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Fourteen wrestlers with state ties qualify for respective NCAA tournaments

Danbury’s Jakob Camacho and Ryan Jack helped No. 4 North Carolina State win their fourth straight ACC title Sunday and qualified for the NCAA Division I tournament. (Photo courtesy North Carolina State Sports Information)

Fourteen wrestlers with Connecticut ties will be competing at the three NCAA national championship wrestling tournaments beginning this weekend with the NCAA Division II championship meet in St. Louis and the NCAA Division III championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

On Sunday, Danbury natives Jakob Camacho and Ryan Jack of North Carolina State each qualified to compete in the NCAA Division I national championship on March 18-19 in Detroit. Camacho and Jack helped the Wolfpack win their fourth straight ACC championship.

Ellis Tech star Jo Jo Gonzalez of Willimantic will be making his third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division II national championship meet in St. Louis on Friday, March 11 and Saturday, March 12.

Five wrestlers with grew up in Connecticut qualified to compete in the Division III tournament along with five wrestlers from Coast Guard, which won the NCAA Div. 3 Northeast Regional two weeks ago, and one from Wesleyan.

Camacho (125) qualified for the NCAA tournament for the third time. He went 2-2 a year ago and didn’t get to wrestle in 2020 when the tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jack (141) earned a NCAA bid for the first time.

Camacho was one of four Wolfpack wrestlers to win an individual Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) title and help No. 4 North Carolina State win their fourth straight ACC championship Sunday night in Charlottesville, Va.  All 10 Wolfpack wrestlers finished in the top three and all 10 qualified to compete in the NCAA tournament.

North Carolina State tied a school record with a fourth straight ACC title, winning with 98½ points. Virginia Tech was second with 76 points.

Camacho (16-3) beat top-seeded Sam Latona of Virginia Tech in a thrilling final, 3-1, with his match-winning takedown coming with five seconds remaining in the bout. It was Camacho’s first win after three straight losses to Latona.

The two wrestlers have had several thrilling bouts.

Latona got a takedown and two point near fall in the final five seconds against Camacho in February 2021 to earn a 7-4 win and help the Hokies beat NC State on criteria, 17-16. A weeks later, Latona beat Camacho in the title match at 125 pounds in the 2021 ACC Tournament, 2-1 in double OT.

Camacho rolled into the Sunday’s finals with an 8-3 decision over Pittsburgh’s Gage Curry thanks to three takedowns and 1:23 of riding time.

Jack (16-7) had one of the top upsets of the tournament as he scored a takedown with just four seconds remaining to beat North Carolina’s Kizhan Clarke with a 4-3 victory in the semifinals. Clarke was ranked No. 8 in the country.

In the final, Jack fell to Cole Matthews of Pittsburgh, 3-2, who is ranked No. 5 nationally.

Hand-Madison graduate Michael Burchell (285) of Appalachian State fell one win shy of qualifying for his first NCAA Division I tournament. Burchell finished third in the Southern Conference tournament but only the top two wrestlers at 285 earned automatic NCAA bids.

Burchell fell in the semifinals to No. 2 seed Michael McAleavey of The Citadel, 5-2. But Burchell won his next two matches to finish third. Burchell beat Gardner-Webb’s Peyton McComas, 10-1 and Davidson’s Mitchell Twigg, 16-6.

Appalachian State finished second in the Southern Conference behind Campbell, 100½ to 95. Chattanooga was third with 79 points.

Other Connecticut natives competing in conference tournaments this past weekend included Newtown’s Joe Accousti, who was 1-2 for Sacred Heart at 184 pounds at the EIWA championships, former Xavier wrestler Michael Rapuano (133), who was 1-2 for George Mason at the Mid-American tournament and former Gilbert School wrestler Devin Matthews (141), who was 0-2 at 141 for Long Island at the EIWA championships.

American International College’s Gonzalez (26-5) is the No. 4 seed at 157 at the Division II championships. Gonzalez won his third straight Super Region 1 championship two weeks ago and will look to improve on his seventh place finish at last year’s D2 championships.

2022 NCAA Division II brackets

The NCAA Division III tournament will be held for the first time since 2019 after being cancelled the last two years due to COVID-19.

Johnson & Wales Michael Ross (174, Stratford/Foran), Western New England University’s Nicholas Arborio (125, Berlin), Williams’ Joseph Rossetti (141, Glastonbury), Castleton’s Cooper Fleming (174, Granby) and Washington and Lee’s Ryan Luth (157, Milford/Foran) will be competing in the tournament.

Ross, who leads the nation among Division III wrestlers with 21 technical falls, won the NCAA Div. Northeast Region title while Arborio, Rossetti and Fleming each finished second in their respective weight classes.

Luth, a junior at Washington & Lee, won his second Southeast Regional title and will compete in the NCAA tournament for the first time. The tournament was cancelled in 2020.

Luth had anything but an easy path to the podium, squaring off against the region’s third-ranked wrestler in Eric Hutchinson of York in the semifinals.  Luth won 5-2 to advance and meet Nick Barnhart of Messiah, the region’s top ranked wrestler, in the championship match.

Barnhart handed Luth his only loss of the season, beating him 9-6 in the championship match of the Messiah Invitational back on Nov. 6. This time, Luth gained the upper hand and claimed a 9-7 victory to improve to 29-1 on the season.

Tournament OW Paul Detwiler (184, 19-0) led Coast Guard to their first Northeast Region title. Detwiler (184), Tony Ulaszek (149, 18-0), Phil Rogers (165, 9-0) and Coy Spooner (197, 24-0) each won regional titles for the Bears while Joe Chapman (157) finished third to qualify for the NCAA Div. III tournament.

For Wesleyan’s Marco Gaita, it was an incredible rally for the now two-time NCAA tournament participant, as he was defeated by Castleton’s Cooper Fleming by a 6-4 decision in the quarterfinals of the tournament at 174 pounds.

With only the top three finishers from each weight class earning a spot at Nationals, Gaita’s loss to Fleming meant he had to win four straight bouts to claim third place. Starting on Saturday, Gaita took out Southern Maine’s Juan Vernaza by a 10-1 major decision and followed with a 6-0 win over Norwich University’s Daniel Curran. His run continued with a 9-3 victory over David McCullough of Coast Guard, setting up a winner-take-all match with Dante Gutbrod of Williams.

In the tightly-contested third place decider, it was Gaita who came out on top with an 8-5 decision victory, claiming third place and a spot at nationals. This will be Gaita’s first time competing in the NCAA championships as he did make the 2020 field but the competition was canceled due to the onset of COVID-19.

2022 NCAA Division III brackets


NCAA qualifiers with Connecticut ties

NCAA Division I qualifiers Wgt. March 18-19, Detroit
Jakob Camacho (Danbury) 125 North Carolina State
Ryan Jack (Danbury) 141 North Carolina State
NCAA Division II qualifiers Wgt. March 11-12, St. Louis
Jo Jo Gonzalez (Willimantic/Ellis Tech) 157 AIC
NCAA Division III qualifiers Wgt. March 11-12, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Michael Ross (Stratford/Foran) 174 Johnson & Wales
Nicholas Arborio (Berlin) 125 Western New England Univ.
Joseph Rossetti (Glastonbury) 141 Williams
Cooper Fleming (Granby) 174 Castleton State
Paul Detwiler 184 Coast Guard
Tony Ulazek 149 Coast Guard
Phil Rogers 165 Coast Guard
Coy Spooner 197 Coast Guard
Joe Chapman 157 Coast Guard
Marco Gaita 157 Wesleyan

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.

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