GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Led behind three third-place finishes and a pair of first-place victories, the No. 6 Centenary College wrestling team was crowned the 2013 NCAA East Region Wrestling Champions on Saturday after topping the 17 team field with a total 109.5 points.
The Cyclones picked up the championship title after finishing the tournament with 109.5 team points, beating out second place No. 8 Delaware Valley College (108) and No. 7 Wilkes University (106.5).
Leading the way for the Cyclones were their two returning All-American captains Chris Burdge (Newton, N.J., Kittatinny) and J.D. Zitone (Montague, N.J., Port Jervis) who each took home first place victories at 157 lbs. and 285 lbs. respectively.
As the top seed at 157 lbs., Burdge had a short road ahead of him as he took down James Dugan of Delaware Valley with a pin just over the first minute into the match before an 8-2 decision over Brandon Yeik of Merchant Marine in the semi-finals sent him into the championship match. Faced with second seeded and fourth-ranked Kris Krawchuk of Wilkes, Burdge showed his strength, topping Krawchuk with an 11-1 major decision to give him the first-place finish and a spot at the 2013 NCAA Championship.
Zitone took advantage of his top seed as well at 285 lbs., opening his day with an injury default before a pair of decisions over Chris Galletta of Muhlenberg and Mike Boardman of Delaware Valley sent him into the championship bout. Paired up with eighth ranked and second seeded Joe Camlin of McDaniel College, Zitone came out strong, forcing a 9-4 decision on Camlin for the championship title and a spot in Cedar Rapids on March 15th.
After a quick pin and a 6-2 decision to open his day at 133 lbs., Zach Huxford (Jackson, N.J., Jackson Memorial) dropped a match to top-seeded Brandon Jones to send him to the consolation bracket, but Huxford wouldn't stay quiet there for long. Opening the consolation bracket with a 7-0 decision over Ryan Wilson of Stevens, Huxford found his way to the third-place match, pinning Johns Hopkins' Ray Yagloski in 42 seconds to earn him the right to go to Cedar Rapids in two weeks for the Division III NCAA Championship Tournament.
At 141 lbs., Cory C. Vernon (Great Meadows, N.J., Hackettstown High School) continued to do exactly what he's done all year as he battled his way through three matches in the consolation bracket, including a close 2-1 decision over Elisha Gaylor of Ursinus to send him to the third-place bout against TCNJ's Dylan Thorsen. After losing to the fourth seeded Thorsen earlier in the day to send him to the consolation bracket, the fifth seeded Vernon stepped up, shutting out Thorsen with a 7-0 decision in the third place match to earn him at spot in the NCAA Tournament at 141 lbs.
Ninth-ranked Owen Vernon (Great Meadows, N.J., Hackettstown) also found himself a spot at the NCAA Tournament with his four teammates as the took home a third place finish as well at 165 lbs. After a pair of pins to open the day, Vernon dropped a 4-1 decision to top-seeded Joey Favia of Stevens, sending him to the consolation bracket where he picked up an 8-2 decision to put him into the third place match with David Rice of NYU. Vernon battled his way through the bout with Rice, picking up a 6-3 decision over the third seeded and sixth ranked NYU star for a spot on the podium.
Although only those five earned their automatic bids to the NCAA Championships on March 15th in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Cyclones got a lot of help from the rest of their squad to take home the East Regional championship title.
Seniors Kevin Dufresne (Newark, N.J., St. Benedicts Prep.) and Craig Montgomery (Roselle Park, N.J., Roselle Park) finished the day with fourth place finishes at 174 lbs. and 149 lbs. respectively, each falling in an intense third place bout to a member of the Delaware Valley squad.
Dufresne found himself in the third place match with Dallas Winston after a tough 6-5 decision sent him into the consolation bracket, but was unable to take down the Aggie as he lost a 3-2 decision for a fourth place finish. Montgomery found himself in a tough spot in the third place bout as he was faced with second seeded Emmanuel Ajagbe, but was unable to take him down as he dropped an intense 4-3 decision in the second tie breaker at 149 lbs.
Erick Orellana (Brentwood, N.J., Brentwood High School) earned himself a win at 125 lbs. for the Cyclones as well while Khalid Shakir (Bordentown, N.J., Bordentown Regional) picked up a pair of his own at 184 lbs. to help the Cyclones to victory.
The first place finish for the Cyclones marks the first championship under the new style of regional tournaments as the Cyclones look to start a tradition of winning the NCAA East Regional tournament. With the win, the five Cyclones who placed in the top three of their respective weight classes will head to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to compete in the 2013 Division III NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 15-16, 2013 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.