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Defending national champion Cross Cannone earns return bid to NCAA tournament

Trumbull native Cross Cannone qualified to wrestle in the NCAA Division III tournament for the third straight season. (Photo courtesy Jay Cannone)

DUBUQUE, Iowa, February 23, 2019 – Cross Cannone, the defending Division III national champion at 157 pounds from Wartburg College in Iowa, secured his third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament by winning his weight class at the NCAA Lower Midwest Regional championships on Sunday.

Cannone, who graduated from Trumbull High, helped No. 1 Wartburg College win their seventh straight regional championship and was one of seven Knights to earn an invitational for the NCAA Division III national championships in Roanoke, Virginia, in two weeks on March 8-9.

He joins three other Connecticut natives going to the NCAA tournament. Johnson & Wales Khamri Thomas (Windsor Locks) won his second straight Northeast Regional title at 184 pounds to secure a berth along with Roger Williams’ Taylor Shay (New Fairfield) who won at 165 pounds. Wesleyan’s Zach Murillo (Southington) finished second at 125 to secure a berth.

Cannone went 4-0 in the tournament to win the regional title for the second year in a row. He beat Carson Rhodes of Buenta Vista, 16-0 and got another technical fall with a win over Jared Nickman of Nebraska-Wesleyan. Cannone has a team record (career) 35 tech falls.

In the semifinals, Cannone beat No. 9 Cole Erickson of Coe College, 3-2. Erickson escaped with 1:43 left in the third period but Cannone held him off. In the finals, Cannone beat No. 5 Brandon Murray of Loras College, 6-2. Cannone had a pair of takedowns in the first period, including one with nine seconds remaining, to take an early 4-1 lead. He extended the lead to 5-1 in the second with an escape.

Cannone improved to 27-0 on the year and extended his winning streak to 61 matches, which dates back to the 2017 NCAA Division III championship bout. He is ranked No. 1 in the country at 157.

Milford’s Michael Ross (165) was the top seed at the Lower Midwest Regional for Wartburg and won his first two bouts with a 20 second pin and an 8-3 win over Zack Anderson of Dubuque thanks in part to three takedowns.

But Ross was upset by Brad Kerkhoff of Buena Vista, 9-2 in the semifinals. Ross got the first takedown but it was all Kerkoff after that with nine consecutive points. Kerkhoff had a 4-2 lead after two periods but Ross was penalized three times in the third period.

Ross lost his shot at the nationals with a 16-1 loss to Michael Suarez of Luther in the consolation semifinals. The top three wrestlers in each weight class qualified for the NCAA tournament.

In Williamsport, Pennsylvania, two Connecticut natives fell short in their bids to secure a NCAA Tournament berth wrestling for Washington and Lee in the NCAA Division III Southeast Regional on the campus of Lycoming College.

After two wins in the tournament, Southington’s Zach Bylykbashi was beaten by Ferrum’s Mario Vasquez in the semifinals, 4-3. It was tied 3-3 after two periods but Vasquez got an escape with 1:35 remaining to pull ahead for good.

Bylykbashi lost his opportunity to wrestle for a spot at the nationals with a 10-4 loss to Brandon Woody of Averett in the consolation semifinals. Bylybashi, a two-time NCAA Tournament qualifier, ended his collegiate career on a positive note with a late takedown to get a 4-3 win over Nick Nunez of Messiah to finish fifth.

Bylykbashi’s three wins in the tournament enabled him to set the new career record for most wins in team history. He finished his career with a 100-34 record.

Freshman Ryan Luth (Foran-Milford) went 2-3 in the tournament and finished eighth for Washington and Lee.

Messiah won the Southeast Regional title with Washington and Lee finishing sixth – their highest in the event since the NCAA went to the regional format in 2013.


Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Katherine Morse

    February 26, 2019 at 6:35 am

    Khamri Thomas won OW for the NCAA northeast regional championships.

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