CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Both Washington & Jefferson College and Waynesburg University have never produced an NCAA Division III wrestling champion.
Each came close Saturday night, but the Presidents and Yellow Jackets will have to wait at least one more year for that landmark victory.
Washington & Jefferson sophomore Nick Carr (165 pounds) and Waynesburg senior Anthony Bonaventura (174) each advanced to the finals Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center by winning semifinal contests in dramatic fashion earlier in the day. However, Carr and Bonaventura ran into opponents from team champion Wartburg (Iowa) in the finals and had to settle for second place.
Wartburg’s Cole Welter decisioned Carr 5-1, and Welter’s teammate, Landon Williams, pinned Bonventura in 2:46.
Carr is just the second W&J wrestler to advance to the finals. The South Fayette High School graduate reached the title bout by overcoming a two-point deficit and defeating Chris Burdge of Centenary, 6-5, in the semifinals. It was the first loss of the season for Burdge, the top seed in the weight class and a three-time All-American.
Carr trailed Burdge midway through the match but managed an escape to close to within 4-3 after two periods. Another escape by Carr tied the score in the third period, and a takedown won the match.
Welter (34-1) took a 1-0 lead over Carr midway through the second period by scoring an escape. A takedown early in the third period pushed the score to 3-0. Following an escape by Carr, Welter tacked on another takedown for the 5-1 margin.
Carr finished the season with a 12-1 record. He transferred to W&J from Seton Hill at midseason.
The only other W&J wrestler to appear in a national championship bout was Dave Krivus, who was a three-time All-American and runner-up at 142 pounds in 1981.
Bonaventura reached the finals in thrilling fashion, scoring a takedown at the final buzzer to defeat third-seeded Dan Schiferl of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 4-3. The ruling of takedown was challenged by Oshkosh but eventually it was upheld.
Bonaventura had decisioned second-seeded Ethan Ball of Coe in the semifinals Friday night, but the Commack. N.Y., native was unable to complete of a sweep of the top three seeds.
Waynesburg has produced NCAA Division I and NAIA individual champions, but Bonaventura’s bid to become its first D-III champion didn’t last long against the top-seeded Williams (40-3), who scored a takedown one minute into the opening period. Williams then turned Bonaventura and twice scored three-point nearfalls before registering a pin with 14 seconds left in the period.
Bonaventura finished the season with a 39-5 record.
It was a good tournament for the Presidents’ Athletic Conference as it also had a third-place finisher in Thiel’s Jacob Lowry at 197.
Entering the finals, Waynesburg was 18th in the team standings, Thiel was tied for 22nd and W&J was 25th.
At the NCAA Division II Championships in Cleveland, Mercyhurst’s Gus Mizia, a Bentworth graduate, lost a 7-6 decision to Zeb Whale of Maryville (Mo.) in a second-round consolation at 174 pounds.