BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —
Pitt-Johnstown’s Travis McKillop reached the national semifinals before placing third while teammate Dave Cawley finished seventh to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championships.
While the finish may have fallen short of the expectations by some fans of the program, Mountain Cats coach Pat Pecora was upbeat.
“Overall, it was a great year, a great dual-meet season and we had seven guys qualify for nationals,” Pecora said.
McKillop, ranked sixth in the country, defeated Southwest Minnesota State’s Travis Peralta 11-7 in the first round before handing Nick Peterson of Colorado-Mesa an 8-2 loss to reach the semifinals, where he was beaten 6-4 by top-ranked Shamus O'Grady of St. Cloud State. McKillop got a 16-0 technical fall over Chadron State’s Jordan DeBus, before using a third-period takedown and riding time to defeat third-ranked Adam Walters of Findlay, 4-2, in the third-place bout.
Pecora said the bout was symbolic of the Mountain Cats’ future potential.
“Travis is a true sophomore who lost a close one in the semifinals, lost to the No. 1-ranked kid in the nation at that weight, then came back and won,” Pecora said.
“He just had a super tournament.
“We’re young,” Pecora added. “This is the epitome of where we’re going in the future. We’ll build a team around him. He’s the star quarterback.”
Cawley lost his opening round, then won 8-0 over Angel Vega of Minnesota State-Moorhead in the first round of the consolations before advancing to Saturday with a 5-2 decision over Justin Kieffer of Indianapolis. On Saturday, he dropped a 5-3 decision to Grand Canyon’s Michael Hamel, then rebounded to defeat Daniel Ownbey of UNC-Pembroke, 1-0, to place seventh.
UPJ’s Gary Lantz (174) opened the tournament with an 8-4 win over Kelly Henderson of Central Oklahoma, but suffered an 8-3 loss to Patrick Martinez of Nebraska-Kearney in the quarterfinals to fall to the second round of the consolations.
He then was eliminated by a 6-4 loss to Colorado State-Pueblo’s Ray Hall.
“He was one match away from All-American,” Pecora said. “That was a tough one. We were hoping to get him in there, but he’s only a junior. He’ll have another chance.”
Evan Link (125), Dave Fogle (133), Keith Ryan (165), and Josh Duplin (285) each went 0-2.
“Evan Link and Dave Fogle are both coming back.” Pecora said.
“Duplin is coming back. The only senior we’re losing in Keith Ryan.
“We got some good experience,” Pecora said. “We had hoped for a few more All-Americans, but we’re satisfied with a third and two All-Americans.”