YORK, Pa. -- Third-ranked Messiah dominated the field, placing first overall by more than 30 points and qualifying five wrestlers for the national championship with three regional champions among them. The Falcons scored 109 points to take the title, finishing ahead of Mount Union (76) and Waynesburg (72.5).
Messiah also took home honors for coach of the year (Bryan Brunk), assistant coach of the year (Domineak Commodore), and most outstanding wrestler (Kaleb Loht).
"Awards are nice and guys like Domineak and Kaleb really deserve them," said head coach Bryan Brunk after the tournament. "But they are a credit to this team and what they have all accomplished."
Qualifying for the national championship by winning their weight class were No. 4 Lucas Malmberg (125), No. 1 Kaleb Loht (141), and No. 5 Ricardo Plummer (174). Stephen Cannon (165) finished in second place and No. 5 Josh Thomson (184) won his third place bout to qualify for the national championship.
Ben Kramer (197) and Charles Jones (285) narrowly missed out on those three qualifying spots but both won their final fifth-place matches. Kramer and Jones are also both seniors, therefore finishing out their careers this evening. Kyle Coblentz (133) is the other senior who competed today but will miss the National Championship.
"These guys really helped lead and shape this team," said coach Brunk about the upperclassmen. "It is a shame that they won't be competing in two weeks after giving it their all for four years."
A couple of seniors did make it to final show of the year though, including Stephen Cannon (165) who was not favored to qualify as a No. 7 seed entering the Regional. Cannon got to the runner-up spot by defeating Roy Daniels of SUNY-Brockport (dec. 4-3) in the semifinals, electrifying the Messiah supporters. Cannon then lost to Nicholas Carr of Washington & Jefferson (dec. 6-2) in the finals to take second.
Ricardo Plummer was the other senior collecting a qualifying spot and it will be his second trip to the National Championship in a row. Plummer defeated his final two opponents with 3-1 sudden victory finishes. Both times the third period ended at 1-1 and both times Plummer got a takedown in the first overtime period.
Collecting his first career ticket to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was standout Lucas Malmberg. He won his three matches with a pin (2:11), a major decision (9-1), and a decision (11-6), showing complete control throughout. Malmberg's final bout was a re-match of the Wheaton Invitational final with Jesse Gunter of Baldwin Wallace.
Kaleb Loht also showed complete control throughout his matches, although having wrestled two very tough opponents – Robert Ritschard of Thiel (dec. 3-0) and Wayne Black of Mount St. Joseph (dec. 8-5). Loht's first match of the tournament ended in a first period tech fall at 2:48 (17-1).
The only Messiah grappler finishing atop the consolation bracket in third place was Josh Thomson. Thomson was the top pick at 184 pounds as the only ranked wrestler in the weight class but was defeated by David Dibenedetto of Washington & Jefferson in the semifinals (dec. 8-5). Dibenedetto simply muscled his way to a win, not letting Thomson use his quickness to get points.
Thomson then wrestled Julian Meaney of Elizabethtown who continued on in the bout after getting knocked out by one of Thomson's lifts. Near the end of the match, Thomson caught Meaney off-guard and put him on his back where the ref called a pin despite Meaney's leg getting caught underneath him. The official ruling was a 6-4 decision and Meaney popped his dislocated knee back into place.
"It's tough, you never want to win like that," explained coach Brunk about Thomson's third-place win. "Josh was just wrestling though, and sometimes things like that happen in this sport."
Larry Cannon went 1-2 on the day but both of his losses were by just a point to Jon Garrison of Mount Union (dec. 3-2) and Sam Lombardo of Waynesburg (dec. 7-6). Cannon's first and only win of the tournament was a 14-6 major decision.
Both Chris Williamson and Kyle Coblentz went 2-2 in the tournament, having gotten their second loss in the third round of consolation matches. Coblentz won with two decisions while Williamson won with a decision and a first-period pin.
The Falcons that qualified will have to wait two more weeks before traveling to Cedar Rapids for the national championship taking place on March 15 and 16.