match against Lock Haven’s Kyle Shoop was a close one, with Keller ultimately falling 3-0.
Third-seeded Delong notched an 8-1 decision over Cleveland State’s John Vaughn before falling by major decision to Edinboro’s Austin Matthews in the semifinals. He earned his spot in the third-place match with a 15-3 major decision over George Mason’s Daniel Mika, and went on to beat Vaughn again by a 3-2 score to take third place.
Third-seeded Dom Rigous won a 3-1 sudden victory decision over George Mason’s Ryan Forrest, and seconds later fourth-seeded Scott Marmoll won the 184-pound quarterfinal over Lock Haven’s Corey Hazel 5-3, also in sudden victory.
Rigous lost to Lock Haven’s Anthony Mackie but scored a 6-2 decision over Cleveland State’s Devon Pingel in the consolation semifinal, while Marmoll rebounded from a loss to top-seeded Dakota Geer of Edinboro to beat Bloomsburg’s Kyle Murphy.
Both, however, fell in their third-place matches, with Rigous going down 6-4 to Rider’s Dean Sherry and Marmoll to the Broncs’ Michale Fagg-Daves.