Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 3, 2004


By Clay McCombs / Sports Editor

Baker Looses in Double Overtime.

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The Southeast Regional Championships of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association was held at Marion Military Institute on Saturday evening in front of an exuberant crowd.

Two of the top four NCWA schools in the Nation, Central Florida University of Orlando and Pensacola Christian College came with almost two full teams to defend their Regional Championship and Runner-Up positions from last year.

Marion Military Institute shocked the field as they earned three final berths out of the 11 weight classes.

Newcomer, freshman Daniel Ruiz of College Station, Texas, shocked the crowed when he took David Miller, the first seed from UCF, down for the second time in the last period to earn the gold.

“This was the first Regional Champion MMI has ever had,” said Coach Joe Wiendl.

“We are real proud of his efforts, he wrestled a great match.”

Then came the match of the night for the MMI crowd as 235 lb. Matt Baker, MMI freshman from Gardendale, AL. came to the circle to meet Tom Lawlor, a junior from UCF and defending National Champion.

The activity on the mat was exciting despite no takedowns.

Matt earned some riding time advantage but not enough for a point as regulation time ran out with the score 1 – 1.

The same was seen during the first overtime period with no take downs the first sudden death minute and an escape for each in the next two 30 second periods.

The second sudden death overtime period started the same with no take downs the first period.

And again both escaped in the 30 second periods but Lawlor was able to earn two points and the win with a strong double leg take down in the last ten seconds.

“The match did not disappoint anyone.

It had everyone on their feet especially the large contingency of MMI cadets.

We will have another shot in two weeks at the National Championships in Dallas, Texas,” said Coach Wiendl.

With the 235 lb. weight class just over, sophomore James Breaux of Ladson, South Carolina, came to the mat to become the third MMI wrestler in the finals.

“‘Bro’ was our only 2003 returning place winner moving up from 197 lbs. to 285 lbs.

He put on some muscle and decided to compete at the upper weight using his speed to overcome the weight difference.

It paid off as he defeated UCF junior, Neil Bittong, 6 – 2 for the gold.”

The team championship went to powerhouse UCF with a total of 184.5 points.

They had an individual in the finals at every weight class and won six of the eleven.

PCC followed with 127 points as they earned three golds and two silvers.

Steve McGettrick their 149 lb. returning National Champion, had a great tournament as he came home with the 2 coveted awards, Tournament Most Valuable Wrestler and Most Pins in the Least Aggregate time.

Steve pined three of his opponents in the first period for a total time of four minutes and fifty-six seconds.

Auburn had a strong team effort finishing in third place with seventy-one points.

They had no finalists but three of their nine wrestlers were point winners.

MMI was tied for forth place with the University of Georgia, who came from Athens with 13 wrestlers.

MMI had a total of six healthy wrestlers starting the day and will take the three finalists to the National Tournament, March 12 – 13 at the University of Texas, Dallas Campus.