WILKES-BARRE — Being a 285-pounder for Wilkes, Will Fletcher has been the anchor of many dual meets for the Colonels.
He’s been in many situations where the team has needed a win in the last match and he’s come through.
The senior did that once again on Sunday at the NCAA Division III East Regional Wrestling Championships, with a lot more on the line this time.
Fletcher won his third-place match, 5-4, to advance to the NCAA National Tournament. But with the win, in the last bout of the event, he gave his team the championship by one point over Ursinus, 106.5-105.5.
Fletcher said he didn’t know what was at stake when he stepped on the mat. But he accomplished everything after losing his first match on Sunday then winning four times to take third.
“It’s just one of those things why I love the sport of wrestling,” Fletcher said. “I just battled back, won four matches in a row and that’s just the icing on the cake to be able to clinch the team title for us. It’s the whole team thing. From our 125-pounder all the way up to heavyweight, we all did a great job.”
Fletcher is one of six Colonels to punch tickets to nationals, which will be held March 14-15 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s joined by champions Mark Hartenstine and Kris Krawchuk at 149 and 157, runner-up Myzar Mendoza at 133, and third-place finishers Kyle Diesel (174) and Eric Bach (197).
King’s Tommy Desir will also be heading to the national tournament. The 165-pounder took third in his bracket to advance. Berwick grad Aaron Karns won the 197-pound bracket for Delaware Valley to move on to the national tournament for the second straight season.
Perhaps the most important win for Wilkes in the consolation bracket came from Diesel, who pinned his opponent in 2:57 and picked up two bonus points. If he doesn’t get the pin, Wilkes finishes one point behind Ursinus. Guesseppe Rea, who battled back to win his fifth-place match was also a contributor knocking off Ursinus’ Christopher Donaldson in that match to grab team points.
“It’s a team victory. We couldn’t have done it without a lot of things happening,” Wilkes coach Jon Laudenslager said. “They knew what they needed to do and got it done in the last round. We’re super proud of them.”
Desir had some dramatics as well. After losing his semifinal match, 6-4, he had to bounce back. He did so by winning his consolation semifinal bout, 7-4, before securing his spot at nationals with a takedown with 18 seconds left for a 4-2 win. It wasn’t that easy, though, as one of the officials called a reversal for his opponent, Alec Horan from Delaware Valley, as time expired. When the officials conferred, it was waived off and Desir reached nationals for the first time.
“It’s just like I get some relief (when I got the takedown) but then realized that I’m still in the match,” Desir said. “I still have to score. I still have to not get scored on. It’s a great feeling but you still have to be aware and smart. It’s (reach national tournament) been my goal since I’ve gotten here. Hopefully, I’m an All-American in two weeks.”
The Colonels last won a postseason tournament in 2009, when they won the Metropolitan Conference Tournament. Last year they were third at regionals and, in 2012, they were third at Metros.
“They had this penciled as one of their goals all year long,” Laudenslager added. “They put in all the hard work. They really deserved it and battled right to the end and that’s what we’ve done all year long. You have to be pretty talented and gritty yourself to come out ahead of us.”
Tunkhannock grad Ray Yagloski, who wrestles for Johns Hopkins, was in the third-place match at 133 and fell short of reaching the NCAA Tournament, losing 9-6. King’s Shane Stark took sixth in the 184-pound weight class. The Lake-Lehman grad was in a scrappy match in his consolation semifinal when he lost on a late takedown, 4-2.