With only one win all time against Pitt-Johnstown before Wednesday, Mercyhurst’s 23-15 win over the Mountain Cats at the UPJ Sports Center would have been cause for celebration.
Factor in that the win was also one that swung the outright PSAC dual-meet championship to the Lakers and it was a party for Division II’s eighth-ranked squad.
“This is only the second time we’ve beaten (Pitt-Johnstown),” Mercyhurst coach Mike Wehler said. “It’s always a big match, but now that they’ve come into the conference, that makes it so much better. It adds some fuel to it.”
The dual-meet season ends with a 13-2 mark for Pitt-Johnstown, which finished its PSAC slate at 5-2.
“We’ve got a young team,” Pitt-Johnstown coach Pat Pecora said. “If someone would have told me at the beginning of the year that ‘you’ll lose two all-Americans and a starter and you’ll be going for the conference championship,’ I’d have said ‘whoa.’ We had to pull some kids out of redshirts and they’re doing what they can do. For the team to finish 13-2, that’s a heck of a year.”
While the PSAC newcomers fell short of a dual-meet title this season, Pecora is optimistic that the program can reach the top of the mountain.
“We’re going to win this conference, there’s no doubt about it,” Pecora said. “We’re going to do it ... Mercyhurst is always going to be a battle though. We’ve got a lot of guys from the same type of backgrounds.”
The Lakers – 18-1 overall, 7-0 PSAC – picked up bonus points in at 133 pounds, 157 and 174. Kody Young (133) and Francis Mizia (157) took major-decision victories over Luke Palamides and Heath Coles, respectively as the guests reeled off four straight wins after Pitt-Johnstown took a 3-0 lead on Dave Fogle’s 8-5 decision over Ryan Bohince at 125.
Dylan D’Urso decisioned the Mountain Cats’ Sam Hanau 7-3 at 141 while Jeremy Landowski handed his cousin, Cole Landowski, a 5-3 loss at 149.
August Mizia claimed six points at 174 when he pinned John Blankenship at 1:30.
That victory gave Mercyhurst a 20-6 lead with three bouts to go.
“Any bonus points in a dual meet like this is going to be the difference,” Wehler said. “It was pretty exciting to get that one (at 174).”
The Mountain Cats rallied to slice into the Lakers’ lead with Travis McKillop’s 8-0 major-decision victory over Dakota DesLauriers.
Zac Bennett followed at 197 by scoring a technical fall over Brian Beattie at 6:01 by a 17-2 score.
Bennett’s victory gave the Mountain Cats a fighting chance, slicing the lead to 20-15 with a match to go.
Andrew Welton, Mercyhurst’s 285-pounder, sealed the win and the PSAC crown for the Lakers when he worked a 3-0 decision over Josh Dulpin.
While the overall result was a downer for Pecora, the Pitt-Johnstown coach was able to see two of his seniors pick up victories with Fogle at 125 and Gary Lantz’s 7-1 decision over Clint Schaefer at 165.
“I was glad for our seniors,” Pecora said. “They both won.”
The Mountain Cats’ next action is also at the Sports Center on March 1 and 2 when Pitt-Johnstown hosts the Division II Super Region I tournament, a tilt that Mercyhurst will be a part of.
“Look at this place, this place is awesome,” Wehler said. “The number of fans that were here, it was awesome.”
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @shawncurtis430.