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Three state wrestlers earn All-American honors at NCAA Div. 3 nationals

Windsor Locks’ Khamri Thomas of Johnson and Wales finished third Saturday to earn All-American honors for the second straight season. (Photo courtesy Johnson & Wales Athletics)

Three Connecticut wrestlers earned All-American honors at Saturday’s 2019 NCAA Division III national championship meet in Roanoke, Virginia.

Trumbull native Cross Cannone of Wartburg College in Iowa earned All-American honors for the third year with a third place finish at 157 pounds.

Windsor Locks native Khamri Thomas of Johnson and Wales earned All-American honors for the second straight year with a third place finish at 184 pounds while New Fairfield’s Taylor Shay of Roger Williams (165) earned All-American honors for the first time with a seventh place finish.

Cannone was the defending NCAA Division III national champion at 149 pounds and he came into the tournament 27-0 on the year with a 61-match winning streak, dating back to the 2017 NCAA finals.

Cannone won his first two matches of the tournament with a 10-2 win over WPI’s Taylor Marsh and a 9-3 decision over No. 8 Grant Zamin of Wisconson-LaCrosse in the quarterfinals.

But undefeated Antwon Pugh of the University of Mount Union of Alliance, Ohio used a two-point near fall late in the third period to tie the match and won it on riding time, handing Cannone a 6-5 loss.

Cannone (31-1) rebounded with a pair of victories to earn All-American honors for the third time and finish third. He beat No. 3 seed Kaidon Winters of RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), 11-2 and topped No. 5 Brandon Murray of Loras College in Iowa, 9-1, in the consolation final. Cannone helped Wartburg, the defending national champions finish fifth.

Cannone becomes the first Connecticut wrestler to earn All-American honors three times since Newington’s Chris Chorzepa of Williams College (2014, 2015, 2017). He finished his collegiate career with 118 victories.

Thomas earned All-American honors for the second consecutive year for Johnson and Wales, which had their best-ever finish in the NCAA Division III tournament – third place.

Thomas (184) won his first two matches with a 10-3 win over Michael Dooley of Stevens and a 5-3 win over Nick Stencel of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the quarterfinals. Against Stencel, Thomas used a third period escape with 1:55 remaining to tie the match and he won it with a takedown with 1:02 left to go.

However, Thomas dropped a 2-1 decision to No. 2 seed Itacha College’s Jack Ashcraft in the semifinals. Thomas was penalized one point for stalling with 1:15 remaining.

But Thomas rebounded with a pair of victories including a pin in 1:20 of Chicago’s Kyle Peisker in the consolation final to finish third.

Taylor Shay of Roger Williams (165, left) finished seventh at the NCAA Div. 3 national championship meet to earn All-American honors. (Photo courtesy Roger Williams Athletics)

Shay (42-3) earned All-American honors for the first time for Roger Williams with a seventh place finish at 165 pounds.

Shay, who was the No. 2 seed, had a disappointing 3-2 loss in triple overtime to Dempsey King of RIT in his first match of the tournament. Shay stuck with it with a 5-3 win over Sam Gross of John Carroll thanks to a quick 5-0 lead in his first consolation round bout and become the ninth Roger Williams wrestler to earn All-American honors.

Mark Choinski of Wisconsin-Oshkosh pinned Shay in 4:32 but Shay rebounded with a 10-5 win over Austin Whitney of Itacha, to finish seventh.

“He battled every second and coming out as an All-American is a culmination of the hard work he put in every day,” Roger Williams coach Jon Egan said. “He earned it and we are so proud of him.”

Three other Connecticut wrestlers participated in the Division III national tournament.

Wesleyan’s Zach Murillo of Southington went 1-2 at 125 pounds including a huge upset in the second round with a 10-7 win over three-time national champion Brady Kyner of Wartburg College in his second round match.

Trailing by one in the third period, 5-4, Murillo reversed Kyner to his back for six points and he won the match, 10-7. However, Murillo ran into No. 2 Mike Tortorice of Wisconsin-Whitewater who shutout Murillo, 8-0.

In the consolation bracket, Murillo (28-10) fell Carlos Champagne of Wabash,, 8-0 and was eliminated.

Roger Williams’ Andrian Gonzalez (165) from Fitch-Groton went 1-2 with a win over Centenary’s Alec Donovan, 11-6. Coast Guard’s Nick Remke eliminated Gonzalez, 6-3.

Williams’ Joseph Rossetti (141) went 0-2 in the tournament. Rossetti, from Glastonbury, dropped a 7-5 decision to No. 5 Brendan Ladd of Alma thanks to a reversal with 1:44 remaining and a point for riding time. Rossetti was eliminated in a 6-3 loss to NYU’s Evan Drill.

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 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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