News Lakers Conclude Impressive Fall Schedule - Garrett College

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Campus News

December 21, 2021

Lakers conclude impressive fall schedule

Next up: National Dual Meet championships on January 6-7

Next month's National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Dual Meet Championships will feature high-level competition, but Garrett College head wrestling coach John Chambers believes his team's rugged fall schedule has prepared the Lakers for the challenge.

"The way these guys have come out of the gate is above and beyond anything I could have anticipated," said Chambers. "Week in and week out, we've wrestled against tough district competition as well as high-caliber NCAA Division I, II and III teams. And we've brought home more individual championships this fall – 10 in four tournaments – than in any time in program history."

Two true freshmen – Nathan Pelesky and Navid Ighani – and COVID freshman Noah Korenoski – have led the way, posting identical 11-4 records. (Wrestlers who wrestled last year, when the NJCAA granted an extra year of eligibility due to COVID, are designated as "COVID-freshman" or "COVID-sophomore" to identify that status.)

Korenoski, who is wrestling at 157 pounds, was a national qualifier last year. Chambers said he "has a shot at being an all-American this year," which requires finishing in the top eight at the NJCAA national tournament.

Korenoski has won his weight class at two tournaments – King of the Mont at Penn State Mont Alto and Thunderwolves Open – and placed in three of the team's four tournaments. His Thunderwolves title – where he won twice in sudden death overtime – and his victory over Gavin Priest of the University of Buffalo have been among his best performances.

"Noah is one of our hardest workers in the room," said Chambers. "He puts his time in not only on the mat but in the weight room, and he takes really good care of his body. He has that grit and determination – he's the epitome of what I want to see in a wrestler."

Chambers, meanwhile, called Pelesky and Ighani "our two biggest surprises" of the fall semester.

Pelesky, who is wrestling at 125 pounds, pinned all three of his opponents to win a championship at King of the Mont and went 3-2 in loaded weight classes at both the Washington and Jefferson Invitational and the Shorty Hitchcock Memorial Open.

Chambers said Pelesky was a real find, having wrestled under the radar in talent-rich Pennsylvania at North Star High School.

"When we recruited Nathan, we could see that he had a chance to be really good," said Chambers. "Wrestling in Pennsylvania, you can run into guys on a different level at that point in your high school career. Hegvn ng 's off to one of the best starts in program history."

Chambers indicated Ighani, who wrestles at 167 pounds, may be "the biggest surprise of all."

"With everything going on with COVID, Navid decided to stay home and work for a year," Chambers said of the 2020 Gaithersburg High School graduate. "I thought it would take time for him to get back on track, but Navid just works tirelessly. No matter where you see him – wrestling room, weight room, classroom – he's always trying to get better."

Ighani has placed in three of the four tournaments, winning titles at both King of the Mont and Thunderwolves. He also went 4-2 at the Washington and Jefferson Invitational.

While Korenoski, Pelesky and Ighani have led the way record-wise, Chambers said the experience provided by other returning wrestlers has been critical to his team's success.

"We've gotten a lot of leadership from Brandon Myers and Trey Weinell," said Chambers, noting Weinell won his weight class at the Thunderwolves Open. "And Nick Kelbaugh, who is still recuperating from last season's ACL injury, has used his experience gained last season to help the true freshmen. They've all been great for all of the freshmen we have in the room this year."

Chambers said this season "feels a little bit more normal" after all of the COVID disruptions last season.

"We were actually wrestling in November this year – we didn't start competing until January last season," noted Chambers. "That hurt us in retaining student athletes – they just couldn't compete in the fall and that hurt motivation. There's more motivation in the room this year."

The NWCA National Duals on January 6-7 in Louisville, KY – which features separate divisions for NJCAA, NAIA, and NCAA Division II and III competitors – kicks off the heart of the Lakers' schedule. GC hosts dual and tri meets on three successive Saturdays starting January 22nd before participating in the USCAA National Invitational at Penn State Fayette on February 13th. The USCAA event is for small two- and four-year colleges.

The Eastern District championships – which serves as the qualifier for the NJCAA national tournament – will take place February 19th at Lackawanna (PA) College. The season culminates with the NJCAA championships in Council Bluffs, IA on March 4-5.