WILKES-BARRE —The history associated with Wilkes’ wrestling program is very rich, beginning with legendary coach John Reese and his 514 career wins.
Now the team can add to the program’s esteem.
With a 23-9 victory over 15th-ranked Ithaca on Friday night, the ninth-ranked Colonels became just the 11th school in the NCAA — covering all three divisions — to win 800 dual meets. Making it more impressive is that the teams in front of Colonels had at least a 25-year head start, and Wilkes’ first 535 wins came while participating in Division I before moving to Division III in 1994.
Wilkes is only the second Division III program to reach the 800-win milestone. Springfield is closing in on 1,000 wins.
While it’s a big mark for the program, coach Jon Laudenslager is humbled.
“It’s a number. Maybe you could ask coach Reese … he had 514 of them. I’ve had less than 200 coaching. It’s something obviously we’re proud of,” he said. “I’m just excited to win the match; 800 is one win out of 800. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to get 800 out of the way now and we get 801 hopefully on Thursday, but yeah it feels good.”
The Colonels (17-3) took the lead from the onset of the dual. After Guesseppe Rea, ranked ninth in the country at 125 pounds, won via major decision, Myzar Mendoza came up with one of the biggest wins in his stellar Wilkes career. The senior, who picked up career win No. 100 earlier this season, topped Ithaca’s Alex Gomez, 3-2 in the 133-pound bout. Gomez was ranked No. 1 in the country in the weight and hadn’t lost a match during a dual meet all season, as his record fell to 22-3 in 2014.
Mendoza got the initial takedown in the match and Gomez worked an escape later in the first period. Gomez equaled the score at 2-2 with another point for an escape in the second. Mendoza returned the favor in the third period then used his Jujitsu mat skills to keep Gomez from getting points for a takedown in the third period to hang on for the win. Mendoza’s win comes after he lost two matches recently at the NWCA National Duals.
“I know I’m as good as anybody in the country and this match made me realize that I am,” Mendoza said. “It’s a pretty big win. I was feeling pretty down after national duals but I’m feeling a lot better tonight.”
Mendoza wasn’t the only Colonel to defeat a ranked grappler on Friday night. At 174, Kyle Diesel won via decision, 3-2 over Carlos Toribio, who is ranked sixth in the nation. Diesel, a sophomore, picked up two points for a takedown with less than a minute remaining to break a 1-1 tie. Toribio escaped later, but that’s all he could manage. Five of the Colonels’ seven wins were decided by two points or less.
Wilkes’ other ranked wrestler, Mark Hartenstine, earned a 4-3 decision at 149, while Kris Krawchuk, who was national runner-up last season, picked up a 6-4 win at 157. The Colonels’ Levi Veppert (184) notched a major decision at 184, and Will Fletcher closed out the win with a dramatic overtime victory at 285 when he was awarded a takedown with less than a second remaining in the third overtime period.
“Everyone loves big Willie. He’s just a crowd favorite,” Laudenslager added. “He’s not the biggest heavyweight but he hustles. You’re not going to find a kid who has more heart on our team I don’t think.”
Wilkes 23, Ithaca 9
125 – Guesseppe Rea (Wilkes) maj dec. Anthony Cabrera 10-1; 133 – Myzar Mendoza (Wilkes) dec Alex Gomez 3-2; 141 – Dominick Giacolone (I) dec. Michael Fleck 3-2; 149 – Mark Hartenstine (Wilkes) dec. Eamonn Gaffney 4-3; 157 – Kris Krawchuk (Wilkes) dec. Kevin Collins 6-4; 165 – Kris Schimek (I) maj dec. Phil Racciato 13-5; 174 – Kyle Diesel (Wilkes) dec. Carlos Toribio 3-2; 184 – Levi Veppert (Wilkes) maj dec. Liam Korbul 9-0; 197 – Matthew Booth (I) dec. Eric Bach 6-2; 285 – Will Fletcher (Wilkes) dec. Shane Bartrum 5-3, OT
Note: Ithaca was deducted 1 team point for unsportsmanlike conduct