Penn College wrestling reaches new high

Published 02.26.2023

Wildcat Weekly

Talk about a youth movement taking charge. A freshman wrestler and a first-time head coach have taken the Pennsylvania College of Technology wrestling program to new heights almost overnight.

Young, coachable and committed, is how first-year coach Pankil Chander described his squad heading into this season, just the Wildcats’ fifth of being NCAA postseason-eligible.

“We need to continue applying a growth mindset in training and competition. As a young program, we haven’t had our first NCAA qualifier or All-American yet. It is tough to get over that hump as a team and program. We need to continually condition our mindset and approach to believe we are positioned to get over that hump,” Chander said back in October.

On Saturday, that was accomplished!

Competing in the Division III Mideast Regional, Isaac Cory placed second in the 184-pound weight class and as a top-three finisher, he became the first Wildcat grappler in school history dating to 1968 to qualify for the national championship.

After Friday’s first day of action at Ithaca (N.Y.) College when the Wildcats were 11th in a 21-team field, Cory, of Montoursville, went 3-0; and junior Noah Hunt, of Muncy, at 141; and senior Ryan Berstler, of Middletown, at 125, both went 2-1 and advanced to Saturday’s medal rounds and claimed All-Region honors.

Also posting wins on the opening day but not advancing were sophomore Patrick Snoke, of Northampton, at 133; sophomore Cullen Van Rooyen, of Dresden, Ohio, at 157; freshman Mason Leshock, of Shamokin, at 157; junior Gabriel Kennedy-Citeroni, of Blairsville, at 197; and sophomore Billy Bumbarger, of Morrisdale, at 285.

Cory, a PIAA Class AA state champ a year ago, scored a 4-2 win over Centenary's Justin Hopman in the semifinals on Saturday before falling in the title bout to RIT’s Colby Giroux, 3-2, to go to 17-2 on the season and earn a spot at nationals on March 10-11 in Roanoke, Virginia.

Hunt, meanwhile, improved to 37-16 and finished sixth after winning his bout in the consolation third round before losing in the consolation semifinals and then in the match for fifth place.

Hunt was fifth in the region a year ago, also at 141.

Berstler closed out his final campaign with a 31-14 record and seventh-place finish after falling in the third round of the consolation bracket and then picking up a disqualification in the seventh-place bout.

Before Cory, the previous highest individual finishes for Penn College grapplers were fourths by Jared Mooney, of Palmerton, in 2018 and 2019, and Dylan Otis, of Wyalusing, in 2019.

Teamwise, Penn College finished 11th in a 21-team field, tying the college’s previous best finish in 2019. The squad’s 55.5 points were the most for the Wildcats in regional competition.

“I’m proud of our young team and their courage, composure and character all season,” Chander said. “Cory made history while navigating arguably the toughest national qualification process in Division III athletics. He did so in impressive fashion and had the hardest path in the bracket by beating a returning national qualifier to punch his ticket. He dealt with many injuries and missed more than half the season. He is as resilient and as much of a fierce competitor as they come.

“In an effort to put into perspective just how hard it is to qualify for the D-III Championship, I’ll put it like this: Only the top three at each weight in the region qualify for NCAAs. Only 18 per weight make it to the big dance, not 64 national bids like most other sports. There are no at-large bids, wild cards, etc., and the body of work you’ve earned throughout the season holds no weight other than a seed going into the event. That is not true for any other sport’s national qualification process at the Division III level.

“To make the top three at this event, when there are over 18- to 21-man brackets with several nationally ranked competitors and teams, means every match could be the hardest one of your career and the margin for error is extremely thin. One mistake could cost you the season; there is no relying on other people to lose or win out.

“There are only six regions in the country and our NCAA Mideast Regional is among the deepest fields in the nation. There were returning national qualifiers and All-Americans that got left at home in our region and many others, which goes to show how tough and unforgiving this qualifying process is.

“I’m proud of Berstler and Hunt for finding ways to advance their way through the bracket and earn All-Region honors. Although Berstler will be a graduating senior, he has only wrestled two seasons and won 45 matches in just two years and became our first Eastern Collegiate Wrestling Conference medalist in program history. He battled his way back after a tough first-round loss to make it to day two and I’m glad he ended his career with a win; not many can say they did that.

“Hunt led our contingent in wins with 37 and never missed a competition date. He’s as consistent, durable, tough and coachable as they come. Hunt is now a two-time all-region student-athlete and will likely be a three-time NWCA Scholar All-American. The future is bright for this sophomore!

“We finished just shy of being within the top 10 of one of the best regions in the nation with an 11th-place finish with 55.5 team points. Last year, we finished 18th with 18.5 points. We were the only program in its fifth season within the top 14 teams. All others are standing on 75-100 years of success and tradition.

“We also return nine out of our 10 regional representatives, and eight of them have at least two more years left. We’re a young team and program that has reached new heights at every turn, which means the ceiling continues to get higher. We’re excited for the future!”

Women’s basketball
In its first-ever United East playoff game on Friday, fourth-seeded Penn College led 7-0 early but then was outscored in every quarter by top-seeded SUNY Morrisville in a 67-45 loss. The Wildcats closed out their winningest campaign since 2014-15 with a 9-8 conference record (9-7 regular season) and 10-16 overall mark.

Rachel Teats, of Middleburg, led Penn College with 11 points and Emily Pardee, of Williamsport, was tops with 10 rebounds.

With five players scoring in double figures, Morrisville outscored the Wildcats in points in the paint, 28-12, and in points off turnovers, 22-8, as it won its second of three games between the two teams.

On Saturday, Morrisville captured its second consecutive title with a 47-42 win over second-seeded Penn State Harrisburg and advances to the NCAA Division III Championship field.

Earlier in the week, Teats, a sophomore, was named to the UE second team after she averaged 9.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the Wildcats. She recorded three double-doubles and reached double figures in scoring 11 times.

Men’s basketball
Sophomore Gavin Barrett, of Roselle, New Jersey, became the first Penn College player to receive UE first-team honors after completing a season that included leading the conference in scoring average (18.5 per game) and assists per game (6.7), finishing third in steals per contest (2) and eighth in rebounds (5.9).

Penn College dropped both ends of a doubleheader at Stockton University on Friday by scores of 3-2 in seven innings and 11-1 in nine innings in the season-opening baseball games for both teams.

Quinn Hanafin, of Sayre, went 2 for 3 with one RBI in the first game for Penn College as starting pitcher Justin Porter, of Fairless Hills, allowed one earned run while giving up four hits, one walk and striking out two in four innings of work.

In the nightcap, Jake Wagner, of Palmyra, went 2 for 3 and Hanafin 2 for 4. Wildcats starting pitcher Ben Bretzman, of Bendersville, went 5.2 innings and took the loss.

Men’s lacrosse
Penn College grabbed an early 5-1 lead and never trailed in a 14-11 nonconference home win over Marywood University on Tuesday. Trevor Soli, of Redding, Connecticut, scored three goals and had an assist, while James Thatcher, of Bala Cynwyd, had two goals and two assists to lead the Wildcats. JJ Cella, of Cape May, New Jersey, had 16 saves in goal.

On Saturday in nonconference home play against Albright College, Penn College used an 8-2 first-quarter advantage on its way to a 21-10 win that upped its record to 3-0 its best start in three seasons of competition. Sam Hills, of Maynard, Massachusetts, and Camden Elmo, of Hanover, both scored four goals and had two assists, while Quinn Caviola, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, scored four goals and had one assist.

For their play in a season-opening 14-8 nonconference win over FDU-Florham on Feb. 18, attack Hills, who had five goals and three assists, and goalie Cella, who recorded 18 saves, were named the United East Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively. Also, Hills was among 10 Division III players named to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Dynamic Team of the Week.

Women’s basketball
Final overall: 10-16
Final UE: 9-8 (9-7 UE regular season)
Friday, Feb. 24 United East Semifinals at SUNY Morrisville, Penn College vs. SUNY Morrisville, L, 67-45

Final overall dual: 11-10
Friday, Feb. 24 NCAA Division III Mideast Regional at Ithaca College, Day 1: 11 of 21
Saturday, Feb. 25 NCAA Division III Mideast Regional at Ithaca College, Day 2: finished 11 of 21

Men’s lacrosse
Overall: 3-0
UE: 0-0
Wednesday, Feb. 22 host Marywood University, W, 14-11
Saturday, Feb. 25 host Albright College, W, 21-10
Wednesday, March 1 at Juniata College, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 host Drew University, 3 p.m.
Wednesday, March 8 at St. Mary’s (Md.) College (UE), 3:30 p.m.

Overall: 0-2
UE: 0-0
Friday, Feb. 24 at Stockton University (2), L, 3-2; L, 11-1
The Ripken Experience Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Sunday, March 5 vs. Hilbert College (2), 9 a.m.
Monday, March 6 vs. Rivier University, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 7 vs. La Roche University (2), TBA

Fastpitch Dreams Spring Classic, North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Monday, March 6 vs. Medaille College, 11 a.m.
Monday, March 6 vs. Gettysburg College, 5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 7 vs. Fitchburg State College, 11 a.m.
Tuesday, March 7 vs. Cedar Crest College, 3 p.m.

Monday, Feb. 20 CIL Cup Series-Watkins Glen, 21 and 32 of 38
Monday, Feb. 27 CIL Cup Series-Darlington, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, March 1 CIL Short Track Showdown-South Boston Speedway, 8 p.m.
Monday, March 6 CIL Cup Series-Las Vegas, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, March 7 CIL Formula College World Championship-Road Atlanta, 8 p.m.

NACE Rocket League Varsity
Record: 0-2
Monday, Feb. 27 vs. Michigan Technological University, 7 p.m.
Monday, March 6 vs. St. Lawrence University, 7 p.m.
Monday, March 13 vs. St. Xavier University, 7 p.m.

NACE Overwatch 2
Record: 0-3
Tuesday, Feb. 21 vs. Drexel University, L, 3-0 (2-0, 3-1, 3-2)
Tuesday, Feb. 28 vs. Ozarks Technical Community College, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, March 7 vs. North Carolina, 7 p.m.

NACE Valorant
Record: 0-3
Wednesday, Feb. 22 vs. Western Kentucky University, L, 2-0 (13-4, 13-6)
Wednesday, March 1 vs. Keiser University-Pembroke Pines, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, March 8 vs. Cornell College, 7 p.m.

For more about the United East, visit the conference website.

For additional information, visit the Wildcat Athletics website.

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