After six years competing in the Metropolitan Conference Championships, King’s and Wilkes are participating in a new NCAA Wrestling Tournament qualifier.
The Wilkes-Barre schools will now wrestler at the NCAA East Regional Championships that will be held Saturday at Gettysburg College.
A benefit of the new format is the top three placewinners from regionals will advance to the Division III NCAA Tournament on March 15-16 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Previously, the winner of the Metro event received an automatic berth to nationals and wild cards were also selected.
The East Regional, made up of 17 teams, is one of six regionals nationwide being held this weekend with the same format as a total of 18 wrestlers in each weight class will be at the national tournament.
The Colonels, coming off a dual season in which they went 19-3 to break the school record for consecutive wins with 19, are one of the favorites to claim the team trophy. They are one of three teams in the event ranked in the top 10 in the country. Wilkes is No. 7, while Centenary is sixth and Delaware Valley is eighth.
Mark Hartenstine (149-pounds, 18-1) is ranked second in the nation, while Kris Krawchuk (157, 23-2) and Myzar Mendoza (133, 28-5) are third and fifth, respectively, in the latest NWCA/d3wrestle.com rankings. Guisseppe Rea (125, 27-9) and Matt Transue (197, 21-8) were honorable mentions.
All 10 Wilkes wrestlers have a winning record with the least amount of wins by one grappler being 14. Jeff Peterson (141, 15-6), Nathan White (165, 22-8), Dustin Stough (174, 14-12), Eric Bach (185, 14-8) and William Fletcher (285, 16-8) round out the Colonels participants.
The Monarchs enter regionals after a 5-9 dual record during the regular season. Of their participants in the event, four are alums of District 2. Junior Tommy Desir, a Scranton grad at 157-pounds, has the best record on the team with a 22-5 mark. Sophomore Shane Stark (184), a Lake-Lehman product who was a PIAA medalist, begins regionals with an 11-4 record. Stark was second at the Metro tournament last year.
Sophomore Aaron Perez (133) is scheduled to return after missing two weeks with an injury. The Dallas grad has a mark of 5-6 this season. And don’t forget about freshman Jamie Scarantino, a Pittston Area grad at 125 who has a record for the season of 13-11.
Christian Mazzocchi (149), a junior for the Monarchs with a mark of 13-5, was fourth last year at metros and was an honorable mention in the latest individual rankings. Freshmen DeMarquis Holley (141 pounds, 16-8) and Anthony Clifford (174, 4-13) and junior Cemah Tudae-Torboh (197, 1-9) are also set to participate this weekend.
Berwick grad Aaron Karns, now wrestling for Delaware Valley, is ranked third in the country at 197.