Gardone's wrestling quest begins today; follow it live on the NCWA webcast
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE WRESTLING ASSOCIATION
CHAMPIONSHIPS OPEN TODAY
Live Webcast: www.ncwa.net
Lou Gardone's quest for a national wrestling title begins today with opening of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association championships at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, The three-day tournament, Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12, will identify the country's top wrestlers in the 11 weight classes.
Gardone, the NCWA Mid-East conference champion, squares off against Karl Fong (University of North Florida), the sixth-place finisher in the Southeast conference, in the first round of the 36-man,197-pound bracket. The victor faces the winner of the Brett Buckner (Radford, Mid-Atlantic Conference) and Bryce Wilson (California Baptist, West Coast Conference) bout. Gardone's bracket gets underway at 11:00 a.m. and his will be the eighth match of the 197-pound class.
The tournament will be streamed live beginning at 10:00 a.m. on the NCWA Web site, www.ncwa.net
NATIONAL COLLEGIATE WRESTLING ASSOCIATION
Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12,
Mercer University, Macon, Georgia
With the conference championship trophy safely on the mantle, Penn State New Kensington wrestler Lou Gardone is homing in on a bigger prize: a national championship.
Gardone, the cornerstone of the campus' revived wrestling program, will compete in the 197-pound weight class of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association tournament, Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12, at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. His bracket features 36 of the top wrestlers from across the country.
"Lou is going to have the biggest challenge of his career at the nationals," said Scott Morgan, coach of the first-year program. "But he is wrestling at his best at the right time, and his confidence is high."
"Everyone there is going to be good and I expect to wrestle a tough seven minutes every match," said Gardone, an administrative of justice major. "The competition will be great and it’s going to be a good learning experience."
A product of Burrell High School's storied wrestling program, Gardone earned a berth in the tournament by capturing the NCWA Mid-East Conference championship on Feb. 27. Seeded number one in his weight class, he scored a 4-0 decision over Brandon Banks from West Chester University in the title match.
"Honestly, these types of tournaments are all about where you get seeded," said Gardone, an Upper Burrell native. "I got the number one seed in the bracket which put me in perfect position to win my way into the finals."
After overcoming a knee injury in the fall, Gardone fashioned a 12-6 overall mark during the regular season. His record included three wins over nationally-ranked opponents.
"I wasn’t where I wanted to be early in the season, and I lost a couple close matches that I feel I should have won," said Gardone, who helped Burrell to its first state title in 2008. "The turning point in the season for me was at the UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) Duals where I won 11-10 over a fifteenth ranked opponent. It was the match I needed for a confidence booster."
On the year, Gardone had the best record on the New Kensington Lions team that is in its first season of intercollegiate competition after a 35-year hiatus. He is the first wrestler in the history of the campus to advance to a national tournament.
Morgan resuscitated a program that was dormant since 1975. Wrestling was a staple of the campus athletic program in the early 1970s.
The NCWA is the governing body for collegiate club wrestling teams in the United States and Canada. It is divided into seven regional conferences: Mid-East; Northeast; Mid-Atlantic; Southeast; North Central; Southwest; and West coast. The New Kensington Lions compete in the 18-member Mid-East region that includes programs from the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, University of Delaware and Lehigh University.
CAMPUS' PAST AND PRESENT CONVERGE AT WRESTLING NATIONALS
Former PSNK Wrestler Jim Giunta is Executive Director of NCWA
Separated by 35-year chasm, Penn State New Kensington's past and present wrestling programs converge at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association national championships, Thursday-Saturday, March 10-12, at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
Sophomore Lou Gardone, the cornerstone of the campus' revived wrestling program, is competing for a national title in the 197-pound weight class. If he reaches the medalist round, he may receive a medal from Jim Giunta, a former campus wrestler.
Giunta is the founder and executive director of the NCWA. He wrestled at the New Kensington campus during the halcyon days of the program in the early '70s. Former coach Bob Darby started the original program in1971, and it was disbanded in 1975. Current coach Scott Morgan resuscitated a program this year.
"Jim was an excellent wrestler and a team leader," recalled Darby, who retired as instructor in kinesiology in 2006. "He wrestled at 118 pounds."
A graduate of Burrell High School, Giunta attended the campus for two years before transferring to Texas A&M University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master’s degree in exercise physiology and cardiac rehabilitation.
After graduation, Giunta taught high school in Richardson, a North Dallas suburb, and served as the school's head wrestling coach for seven years. In 1984, he joined Primemerica, a financial services marketing company, and is currently a senior vice president.
The Dallas resident launched the Texas Interscholastic Wrestling Association in 1987 to promote wrestling in high schools. He was honored in 2004 with a lifetime achievement award by the Texas Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Giunta formed NCWA in 1997. The organization is the governing body for collegiate club wrestling teams in the United States and Canada. It is divided into seven regional conferences: Mid-East; Northeast; Mid-Atlantic; Southeast; North Central; Southwest; and West coast. The New Kensington Lions compete in the 18-member Mid-East region that includes programs from the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, University of Delaware and Lehigh University.
Gardone captured the NCWA Mid-East Conference championship on Feb. 27 to earn a berth in the nationals. He is the first wrestler in the history of the campus to advance to a national tournament. There was no national tournament for campus wrestlers when Giunta was patrolling the mat.
For more on wrestling, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/StudentLife/Athletics/36287.htm online.
Lou Gardone's Mid-East conference title earned him a berth in the nationals.
Lou Gardone works out in the weight room as he prepares for the NCWA championships.
PSNK's Jim Giunta takes top honors at 1974 match.