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MMI to host Southeast Regional Wrestling Tournament

MARION – This weekend the Marion Military Institute will host its first National Collegiate Qualifying Tournament as members of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA).

MMI will be one of six institutions that will be hosting Regional Tournaments throughout the nation this weekend for a chance to compete in this year’s National Championships to be held March 12-13 at the University of Texas, Dallas Campus. The top five place winners in each of the 11-college weight classes will qualify to compete

“The Southeast Region is very competitive this year,” says second-year MMI head coach Joe Wiendl.

“This year the number one ranked team in the nation, Florida Central University of Orlando, and the third ranked team, Pensacola Christian College will be the favorites to take the team championships.”

This weekend, three of the top 235-pound wrestlers in the country will be wrestling in the S.E. Regional Championships at the Ireland Center.

Tom Lawlor, a junior at the University of Central Florida, and 2003 NCWA National Champion, will defend his crown against freshman Matt Baker, a three-time Alabama State Champion from Gardendale, Al. and Auburn University senior Wes Mullinax, from Atlanta.

“These three athletes could finish in the top six of the Nation and they are all in the same region,” Wiendl said.

Auburn senior and Irwin High School graduate, Eric Stuman will again compete in the 197 pound class hoping to improve on his second place finish in the region to last year’s National Champion, Ben Bieber, from Pensacola Christian College and third place finish at the Nationals.

“The two local Alabama boys, Baker and Stuman, have been competitors in the past but they now could be Regional teammates going after the National Championships,” Wiendl said.

MMI will be competing for that third spot with major schools in the region such as Auburn, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Florida A&M, and the University of South Florida.

The only other junior college in the region is Santa Fe Community College from Gainesville, Florida.

Central Florida will be building on their Regional Championship and fourth place finish in the National Championships last year with seven of their eleven starters returning. Two of these wrestlers are returning National Champions.

Raud Jesse at 165 pounds and Thomas Lawlor at 235 pounds will be working hard to keep their regional and national titles.

Pensacola Christian will be looking to improve on their sixth-place finish last year.

Helping them will be defending National Champion, Steve McGettrick, who will again wrestle in the 149-pound weight class.

“The competition will be excellent,” says Coach Wiendl, who has one returning wrestler with National experience in James Breaux.

The sophomore traveled north to Easton, Pennsylvania to compete in last year’s Nationals at 197 pounds and came just 1 match short of becoming an All-American with three wins and two losses.

This year Breaux has moved up to 235 pound weight class.

“He will be light for this weight class, weighting in at 220 pounds,” Wiendl said. “But we will have better team strength with James moving up two classes and allowing freshman, Matt Baker, to stay at 235 pounds.”

Tournament wrestling will start at 10 a.m. Saturday with quarterfinals at 1 p.m., semi-finals at 3 p.m. and finals at 7 p.m. The White Knights, the MMI Precision Drill Team, will be giving a performance prior to the start of the finals.

“This will be the best wrestling the state of Alabama has seen in a long time.

We are expecting a packed gym for the finals,” Wiendl said. “So please come early.