Wrestlers miss opportunity for title


Bobby Scott, Sports Editor

Pitt-Johnstown’s wrestling team’s winning streak came to an end last Wednesday on senior night with the conference championship on the line.

Mercyhurst University defeated the Mountain Cats 23-15 to finish their regular season with an undefeated conference record and the conference championship.

“This match was a hard loss to swallow,” senior Dave Fogle said.

“We have been preparing all year to become the conference champions but we came up a little short.”

Pitt-Johnstown acknowledged Fogle (125 pounds), Dave Cawley (141 pounds), Gary Lantz (165 pounds) and Zak Newton (197 pounds) as this year’s seniors before the matches started.

“We are still striving towards becoming regional champions which we have not won since 2007 so it would be nice to end our year with a regional title,” Fogle said.

“It is within our grasp and we just need to execute as a team to win it.”

The Mountain Cats got out to an early lead thanks to Fogle, who beat a 2013 national qualifier in an 8-5 decision to give the team a 3-0 lead.

Then the Mountain Cats lost four straight matches by decision, including two major decisions in 133 and 157-pound weight classes.

Freshman Cole Landowski was one of the Mountain Cat wrestlers to lose a decision during that stretch, losing a 5-3 decision to his cousin Jeremy, who is ranked eighth nationally at 149 pounds.

“It was like any other match I wrestle,” Landowski said.

“I was excited to wrestle (Jeremy), not because he was my cousin, but because he the no. 1 ranked wrestler in the region.”

He said that facing stiff competition like Jeremy benefits him because he can learn from his mistakes and know what he has to work on to get better.

“My focus right now is to fix the little mistakes I have been doing this year,” he said.  “My goal is to go to nationals and become an All American or a national champion.”

It was not until the sixth match of the night that the Mountain Cats got their second win.

Gary Lantz recored a 7-1 decision at 165 pounds to put the Mountain Cats within eight points of the lead.

“I think I could have gotten more bonus points and I definitely should have gotten a major decision over my opponent,” he said.

“It was good coaching on (Mercyhurst’s) part.  They knew I had a tight waist chop on top and their coaching was able to defend it pretty well.”

Lantz said that he was still happy with going out on top on senior night despite not recording a major decision or fall.

“I was still able to have fun wrestling in front of the biggest crowd I have wrestled for since the state championships in high school.”

Immediately following that match, Pitt-Johnstown faced their biggest setback of the night.

Redshirt freshman John Blankenship was on the defense from the first second of the 174-pound match and was pinned in 1:30, giving Mercyhurst a 20-6 lead with only three matches left.

Juniors Travis McKillop recorded an 8-0 major decision and Zac Bennett won via technical fall by running up the score to 17-2 in his match.

Those two victories kept the Mountain Cats alive heading into the last match with the score, 20-15.

A fall was needed to give Pitt-Johnstown the win and the conference title, but sophomore Josh Duplin was unable to pull it off and lost his match, 3-0.

That gave Mercyhurst the 23-15 team victory and the team conference championship trophy.

“We lost a lot of close matches that could have gone either way but ended falling Mercyhurst’s way,” Lantz said.

“They won the close matchups (that were the deciding matches of the meet) because they made fewer mistakes.”

Lantz said that last Wednesday’s loss will be beneficial to the team by learning from their mistakes.

“The team is still focused on the goals that we have set for ourselves before the season started,” he said.

“I do not think anything has changed as a team except for that we know what we have to do to win for sure.”