The Waynesburg University wrestling team [11-4, 2-0] takes on the Thiel College Tomcats [6-2, 1-0] at 7 p.m. Friday inside the Rudy Marisa Fieldhouse. Waynesburg is riding a six match winning streak, and the Yellow Jackets won the last three against the Tomcats. Thiel, however, is on a winning streak of its own and the Tomcats have won four matches in a row.
In previous years, Thiel hasn’t been looked upon as a true contender in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship race, but that’s changed this season.
The Tomcats knocked off preseason PAC favorites Washington & Jefferson 24-23 Jan. 16.
This season, Thiel’s added several freshmen and a D-1 transfer to its lineup which led to teams getting punished at times.
Some of the freshmen that’ve made early impacts are Jake Alberts and Jason Baker. Alberts, the 133 pounder, who finished his high school career with 84 wins.
In the 141 pound weight class, Baker wrestled at Young Guns throughout his career following the guidance of former Iowa Hawkeye wrestler Jody Strittmatter. He finished his high school career at Derry Area with 95 wins in three seasons.
The D-1 transfer Thiel picked up is Peyton Hearn, who transferred from Edinboro University. Hearn is wrestling at 165 pounds for the Tomcats.
“They are going to be tough ones for us to deal with,” Jackets head coach Ron Headlee said.
Thiel picked up some muscle this season, and there returners have stepped as well.
Austin Bonacci is a key contributor to the Tomcats lineup at 157. Along with Bonacci, national qualifier Gage Gladysz is back.
Gladysz and Bonacci are two veterans that have had to watch Waynesburg rule the PAC during their time in Greeneville. The current Yellow Jacket team, gunning for a fourth straight conference championship, poses a lineup that is hot at the moment, and, like Thiel, picked up a big win over Washington & Jefferson last week.
Waynesburg is potentially getting a reinforcement as well in PAC champion Dylan Williams at 125. Harley Constable is coming off a PAC Rookie of the Week honor and matches up against Alberts at 133.
“Harley just keeps getting better every week and it’ll be a good test for him,” Headlee said.
Senior Matt Lascola will face off with Jason Baker at 141. Freshman standout, Colby Morris was recently ranked #22 in the country by D3wrestle.com and will be taking on Bonacci.
“Bonacci and Colby is going to be a good match,” Headlee said.
Thiel’s head coach Craig Thurber might put Gladysz out against Waynesburg freshman phenom Rocky McGeary. McGeary was is the fifth-ranked heavyweight in the country according toD3wrestle.com, and has a chance to improve on that against the national qualifier.
Assistant coach Gennaro Bonaventura, who primarily works with the heavy wrestlers ,sees the challenge that Gladysz brings.
“We know Gladysz is a tough wrestler, he’s going to be a little bit quicker and probably use his speed to his advantage,” Bonaventura said. “Rocky needs to use his size and technique against him,” he said.