Panthers set to compete in new post-season format
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University wrestling team will be competing this weekend at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Northeast Regional Championships at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The Panthers and 17 other schools from the Northeast will be wrestling at WPI's Sports and Recreation Center. The action begins on Saturday at 11 a.m. and continues all day and into the evening, with Sunday's rounds starting at 10:00 a.m. and the championship rounds slated for 2:30 p.m.
The wrestlers will be competing for spots in the NCAA Division III National Championships on Mar. 15-16 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The top three placers in each of the 10 weight classes this weekend will automatically advance to the NCAA national championships. With the individual qualifiers being the primary goal of the meet, no team scores will be kept.
The new NCAA regional format, which includes all 14 Division III wrestling institutions from New England and four schools from New York (SUNY Cortland, Ithaca, SUNY Oneonta, SUNY Oswego), replaces the former New England Championships meet. The new format adds four strong wrestling programs but bumps the number of national qualifiers from 10 automatic and 5-6 at-large to 30 automatic berths.
"It will be a difficult tournament with the creation of the new region," said PSU head coach Matt Eldredge. "We are an extremely young team, with three freshman and three sophomores. But with three automatic qualifiers in each weight class, guys have the opportunity to earn a berth to the nationals on the mat, and not rely on a selection committee to get one of the at-large berths if you're not a champion."
PSU's top candidate to earn an NCAA spot is Femi Wheeler (Mamaroneck, N.Y./Mamaroneck), who is nearing the end of an outstanding season and career. The senior co-captain has a 13-2 record at 157 pounds this season and is ranked third in New England in the weight class. He captured individual titles at tournaments at the University of Southern Maine and Roger Williams University. Wheeler placed sixth at 141 pounds at the 2011 New England Championships, finished runner-up at 157 last year, and takes a career mark of 71-34 into the weekend.
Other solid candidates for PSU this weekend are senior James Matlack (Ewing, N.J.), sophomore Travis Brooks (Beachwood, N.J.), and freshman Chris Perrault (Saint Johnsbury, Vt.). Matlack has a 12-5 record this season at 165 pounds, owns a 38-27 career mark, and was in and out of the New England rankings this winter. Brooks is 7-4 at 174 pounds and was a place-winner at the Roger Williams Tournament, and Perrault leads the team in victories with a 14-10 record and has a team-best seven pins.
Also representing Plymouth State this weekend will be sophomore Ryan Burgess (Rumford, Maine) at 125 pounds, sophomore Fred Reisch (Norwalk, Conn.) at 133, freshman Caleb Hall (Dixfield, Maine) at 141, freshman Hunter Fogarty (Arlington, Mass.) at 149, junior Justtin Demers (Concord, Mass.) at 197, and junior Andy Klempa (Andover, Mass.) at 285.
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