Published 12:00 am Monday, March 15, 2004

Three Marion Military Institute college wrestlers have qualified to be held Friday and Saturday, March 12-13 at the University of Texas, Dallas Campus.

MMI hosted this year’s Regional Championship last Saturday where all three of three qualifiers wrestled in the tournaments championship round.

Danny Ruiz took first at the 125 pound weight class, Matt Baker finished second at 235 pounds and James Breaux was crowned champion at 285 pounds.

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Ruiz, a freshman from College Station, Texas, will be traveling back to his home state to compete in this year’s Nationals.

“Danny is a transfer student from the Citadel who came in this year and helped us strengthen our lower weights.

His work ethic proved invaluable as he defeated the number one seeded wrestler, David Miller of University Central Florida four to two, in a great action filled match.”

The touted match of the night materialized when Matt Baker, an MMI freshman and three-time Alabama State Champion from Gardendale, earned a spot in the finals with a superior decision over Wes Mullinax, a Georgia High School State Champion wrestling for Auburn.

The win put Matt against the reigning NCWA National Champion, Tom Lawlor, a junior from University Central Florida, in the finals.

The match was as exciting as expected, as both wrestlers shot and countered for the three periods with only an escape each leaving the score at 1-1 at the end of regulation time.

The two exhausted wrestlers started the sudden death overtime period of one minute and then the two-30 seconds periods with the score again standing at 1-1.

The second overtime period started immediately with continuous action proving the top condition of the two athletes.

But the bout ended in the second overtime period as Lawlor gained control of Baker on the mat earning a two point take down in the last ten seconds of overtime.

“Earning a silver medal qualifies Matt for the National’s,” says Coach Joe Wiendl.

“He may have a chance for a rematch with Lawlor in Texas, but he must not overlook the top competition from the other Regional Championships.”

To end the evening, MMI sophomore James Breaux from Ladson, South Carolina stepped on the mat at the 285 pounds weight class to compete against Neil Bittong, another junior from University Central Florida.

Breaux, the only qualifier from last year’s team (at 197 pounds), was giving up at least thirty pounds as he used his quickness to earn three takedowns and plenty of riding time to take the championship at 285 pounds

“All three of our wrestlers will be staying busy this week preparing for the tournament in Dallas.

This has been a great year for our program,” says Wiendl.

“We have never had a Regional Champion before and this year we have two. The top six in each weight at the National Championships will become 2005 All-Americans.

Last year’s 174-pound MMI wrestler, Brent Smith, who earned his appointment to West Point, was the only MMI All-American wrestler in the past.

This year we have a chance for three.”