WJU mat trio set to take part in NCAA D-II nationals
WHEELING — A trio of Wheeling Jesuit wrestlers will accompany head coach Sean Doyle to the Birmingham CrossPlex next weekend for the NCAA Division II national tournament.
For the first time in school history, the Cardinals have a Super Region champion among their contingent as junior Dustin Warner won the 133-pound title. Joining Warner are senior Dominick Nania (3rd–149) and red-shirt sophomore Terrance Fanning (2nd–197).
“I think for the first time in our three years of going to the national tournament that we have three guys that can it done at a really high level,” Doyle said. “Last year we went there with three guys who had finished fourth in the regional and another one that was third. Their first round matches were really overwhelming. It was tough.
“This year I think we have three wrestlers who can compete with anyone in the country,” he continued. “When you can do that you have a shot at winning a title.”
Warner advanced to the nationals as a freshman where he earned All-American status with a fifth-place finish, but didn’t qualify as a sophomore. The Claymont High School graduate is currently 19-2 and will meet Josh Walker, of Upper Iowa, in his first match. Walker enters the event 13-6.
“It was nice to see Dustin bounce back this season after being upset last year,” Doyle pointed out. “He responded really well last weekend in Erie and wrestled a great tournament. He will be hard to beat. He’s worked hard on the positions that he needed to and he’s up a weight class.”
Warner, a Dennison, Ohio, native, said being to the nationals already will definitely help calm his nerves.
“My goal is to finish on top. That’s what I’ve been working for all year,” he said.
Warner won an Ohio state championship as a senior.
“I won’t be that nervous, but it’s a big tournament,” he said. “I’ll still have some nervousness, but not as much.”
Warner won his Super Regional with a 2-1 tiebreaker victory against top-seeded Carmine Ciotti, of Gannon.
Nania, a Hempfield High school graduate who calls Greensburg, Pa., home, is 27-9 and leads the Cardinals in several season and career marks. He is set to face Lake Erie’s Nick Boggs (27-8)
“Dominick is also a returnee and that should be a real positive experience for him,” Doyle noted. “He’s ready to be an All-American. His path has led to this. Every year he has progressed and that has led to this.”
Nania said the experience of being to the nationals before will definitely help.
“I believe it will help me a lot,” he said. “Just being there and knowing what to expect as far as the atmosphere and the talent level, so I’ll be ready.”
Fanning said Warner and Nania have helped him out by relating their experiences at the nationals.
“The’ve told me it’s a great experience and to just enjoy the moment,” Fanning explained. “They said don’t think to much when you’re wrestling, just go out and wrestle your match. Obviously, I’d like to be an All-American, but I’m just going to go out and see what happens. I’m going to wrestle my hardest and see what happens.”
The Preston High grad from Bruceton Mills, W.Va., Fanning is 19-8 and is paired with Simon Fraser’s 19-8 Morgan Smith.
“Terrance came in here and we fully expected him to be a multiple All-American,” Doyle said. “We knew he could contend at the highest level and to see him finish second in the regional, he’s on track to do what we thought he could do. I’m proud of him because he has really worked hard to get to this point.”
Doyle, like any coach, would have liked to have more qualifiers, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
“Last weekend was not the weekend we had planned for, as a team and, unfortunately, we have a few guys that will have a long spring/summer trying to identify what they weren’t able to accomplish,” Doyle continued. “For the first time in our four years, I didn’t feel like we wrestled our best at the regional, with the exception of three qualifiers.”
The tournament begins Friday and runs through Saturday’s championship finals.