Messiah wins sixth straight regional title, sends 4 to NCAAs

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Four Messiah wrestlers claimed their spot in the National Championships as Messiah wrestling earned their sixth-straight Regional Championship. Messiah scored 121 team points on the weekend as Josiah Gehr (125 lbs.), Stephen Maloney (149 lbs.), Brian Shermeyer (174 lbs.), and Victor DeFrance (184 lbs.) finished in the top-three at the regional, punching their tickets to Roanoke, Va. for the National Championships on Mar. 8-9.

Ferrum (144.5 points) and Lycoming (114.5) tied for second with Wilkes (106) and Johns Hopkins (85) rounding out the top-five teams.

Josiah Gehr earned a 25-10 technical fall in the 125 lbs. Regional Championship bout to claim Messiah's only individual Regional title of the weekend, but both Stephen Maloney (149 lbs.) and Victor DeFrance (184 lbs.) advanced to the Championship bout, but conceded medical forfeits to finish as the runner-up in the Region.

Brian Shermeyer had the toughest road to Nationals, earning a third-place finish this weekend. After he dropped his first-round match on Friday, Shermeyer won five-straight matches, including a first-period fall in the third-place match to advance to Nationals for the first time in his career.

Bryan Brunk was named the Southeast Regional Coach of the Year after leading Messiah to their sixth-straight Regional Title.

Getting to the Finals

For the seventh-straight season, Messiah qualified at least four wrestlers for the National Championships with four Falcons heading to Roanoke, Va. in mid-March. Heading into Saturday, Messiah had three wrestlers alive in the championship bracket with Gehr (125 lbs.), Maloney (149), and DeFrance (184) still undefeated. All three earned victories in the semifinals to clinch a top-two finish and earn their spot at Nationals.

Gehr faced York's Dylan Nuttall in the semifinal and earned a 15-3 major decision to punch his ticket. Gehr earned three takedowns in the first period, allowing Nuttall to escape twice for a 6-2 lead after three minutes. A takedown and four nearfall points in the second period gave him a commanding 12-3 lead and the freshman cruised to the major decision and a spot in the Regional Final.

In the Final, Gehr continued his dominance in the tournament with overwhelming 25-10 victory over Averett's Samuel Braswell to win the regional title at 125 lbs. In the match, Gehr earned four takedowns, eight nearfall points, four penalty points, four escapes, and a riding time point. His weekend featured four victories with a fall, two major decisions, and the technical fall in the final. Gehr's title at 125 lbs. was the only regional title that Messiah won.

At 149 lbs., Maloney was in a battle with Gettysburg's Colin Devlin in the semifinal. The Messiah junior earned two reversals in the first period, but trailed 5-4 after two minutes. He took a lead with a pair of nearfall points in the second, but Devlin picked-up a riding time point and the bout was tied 5-5 at the end of regulation. Maloney earned a takedown just 19 seconds into the extra period to earn a spot at the National Championships.

After battling an injury at the end of the regular season and with his trip to Nationals already confirmed, Maloney conceded the Regional Final due to injury. York's Gregory Warner stood atop the podium at 149 lbs. with Maloney taking second after a stellar weekend on the mat.

Victor DeFrance was also in a tight battle in his semifinal with Johns Hopkins' Isaac Morales. After a scoreless opening period, Morales earned an early escape in the second, but DeFrance took the lead back with a takedown 40 seconds into the period. He rode out Morales for the remainder of the period and held a 2-1 lead heading to the third. Selecting bottom to start the third, DeFrance escaped with 32 seconds remaining in the match to advance to the finals and secure his spot at Nationals.

Like Maloney, DeFrance had been battling the injury bug heading into the weekend and took a medical forfeit in the Championship Bout to finish as the runner-up to Rexx Hallyburton from Washington and Lee.

All the Way Back

While Gehr, Maloney, and DeFrance each made their way through the championship bracket to secure their spot in the National Championships, Brian Shermeyer took a more difficult approach to a bid at 174 lbs. After winning his pigtail match on Friday morning, Shermeyer dropped his first-round bout to Jaden Datz (Washington and Lee) by a 4-3 decision. Datz earned a late takedown in the third period to send Shermeyer to the consolation bracket. That was the last loss that Shermeyer would suffer on the weekend.

Across his next four matches in the consolation bracket, Shermeyer would earn two pins, a technical fall, and a decision to advance him to the third-place match. Pitted against Greensboro's Tyron Dudley with the final spot at Nationals on the line. Shermeyer picked up a takedown in the first minute of the period and on a tilt got Dudley's shoulders to the mat for the fall in 2:11.

The thrilling fall was his third of the weekend and earned him third-place in the region. Across the two-day tournament, Shermeyer went 6-1 with five-straight wins to earn his spot at Nationals.

Capping Off the Season

In addition to the four National Qualifiers, Messiah also had three other wrestlers in action on Saturday with Nick Nunez (141 lbs.), Kevin Edwards (157 lbs.), and David Stevens (165 lbs.) advancing to the second day of the tournament. Nunez earned a second-period fall against Eric Hunt (Lycoming) in the consolation quarterfinals, but dropped a 10-3 decision in the consolation semifinals and a tight 4-3 decision in the fifth-place match to end his season with a six-place finish in the region.

Both Edwards and Stevens dropped their first match on Saturday and claimed medical forfeits in the seventh-place match to finish their season with seven-place accolades on the season.

What's Up Next

Gehr, Maloney, Shermeyer, and DeFrance will now prepare for the National Championships in Roanoke, Va. on Mar. 8-9. The Falcons have finished in the top-20 at the National Championships in each of the last seven seasons, including top-10 finishes in the last five seasons.

Follow in the weeks leading up to the National Championships for a complete preview of the event.


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