ERIE, Pa. -- The Mercyhurst University wrestling team made history on Wednesday night thanks, in large part, to an unlikely hero.
The Lakers claimed the program's first-ever conference title, and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's first-ever Division II Championship with a 26-9 victory at crosstown-rival Gannon at the Hammermill Center in downtown Erie. Mercyhurst ran the table in the PSAC this season, improving to 13-2 overall and finishing with a 5-0 conference mark. Gannon dropped to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
With the match still hanging in the balance entering the 197-pound bout, Mercyhurst head coach Mike Wehler decided to call upon redshirt freshman Brian Beattie, who had wrestled just 11 matches all season, and just once in dual competition. Beattie clinched the championship, posting a 7-4 victory over Gannon's Kris Rahn to give the Lakers an insurmountable lead and their league's first-ever D-II champion.
With Mercyhurst leading 17-9, Beattie scored a takedown in the opening 30 seconds of his match to take a 2-0 lead and then added a two-point nearfall to take a 4-0 advantage. Rahn escaped to cut Beattie's lead to three. Beattie had a takedown taken away from him in the closing seconds of the first, saying the points came after the buzzer.
After a scoreless second period, Rahn picked up a reversal early in the third to cut Beattie's lead to 4-3. However, the redshirt freshman returned the favor, reversing it back for a 6-3 lead. Beattie added a point on a Gannon penalty, countered by a Rahn escape with 43 seconds left to set up a wild finish. Beattie would hold off Rahn's rally to clinch the first-ever Division II PSAC Championship.
Beattie improved to 7-5 on the season.
The table was set again by the dynamic freshman duo of Willie Bohince and Dylan D'Urso, who both had to work extra hard to post upset victories over their counterparts from Gannon.
The first bout of the night, at 125 pounds, featured two regionally-ranked combatants � Bohince of Mercyhurst and Matt Turek of Gannon. Bohince entered the night ranked third in Super Region I, while Turek was ranked second.
Turek jumped out to a 2-0 with a takedown midway through the opening period, but Bohince tied the match early in the second with a pair of escapes. With the score tied at 2-2 entering the third period, Bohince scored an early three-point nearfall to take his first lead of the match, 5-2. Turek picked up an escape, to cut the lead to 5-3, and then picked up a stalling point, cutting the Bohince lead to 5-4. The Laker freshman held off a late rally, topping Turek 5-4 to earn a 3-0 Mercyhurst advantage.
Bohince improved to 25-4 overall and 14-0 in dual matches this season.
The 133-pound bout also featured two ranked competitors - the region's third-ranked wrestler in D'Urso, and the top-ranked wrestler in the region (seventh in the nation), Jose Matos of Gannon.
D'Urso scored a takedown in the opening seconds to take a 2-0 lead and then scored a two-point nearfall, countered by an escape by Matos, to hold a 4-1 lead after the opening period. Matos would cut the D'Urso lead to two points at 4-2 with an escape to start the second period. Then, in the third period, D'Urso started the frame with an escape to recapture the three-point lead. D'Urso added a late takedown in the third to win the bout 8-2, upsetting the top-ranked wrestler in the region.
D'Urso improved to 23-3 overall and 13-1 in dual matches this season.
Redshirt sophomore Nick Hannan (8-6, 3-2 duals) got the call at 141 pounds against Gannon's Adam Weinell. After a scoreless two periods, Weinell chose defense to start the third. Weinell picked up an escape to get the first point of the match. Hannan couldn't muster any offense against Weinell's defense, and eventually lost the bout 3-0, cutting the Mercyhurst lead to 6-3.
Sophomore Michael Griffith, ranked fifth in the latest Super Region I rankings, was up next at 149 to attempt to get those points back. Griffith owned the first period, riding his opponent, Gannon's Mike Krysiak, for nearly the entire three minutes. The Laker sophomore scored an early takedown to take a 2-0 lead and then added a three-point nearfall to take a 5-0 advantage after the opening period.
Griffith kept going in the second, scoring a reversal early to take a 7-0 lead. He would add a two-point nearfall just moments later to extend the advantage to 9-0. The sophomore was not done, getting a three-point nearfall in the closing seconds of the second. After Krysiak scored an escape to start the third, Griffith added a takedown to take a 14-1 lead. Krysiak would add another escape to end the bout, with Griffith earning the major decision win, 15-2 (including riding time).
Griffith improved to 19-6 overall and 11-2 in duals and gave the Lakers a 10-3 lead after four bouts.
Up next, at 157 pounds, was redshirt junior Tyler Berger and Gannon's Sean Floor, who entered the bout ranked sixth in the Super Region I rankings. Like the 141-pound match, the first two periods were scoreless. Floor chose defense to start the third and scored an early escape to take a 1-0 lead. That point would mark the only point of the match, as Gannon cut the lead to 10-6.
Redshirt junior Clint Schaefer, ranked fifth in the region at 165 pounds, took the mat next and was pitted against Gannon's Adam Greenman. Schaefer, who started the season 17-3 but is just 3-3 over his last six bouts, scored a takedown late in the first period for the only points of the opening three minutes. The Laker grappler added an escape early in the second to take a 3-0 lead after two periods. Those would be the only points of the match, as Schaefer improved to 21-6 overall and 11-4 in dual matches.
Mercyhurst led 13-6 heading to the 174-pound bout, which featured redshirt freshman Angelo Bortoluzzi, ranked sixth in the region, and Gannon's Jermaine Easter. Bortoluzzi started the match with a quick takedown, which was countered by an escape from Easter. Bortoluzzi added a takedown with five seconds left in the opening period to take a 4-1 lead. The redshirt freshman would add a two-point nearfall in the closing seconds of the second for a comfortable 6-1 lead heading to the third period.
Bortoluzzi added an escape, followed by a takedown in the opening minute of the third period and then rode out Easter to hang on for the major decision victory, 10-1 (with riding time). He picked up his 18th victory of the season against nine losses and gave Mercyhurst a 17-6 lead with three bouts left.
At 184, redshirt senior Eric Lundgren, ranked fifth in Super Region I, squared off with Zach Zelcs of Gannon, who entered the bout second in the region. Lundgren scored a quick takedown, immediately escaped out of by Zelcs, giving Lundgren a 2-1 lead. Zelcs followed with a takedown of his own to take a 3-2 lead after the opening period.
In the second, Zelcs picked up an escape to take a 4-2 advantage. It marked the only point of the middle stanza. Zelcs scored a takedown with 43 seconds left in the third to take a 6-2 advantage and then rode out Lundgren to close out the match.
Redshirt senior Jeffrey Pollard closed out the night with a medical forfeit over Gannon's Chaz Lear. The match went into the second period before Lear had to call for an injury timeout and wasn't able to recover.
The Lakers will now compete at the Lake Erie Quad Meet on Saturday, February 9. Mercyhurst will wrestle King College (Tenn.) at 10:00 a.m., the University of Findlay at 11:30 a.m., and wrap up with Lake Erie College at 1:00 p.m.
125 Willie Bohince (Mercyhurst) won by decision over Matthew Turek (Gannon) 5-4 [MU 3-0]
133 Dylan D`Urso (Mercyhurst) won by decision over Jose Matos (Gannon) 8-2. [MU 6-0]
141 Adam Weinell (Gannon) won by decision over Nick Hannan (Mercyhurst) 3-0. [MU 6-3]
149 Michael Griffith (Mercyhurst) won by major decision over Michael Krysiak (Gannon) 15-2. [MU 10-3]
157 Sean Floor (Gannon) won by decision over Tyler Berger (Mercyhurst) 1-0. [MU 10-6]
165 Clint Schaefer (Mercyhurst) won by decision over Adam Greenman (Gannon) 3-0. [MU 13-6]
174 Angelo Bortoluzzi (Mercyhurst) won by major decision over Jermaine Easter (Gannon) 10-1. [MU 17-6]
184 Zack Zelcs (Gannon) won by decision over Eric Lundgren (Mercyhurst) 6-2. [MU 17-9]
197 Brian Beattie (Mercyhurst) won by decision over Kristopher Rahn (Gannon) 7-4. [MU 20-9]
285 Jeffrey Pollard (Mercyhurst) won by medical forfeit over Charles Lear (Gannon) . [MU 26-9]