ASHLAND, OHIO – After making their first appearance at the national meet a year ago, the Lake Erie College wrestling team is going back for more after qualifying three wrestlers for the NCAA Division II Championships in Birmingham, Ala. March 8-9.
Sophomores Ian Ross (Newark, N.Y./Newark) and Dylan Zivic (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) along with junior Zak Vargo (stow, Ohio/Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy) are "'Bama Bound" after earning top-four finishes at the Super Region 2 Wrestling Championships which concluded Sunday (Feb. 24) at Ashland University. All three are making their first appearance at the national championships.
As a team the Storm posted a strong fourth-place finish, exceeding expectations with seven top-six finishers and earning head coach Kevin Hoogenboom Regional "Coach of the Year" honors. Lake Erie totaled 82.5 points to rank behind Notre Dame College (142), University of Central Oklahoma (140) and host Ashland (91).
Individually, Vargo and Zivcic were the team's top finishers by winning the consolation brackets for third place at 157 and 174 pounds, respectively, after entering the tournament as low seeds. Vargo, the fifth seed at 157, upset number two seed Bobby Williams of Ouachita Baptist University 1-0 in the consolation semifinals and then decisioned Colton Smith of Truman State University 4-2 in the third-place match to punch his ticket to Birmingham.
Zivcic came into the weekend as the sixth seed at 174 pounds but reached the championships semifinals before dropping a close 2-1 decision to second-seeded Kelly Henderson of Central Oklahoma on Saturday. He battled back to pin fifth-seeded Dyvon Passmore of King College and then defeated fourth-seeded Jacob Cramer of Tiffin University, 6-3, to win third place.
Ross, who had been banged up in recent weeks and missed time before the tournament, was seeded fourth at 125 pounds and that was where he finished after a loss to Garrett Evans of Ouachita Baptist in the consolation finals.
"I'm really proud of the effort of not only these three, but all our guys this weekend," Hoogenboom said. "Ian, Zak and Dylan all wrestled really well and fought some really good competition to make it to the national meet. Our region is absolutely loaded. Zak knocked out a defending All-American and for Dylan to finish third as a six seed says a lot about what he had to face. We're really excited to watch them compete on an even bigger stage in a few weeks."
Three others finished fifth in their weight classes: freshman heavyweight Almonte Patrick (Maple Heights, Ohio/Maple Heights), sophomore Matt Vandermeer (Clarkston, Mich./Clarkston) at 165 pounds and reshirt sophomore 197-pounder Mikey Samijlenko (Parma, Ohio/Normandy). Junior Zev Green (Marysville, Ohio/Marysville) placed sixth at 184 pounds.
Patrick received one of the tournament special awards for recording the most falls in the shortest amount of time. Patrick won three of his matches at the regional by pin in a total of 6:56, including two in one minute or less.