PAINESVILLE, OHIO – The Lake Erie College wrestling team is in Edmund, Okla. this weekend for the NCAA Division II Super Regional, looking to make a major statement in the college wrestling world. The Storm will compete with 10 other teams at the University of Central Oklahoma's Hamilton Field House Feb. 25-26.
A year ago, the Storm placed 12th at the regional event and only then freshman Andrew Gasber (Madison, Ohio/Madison) placed at the tournament, finishing sixth at 165 pounds.
This year, the program's second since its inception, Lake Erie (8-11, 1-2 GLIAC) won three more dual matches than it had a year ago and knocked off a pair of ranked teams and had narrow defeats to three others. Regionally, the Storm has moved up to sixth in the Basford Rankings and two individuals, sophomore Zak Vargo (Stow, Ohio/Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) and freshman Matt Vandermeer (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) are ranked at the top of their respective weight classes in the region and are also in the top eight nationally.
Wrestlers are competing for a berth in the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships, set for March 9-10 in Pueblo, Colo. The top-four placers at each of the 10 weights -- 40 in all -- advance to the national tournament. Each regional qualifies 40 individuals to give the national tournament a 160-wrestler field, with 16 competitors at each weight vying for All-America honors and an individual national championship.
Head Coach Kevin Hoogenboom talked to LakeErieStorm.com about this weekend's tournament.
Lake Erie Lineup for NCAA Regional:
125: Freshman Austin Gillihan (Corry, Pa./Corry Area) is 16-13 overall on the season, including a 14-13 mark at 125 pounds. However, he has not won since scoring an 8-2 decision over Matt Perez of Notre Dame College on Jan. 20. He did pick up a forfeit victory against Tiffin at the GLIAC Championships. Gillihan is tied for third on the team with three major decision victories.
133: Freshman Ian Ross (Newark, N.Y./Newark) has won three of his last four matches and is now 5-7 at 133 pounds on the season and 8-8 overall. He went 2-0 against King College and Ohio Valley University last time out on Feb. 11 and prior to that was 1-1 at the GLIAC Championships.
141: Sophomore Kevin Brunner (Avon Lake, Ohio/Avon Lake) picked up a decision victory against Ohio Valley to snap a personal four-match losing streak. He is now 4-8 on the season at 141 pounds (6-15 overall) and had a second-place finish at the John Suma Memorial Tournament on Feb. 4.
149: Sophomore Zak Vargo is as hot as any wrestler in the country right now. The All-GLIAC first-teamer has won nine straight dual matches and he has won 14 matches in a row against Division II opponents. Currently ranked eighth nationally in his weight class, he tops the team in winning percentage with his 18-4 record (.818) and his four major decision victories are second on the team. Plus he already has victories over four competitors in his bracket at the regional.
157: Sophomore Tyler Tesny (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio/Cuyahoga Falls) has had a steady season at the 157 pound spot. He's posted a 10-11 overall record, with a pair of pins. He is 2-1 in his last three matches and has had a few weeks off to recover from some in-season wear and tear since last competing Feb. 8 at Gannon University.
165: Freshman Matt Vandermeer has made quite an impact in his first year with the Green and White, leading the team with 28 wins. He is 28-10 overall, including a 27-9 mark at 165 pounds and is and impressive 19-6 in matches decided by points. He has been a presence in the national rankings all season long and currently stands sixth in the latest coaches' poll weight class rankings. He went 1-1 at King competing at 174 pounds.
174: Vandermeer wrestled at 174 pounds two weeks ago because sophomore Zev Green (Marysville, Ohio/Marysville) was sidelined with the flu. Now fully recovered after two weeks off, Green will look to make a major move at the regional. He is 17-14 on the season, surpassing his win total of 16 as a freshman. Green has been at his best this season in the tournament format, posting a 10-5 open record with a first-place finish at the Mount Union Open and a sixth-place showing at the Midwest Classic.
184: Sophomore Josh Linden (Broadview Heights, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights) has retaken his spot in the starting lineup heading into the regional. He's earned victories in two of his last three matches to improve to 10-5 on the year. His four pins are tied for second on the team.
197: Redshirt freshman Mikey Samijlenko (Parma, Ohio/Normandy) has done a nice job at 197 pounds this season, going 13-13 at that class and 14-15 overall. He is 10-6 in decisions and has a pair of overtime victories. He is 3-1 in his last four bouts, with the one loss coming by a single point.
285: Freshman Bobby Zappitelli (Painesville Twp., Ohio/Lake Catholic) has won 10 matches in his first season and is 10-15 as the Storm's starting heavyweight. He has four pins and one overtime win. However, he'll look to reverse his fortune from recent weeks where he has dropped his last three contests.
The tournament opens at 12 p.m. Saturday the 25th with championship first round and quarterfinal action and resumes at 4 p.m. with two rounds of consolation matches.