Penn College wrestling program reaches new heights

Published 02.24.2019

Wildcat Weekly

In just two seasons, coach Jamie Miller has taken the Pennsylvania College of Technology wrestling program to new heights.

A year ago, one Penn College wrestler became the first in school history to place in a NCAA Division III regional tournament. On Saturday, four joined the ranks and the Wildcats finished 11th in a 20-team field.

For the second year in a row, Jared Mooney, of Palmerton, finished fourth in the 197-pound weight class. A sophomore, Mooney was joined by junior Dylan Otis, of Wyalusing, at 285 pounds, who also placed fourth, while Dan Bergeron, a sophomore from Jackson, New Jersey, at 165, and Dylan Gettys, a sophomore from Etters, at 174, both finished sixth in Southeast Regional competition held over two days at Lycoming College.

Also competing for Penn College were Colin Jens, a freshman from Centreville, Maryland, at 133; Gavin Link, a freshman from Gallitzin, at 141; Jesse Walker, a freshman from Ridgefield, Connecticut; at 149; Alec Dickey, a freshman from Williamsport, at 157; and Colin Browne, a freshman from Wilkes-Barre, at 184. All bowed out on the first day, but Jens, Walker and Browne did so with one win.

The top three in each weight move on to national competition in March and, of the four from Penn College who placed, Otis (36-11 on the season) came the closest to making the cut when, leading 2-1 in his last bout, his opponent recorded a match-winning takedown with time expiring.

“Thinking about the gravity of that match, the weight that was on that poor kid’s shoulders, for it to end like that it was just devastating. But we preach all the time that it’s not about wins and losses … it’s about the effort that you give, the camaraderie that we build, sportsmanship, team atmosphere, the culture. … At the end of the day, these guys who aren’t returning – Mooney, Gettys and Otis – are going to be successful people,” Miller said. “That’s our ultimate goal: We’re developing successful people, not just winners in wrestling matches.

“Those guys did a lot for our program, none more so than Otis. He was here when I got here and nobody has put this program on their back more than that guy has. … From an impact perspective, you have a guy that took the program from a club team to a NCAA program and was its leader as we were getting our feet under us.”

Mooney ended his season with a 33-16 record, Gettys finished 29-15 and Bergeron ended 23-22.

The 11th-place team finish was Penn College’s best at a regional event and capped a season that included a 12-16 record in dual matches – the 12 wins also is a school best in its NCAA era that began in 2014-15.

“The priority from last year to this year was increasing our numbers. We wanted to be more competitive in dual meets and, in order to do that, we had to fill more weight classes,” Miller said.

“The challenge comes in that you don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. I think we effectively added to our core numbers-wise without sacrificing from a talent or culture perspective. … We’ve maintained a culture of teamwork and support and hard work and commitment.

“(A) national qualifier is always going to be a goal for us, but we balance that with the team aspect. We’re trying not to take the team aspect out of the sport.”

Commenting on the progress he’s seen, Miller said, “This year, we had four guys in the semifinals. That was certainly uncharted territory for us. We’ve set the bar really high for ourselves next year. There were a lot of really good programs at that tournament that didn’t have four guys in the semifinals.

“Last year was about experience. This year was about making a statement and making some strides, which we did. Next year, we’ve just got to finish. We didn’t capitalize. We didn’t finish. But we got there and that’s a step in the right direction.”

Looking ahead, Miller points to a solid eight-man nucleus on which to build.

“We’re excited about where the program is headed because our foundation continues to expand. Our recruiting class looks great. I couldn’t be more excited about the recruits we have coming in next year. They’re going to elevate the performance in our practice room and on the competition stage,” the coach said.

Men's basketball
In their first year under coach Geoff Hensley, the Wildcats matched last year’s records of 3-22 overall and 2-14 in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.

“I’m very pleased with the amount of improvement that our team showed from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. It was almost night and day as far as the way we were playing as a team,” Hensley said. “Coming down the stretch, finishing the year, we were in every ballgame pretty much.

“We kept working hard. We kept getting better. And I attribute that to our players’ willingness to do whatever it takes to win. … It was a lot of fun, as a coach, to see it all come together.”

Statistically on offense, the Wildcats scored 1,761 points, an average of 70.4, while on defense they allowed 2,131, an average of 85.2 and a point differential of minus 14.8 per game. They connected on 43.2 percent of their field goals (their opponents hit on 46 percent) and they hit 33.2 percent of their 3-point field goals (their opponents hit just under 38 percent). For the season, Penn College was outrebounded 1,017-839, a differential of minus 7.1 per game. Penn College committed an average of 17.3 turnovers per game and their opponents averaged 12.1 per game.

Individually, senior Spencer Bartron, of Camden, Delaware, led the team with 320 points, an average of 12.8 per game, while junior Ryan Lockman, of White Salmon, Washington, scored 268 points (13.4 average); junior Elijah Vazquez, of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, who joined the team after the first of the year, scored 259 points (team-best 18.5 per game); junior Carson Garvis, of Taneytown, Maryland, 222 points (9.7 average); and junior Ben Sosa, of Loyalsock Township, 196 points (10.3 average). In three seasons, Sosa has scored 835 points.

Lockman was tops with 139 rebounds (seven per game), Garvis had 105 rebounds (4.6 average) and Sosa had 101 rebounds (5.3 average). Bartron led the squad with 60 assists and Lockman was tops with 23 blocked shots.

“The guys are excited for next season. They were able to see how they were doing some good things on the basketball court,” Hensley said.

“We need to have a good offseason, everybody needs to get a little bit better, and a little bit faster, stronger and more athletic, and that comes by putting time in the weight room and in the gym and just perfecting their craft and taking each of their individual games to another level,” the coach said.

“This was a great year as far as laying the foundation of the program. We have a great team culture where all of the guys are working hard for the better of the team. Now that we have that foundation set and they understand what my expectations are and the standards are for this team, now it’s just to build on that,” Hensley said. “The program definitely is going in the right direction and it’s exciting that better days are coming for us.”

Women's basketball
Relying on a freshman-loaded lineup, Penn College experienced growing pains as it concluded its season with records of 1-24 overall and 0-16 in the NEAC.

On offense, the Wildcats scored 1,381 points (55.2 points per game average), while on defense they allowed 1,844 (73.8 average) and a point differential of minus 18.6 per game. They connected on 32.2 percent of their field goals (their opponents hit on 41.6 percent) and they hit 24.6 percent of their 3-point field goals (their opponents hit 28.7 percent). Penn College was outrebounded by an average of 38.6-46.6, a differential of minus 8 per game. Penn College committed an average of 20.1 turnovers per game and their opponents averaged 16.9 per game.

Individually, freshman Madison Klock, of Elysburg, topped the team in scoring with 243 points (10.6 average); freshman Kaylah Brown, of Suffolk, Virginia, scored 217 (9.4 average); freshman Maci Ilgen, of Spring Mills, scored 190 (7.6); sophomore Cassi Kuhns, of Loyalsock Township, scored 174 (8.7); and senior Gwendolyn Lavelle, of Pocono Summit, scored 150 (7.1). Sophomore Tori Wolfe, of Dalmatia, led the squad with 149 rebounds (6.8 per game); Ilgen had 137 rebounds (5.5); and Kuhns 117 rebounds (5.9). Klock led in assists with 89.

Scheduled season-opening weekend games at Lebanon Valley College and Penn State Harrisburg were scratched following a midweek snowstorm. The Wildcats now are scheduled to begin their season March 9 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, against Benedict College.

Final overall: 12-16
Friday-Saturday, Feb. 22-23 – NCAA Division III Southeast Regional at Lycoming College, finished 11th in a 20-team field

Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Saturday, Feb. 23 – at Lebanon Valley College (2), ppd. to March 26, 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 24 – at Penn State Harrisburg (2), canceled
Saturday, March 9 – vs. Benedict College at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3 p.m.
Sunday, March 10 – vs. Mt. Aloysius College (2) at Myrtle Beach, S.C., 3 p.m.

Overall: 0-0
NEAC: 0-0
Saturday, March 9 – vs. Notre Dame, Md. (2) at Virginia Beach, Va., 10 a.m.
Saturday, March 9 – vs. Wilkes University (2) at Virginia Beach, Va., 2 p.m.

Friday-Saturday, Feb. 22-23 – U.S. Indoor Nationals at Lancaster Archery Supply
Saturday-Sunday, April 13-14 – Adam Wheatcroft Memorial/U.S. Archery East Regionals at James Madison University
Thursday-Sunday, May 16-19 – U.S. National Outdoor Collegiate Championships at Darree Fields Park, Dublin, Ohio.

Men’s basketball
Final overall: 3-22
Final NEAC: 2-14

Women’s basketball
Final overall: 1-24
Final NEAC: 0-16

For more about NEAC, visit the conference website.

For more information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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