Due to logistical difficulties, two Penn State New Kensington wrestlers were not able to compete last week at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association tournament in Macon, Ga.
Lou Gardone, 197 pounds, and Mark Irwin, 149 pounds, accompanied by coach Scott Morgan, arrived three minutes late for the mandatory weigh-in. According to NCWA rules, they had to forfeit their matches.
"We are extremely disappointed in this outcome because we were looking for a strong showing from both of our wrestlers," said Dave Murray, director of athletics at the New Kensington campus. "It had promised to be a tremendous experience for both of them."
Gardone, a sophomore from Lower Burrell, Pa., earned a berth in the tournament by capturing the NCWA Mid-East Conference championship on Feb. 27. Seeded No. 1 in his weight class, he scored a 4-0 decision over Brandon Banks from West Chester University in the title match. Irwin, a freshman from Pittsburgh, was selected as a wildcard for the nationals after medaling with a sixth-place showing in the Mid-East tournament. The pair would have been the first campus wrestlers to compete for a national title.
Wrestling returned to campus this year after a 35-year hiatus. Although the team finished 0-10 in dual matches, individuals provided numerous bright spots. Gardone fashioned a 12-6 record on the year, and was seeded fourth in the NCWA nationals. Irwin and sophomore Steve Bickerstaff, a 149-pounder from North Huntington, both held their own in their respective weight classes and improved throughout the season. Bickerstaff made a run at placing in the conference tournament.
Murray is looking for the program to build upon the first-year successes. New recruits should add needed depth and the team is poised to win a few duals and make waves at the conference tournament.
"We are proud of what the team was able to accomplish this inaugural year," said Murray. "We look forward to even better results next season."