PLYMOUTH, N.H. - With four place-winners, one runner-up and one NCAA Championship qualifier, the Plymouth State College wrestling team captured eighth place over the weekend at the annual New England College Conference Wrestling Association Championships, hosted in Springfield, Mass., by Western New England College.
The Panthers, guided by fifth-year coach Dave Carlson, finished with 53.5 points, four points ahead of Roger Williams and 10.5 points behind Bridgewater State. Defending champion Springfield College won five individual titles to capture its fourth straight title since PSC won the 1996 crown. The eighth place finish was PSC's lowest since the 1989 team placed ninth.
"This season has been like no other since I've been here," said Carlson. "We've never had this low of a finish. But you're going to have up and down years, and the down years make you a better coach. It demands that you to communicate better with the athletes. Some of the other schools had their ‘up' years this year."
PSC's only representative at this year's NCAA Division III Championships will be senior Ben Baker (Gardiner, Maine) at 174 pounds. Baker, who will make his second straight NCAA appearance, finished third in his weight class. He posted a 4-2 tournament record with three pins, but lost to eventual runner-up Brendan Harris of Coast Guard and eventual champion John Roden of Springfield. Baker will take a 29-6 season record and an 81-37 career mark to the NCAAs.
"I believe Ben had one bad match (vs. Harris), which put him third," said Carlson, "but I would remind you that Harris also beat Roden (12-2) worse than he beat Ben (7-4) before Roden came back to win the title. Harris had the tournament of his life. Ben's record over this season and the past few seasons is what got him an at-large berth. I hope Ben gets a chance to wrestle Harris again at the NCAAs, because I believe the outcome would be very different."
Sophomore Marco Salce (Keene, NH) turned in an outstanding performance for the Panthers at 184 pounds. After dropping his opening match to Norwich's Derrick Tienken, 3-2, Salce won his next six matches to advance all the way to the finals. Along the way, Salce registered three victories over wrestlers who had previously beaten Salce, including Tienken, before getting pinned in the championship bout by Conan Leary of Williams. Salce completes the season with a 26-15 overall record.
"Marco had an incredible tournament," said Carlson. "He peaked at the right time. He defeated three wrestlers who had beaten him earlier including Tienken, who had beaten him the day before. I think that's the great part of the sport. The regular season just prepares you for the post-season. And Marco just rose to the occasion. This is his first year as the starter for us, and he had a great season."
Two other Panthers, both seniors, finished as place-winners in their respective weight classes - Mike DeRoehn (Warren, NH) at 157 pounds and Shawn Kain (Lakeville, Mass.). DeRoehn posted a 4-2 record, while Kain went 3-2, and both wrestlers finish the season with 18-16 individual records. DeRoehn concludes his career with a 49-52 mark, while Kain finished 57-58.
"Mike and Shawn wrestled very well this weekend, and I was proud of them both," said Carlson. "They didn't have stellar seasons, but they wrestled hard this weekend and I thought they did well."
Final individual records for the remaining PSC competitors include sophomore Eric Runci (Whitman, Mass.), 22-15 at 149 pounds; senior Nick Volpe (Holmdel, NJ), 13-14 at 133 pounds; freshman Jared Raymond (Danville, NH), 12-10 at 125 pounds; freshman Dana Carr (Salem, NH), 8-7 at heavyweight; junior Todd Austin (Rumford, ME), 8-18 at 197 pounds; and freshman Joe Warren (Poughkeepsie, NY), 3-11 at 141 pounds.
This year's NCAA Division III National Championships are March 3-4 in Ada, Ohio, hosted by Ohio Northern University.
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