Willey to earn All-America status for Panthers
LA CROSSE, Wisc. – Plymouth State University senior Mike Willey recorded a pair of consolation-round victories Friday evening and remains alive in the 149-pound bracket at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Championships hosted by the University of Wisconsin La Crosse.
Willey, the two-time New England champion, was defeated by the No. 1 seed Friday afternoon in his first bout of the double-elimination tournament, but bounced back a pair of victories in the consolation half of the bracket. Willey is one of eight competitors still wrestling at 149 pounds, and those eight will comprise the NCAA All-America Team.
The next round begins Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m. with the champions crowned Saturday evening. Willey will face Drew Wagenhoffer of Wartburg College in his first bout Saturday morning; Wagenhoffer, like Willey, is unseeded in the tournament. Live video of all matches at the NCAA Championships is available at NCAA.com and brackets are updated at Trackwrestling.com.
Willey edged Augustana College senior Alberto Quiros, 1-0, in the first consolation bout, and recorded an 11-6 victory in his final bout Friday night over seventh-seeded Cade Sarbacker of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to clinch the All-America status.
Normally involved in low-scoring matches, Willey and Sarbecker combined to score 17 points in their bout. A first-period takedown gave Willey a 2-0 lead, but Sarbecker came back to tie with escapes late in the first and early in the second. Willey took control late in the second period with a takedown and near fall to open up a 7-2 margin. Sarbecker made a charge with a pair of third-period takedowns, but Willey collected two points on escapes and clinched the victory with a takedown with seven seconds left.
Willey began the tournament with a 22-3 record and was paired up in the first round against top-seeded senior Tony Valek of Augsburg College, who was 29-0 this season and 131-24 in his career. Willey hung tough against the two-time national runner-up as the two were scoreless after the first period, but Valek took a 4-0 lead in the second frame with a reversal and a near fall. Valek pulled away in the third period with a takedown before Willey got on the board with an escape. Valek recorded a late takedown to finish off the 8-1 decision, snapping Willey's 15-match winning streak.
Willey faced Augustana College senior Alberto Quiros in the first consolation bout. Quiros finished second to Valek at the NCAA Great Lakes regional and took a 36-9 mark into the tournament before suffering a first-round loss to the eighth seed. Willey and Quiros went head to head for the first two rounds but neither was able to score. Willey started the third period in the down position and needed only three seconds to pull off the escape and earn one point. That ended up as the only point of the bout as Willey advanced with the one-point decision.
Willey lost both of his matches in the NCAA Championships last year when he was eliminated with losses to the fourth and fifth seeds at 157 pounds. He has a 47-7 record in the last two years and an 88-24 career mark. Willey is joined at the meet by first-year Panther head coach Matt Eldredge.
In addition, two PSU wrestlers have earned top academic honors for the 2011-12 year from the National Wrestling Coaches Association of America (NWCA). Senior Rob Phillips (Brick, N.J.) and junior Femi Wheeler (Mamaroneck, N.Y./Mamaroneck) have been named to the NWCA Division III Scholar All-American Team for having a grade point average of 3.2 or higher and meeting one of the following criteria, in addition to a winning record: (A) NCAA qualifier; (B) Placed in the NCAA qualifying tournament; or (C) Won greater than 66% of his matches.
Phillips is a senior 184-pounder and a physical education major who led the team in victories with a 28-10 record and earned All-New England honors with a fourth place at the New England championships; Wheeler is a junior 157-pounder and a physical education major who posted a 21-7 record this season and earned his second All-New England recognition with a runner-up finish at the New England championships.
-- 30 --