BOONE — The Appalachian State wrestling team had two basic goals going into the Southern Conference Wrestling Championships on March 8.
One was to qualify as many wrestlers as it could to the NCAA championships, which are in U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on March 19-21. The second was to win the team championship, which would mean outwrestling regular-season champion Campbell.
The Mountaineers qualified five wrestlers to the nationals. Four of them qualified by winning their weight classes at the tournament. By finishing second, Thomas Flitz solidified his berth at 174-pounds.
The Mountaineers, who also produced three runners-up and two third-place finishers, are hopeful to qualify others with at-large bids.
Regular-season SoCon champion Campbell ruined App State’s other goal by winning the team competition. Campbell finished with five champions and built up 117 points. Appalachian State finished with 102 points. Chattanooga finished third and The Citadel was a distant fourth with 30 points.
“They’re a good team and we knew we were going to have to wrestle and have our best day to beat them,” App State coach JohnMark Bentley said. “I thought we had a pretty good day. We didn’t have our best day.”
“App has a well-balanced team and we knew we it would be bonus points,” Campbell coach Cary Kolat said. “That first round was kind of gave us that gap and set us apart and allowed us to hang on all the way through.”
Cary Miller, Appalachian State’s heavyweight wrestler, won a hard-fought match with Campbell’s Jere Heino 5-3 in overtime. Miller, tied 3-3 with Heino in the third period, and captured the win with a takedown in the overtime.
Miller got behind Heino toward the edge of the mat and tripped him. Campbell challenged the call, but the challenge was denied by the referees and the takedown was upheld.
“I was just trying to go out there and hit my attacks,” Miller said.
Appalachian State also got wins from 197-pounder Demazio Samuel, Matt Zovistoski at 157 pounds and 149-pounder Jonathan Millner, who beat Chattanooga’s Tanner Smith 6-2.
Codi Russell was granted an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament at 133 pounds.
Zovistoski’s win was the 100th in his Appalachian State career. He beat Campbell’s Matthew Dallara 11-5 after building an 11-2 lead. Zovistoski had a bye in the first round and claimed a 10-0 win against The Citadel in the semifinals.
“Having a bye is just another part of how the brackets fall,” Zovistoski said. “I’m here to wrestle. I don’t think it affected anything. I just trusted in my training. I’ve been working really hard to get to this point.”
Samuel claimed a 6-1 win over Chattanooga’s Rodney Jones after an emotionally charged 10-3 win over Chris Kober in the semifinals. Samuel beat Gardner-Webb’s Roderick Davis 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
Codi Russell (133-pounds), Will Formato (165-pounds and Flitz (174-pounds) finished second in their weight classes.