Sat, Feb. 17, 2007 - [Wrestling]
Marshall, Mo.--After runner-up finishes in 2005 and 2006, the Penn wrestling team got back on top by winning the Central Regional Tournament title Saturday.
The Statesmen scored 151 points for the gold, followed by host Missouri Valley with 134 points. Oklahoma City was third with 99.5 points. Penn swept the rest of the tournament hardware as well, as Darren Cotton (Sr., Atlanta, Ga., McNair HS) was named the Central Region's Outstanding Wrestler and Head Coach Gary Garvis was named the Central Region's Coach of the Year.
Other regional champions were Dana (Neb.) in the North Region, Great Falls (Mont.) in the West Region, and Lindenwood (Mo.) in the East Region.
The title is the program's third since joining the NAIA in 2001-2002 and the first since 2004.
Penn won titles at 125, 141, 149, 165, 174, and 285 pounds, while placing second at 165 and 285. Statesmen grapplers also took home a third-place finish, a fourth-place finish, and a fifth-place finish.
Cotton led the way by taking the 149-pound title with a 3-0 record, including a 3-2 decision over #4 nationally-ranked Brad Stockton of Waldorf in the finals. He also had a fall in 5:13 to reach the championship match.
Shamar Haynes (Jr., Cedar Rapids, Ellsworth CC) was the #2 seed in a four-person bracket at 125 pounds, but after a fall in 6:23 to reach the finals, he upset #1 seed Justin Blumer of Oklahoma City, 4-3, to claim the title.
"The win in the finals was sweet payback for Shamar because he lost to the Oklahoma City wrestler earlier in the season at home," Garvis said.
Dustin Howa (So., Price, Utah, Carbon HS), at 141 pounds, and Abel Trujillo (Sr., Durham, N.C., Riverside HS), at 174 pounds, both defended their #1 seeds to be regional champions Saturday.
Howa was 2-0 with a pair of decisions, most notably a 7-1 win over #2 seed Brandon Pigorsch of York (Neb.) in the championship match. Howa became the first-ever regional champion for Penn at 141 pounds.
"This was an amazing feat since Dustin was fourth on our depth chart at the beginning of the season and through perseverance and hard work, he climbed to the varsity spot and onto the championship," Garvis said.
Trujillo motored through his weight class with a 3-0 record, highlighted by a 14-5 major decision win over John Wilcox of Oklahoma City in the finals.
Two individuals were forced to beat their fellow teammates to be champions Saturday. Marty Usman (Fr., Arlington, Texas, Bowie HS), the #4 seed at 165 pounds, upset #2 seed Nate Stirgus (Muskegon, Mich., Muskegon CC) in the finals, 6-4. The freshman, who was 3-0 on the day, defeated top-seeded Chris Jones of Missouri Valley, 4-0, to get to the finals.
Jordan Wall (So., Liberty, N.C., Eastern Randolph HS) entered the tournament as the #2 seed at 285 pounds behind his teammate Chauncey Coleman (Sr., Fresno, Calif., McLane HS), but after consecutive falls in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, Wall escaped the championship match with a 2-0 overtime win over Coleman to finish 3-0 on the day.
Stirgus, 2-1 at 165 pounds, and Coleman, 2-1 at 285 pounds, both tallied runner-up finishes. Coleman also picked up the fastest fall of the tournament and of the season for Penn, defeating Kyle Yoder of Oklahoma City in 15 seconds.
"We obviously had a lot of success at 165 pounds and 285 pounds," Garvis said. "Assistant Coach Ross McCombs told me that both Marty and Nate had to beat All-American wrestlers to get to the finals, which is a testimony to the level of competition at that weight."
Brandon Palmer (So., Durham, N.C., Riverside HS) was 3-1 to place third at 149 pounds, while Spenser Sharp (Fr., Hoquiam, Wash., Hoquiam HS) was 2-2 to place fourth at 184 pounds. Paul Carter (Carson City, Nev., Carson HS) placed fifth despite not claiming any victories.
"Brandon Palmer had a great day and just barely lost in the semifinals," Garvis said. "A win for him there would have made the day perfect."
"Spenser Sharp gave us an emotional boost," Garvis said. "I think after his upset victory in the first round, our guys realized we had a good chance to win the regional championship."
Penn was without the services of 133-pounder Nick Cucciniello (Fr., Saint James, N.Y., Smithtown HS) and 157-pounder Brandon Graham (Jr., Oskaloosa, Oskaloosa HS), both of whom were out due to injuries.
"We knew it would be an uphill battle without Brandon or Nick," Garvis said. "Our guys were not going to be denied the regional title. There was no 'I' in this team victory."
Next: Penn takes a week off before traveling to Sioux City to compete at the NAIA National Tournament on March 2-3. A national tournament preview will be available on the William Penn Athletics website at the beginning of that week, highlighting all of the Statesmen national qualifiers and their first-round matchups.