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UCF Wins Southeast Conference Championship

03/04/2008 -

NCWA Southeast Conference Championship
Jason Balma

The Knights began their pursuit for the 2008 NCWA national title this weekend with an impressive first place finish at the Southeast Conference Championship hosted by Darton College. This was the Knight’s second consecutive Southeast Conference title and fifth overall conference title. The Knights boasted 232 tournament points, a 44 point margin over Marion Military Institute (Alabama); followed by University of Florida, Darton College (Georgia), and Kennesaw State University (Georgia), respectively. Individual UCF tournament champions included Matt Bohren (141 lbs.), Rob McCarty (149 lbs.), Mike Lemieux (157 lbs.), Zach Sanford (184 lbs.), Danny Fernandez (197 lbs.), and Jesse Pinson (285 lbs.). In all, the Knights qualified 18 wrestlers for the national tournament.

At 125 lbs., returning NCWA finalist, Federico Carosio, suffered a loss in the finals to returning national champion CeeJay Hamilton. Also at 125 lbs., Frito Cherenfant finished the tournament with a third place finish over Darton College’s Dakota Puryear. The NCWA, unlike other college divisions, allows for a maximum of two wrestlers per weight class to qualify for the national tournament.

At 133 lbs., after loosing a close match in the semi-finals, freshmen Steve DeAugustino finished third over FAMU’s Rueben Felder. DeAugustino, the only freshmen in Central Florida’s lineup, has had an extraordinary work ethic this season that has established him as a strong competitor in the 133 lbs. weight class.

At 141 lbs., returning NCWA All-American Matt Bohren won the tournament over freshmen teammate TJ Gillin. Gillin won his semi-finals match over #2 seed Jarrett Williams (Darton College) with a last second takedown and near-fall in the third period.

At 149 lbs., returning national finalist and senior captain Rob McCarty defeated Darton College’s Corey Wilson 6-2. At 157 lbs. senior Michael Lemieux also won the tournament defeating University of Florida’s Freddie Williams 3-2 in the finals. After suffering an end of the season injury last year, Lemieux is looking to make his mark on the NCWA in his final season.

165 lbs. sophomore Devon Jackson finished the tournament with a fourth place finish. Jackson lost a close semi-final match to tournament champion, Ross Cravens (KSU), and lost another close match to University of Georgia’s Alan Taylor in the consolation finals. At 174 lbs. sophomore CJ Hauser suffered a loss to University of Florida’s Ricky Rieck in the finals.

At 184 lbs., Zach Sanford and Richard Rippy continued their dominance of the weight class meeting in the finals for the third consecutive tournament. Sanford, senior captain and two-time NCWA All-American, improved his season record to 42-4 with 318 NCWA points. Sanford continues to lead the NCWA in points in all weight classes.

At 197 lbs. two-time All-American Danny Fernandez recorded a tournament championship over FGCU’s Nathan Behrent 5-4. Also at 197 lbs., senior Billy Rippy finished the tournament in third place with notable victories over MMI’s Tyler Barberi and KSU’s Ben Ericks.

At 235 lbs., Brian Pierson finished second in the conference to MMI’s Jay Brenowitz. At 285 lbs., returning NCWA finalist Jesse Pinson won the tournament with two first period pins and a forfeit in the finals. Pinson leads the team in pins with 27.

Following the tournament, UCF’s assistant coach, Jason Balma, was named Southeast Conference Coach of the Year. “It was an extreme honor to be selected for this award, especially considering it is voted by the other coaches, most of which are older and have many more years of experience than me. I am really proud of the guys, they have really come together as a team this year and really represent everything that makes this sport so great,” said Balma.

The Knights will now prepare for their seventh year of participation at the NCWA National Tournament, finishing 8th, 4th, 1st, 1st, 4th, and 2nd, respectively. In the past six years, the Knights have claimed 44 All-American finishes and 8 national champion titles. UCF will be hosting the National Tournament at the Lakeland Civic Center on March 13, 14, and 15.


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