It was a long and eventful weekend that lived up to the hype for the Kutztown University wrestling team. For the second time in as many years, KU will be represented in the NCAA Division II
National Championships. Sophomore Ziad Haddad, senior Evan Yenolevich and junior Bo Candelaria will travel to compete with the nation’s best on March, 14 on college wrestling’s biggest stage. Haddad and Yenolevich each claimed the top spot in their respective weight classes and will be high seeds in the NCAA championships .The two were key constituents in the Golden Bears’ fourth place finish as a team, making this the fifth consecutive year they have finished in the top five.
For Haddad and Yenolevich, success and adulation are concurrent and recurring. The two are no strangers to this venue and are returning to Nationals for the second straight year. Candelaria will be making his first appearance at the NCAA Championships at the 165 weight class.
Calling Haddad’s season “dominate” would be deemed dysphemistic. He currently stands undefeated and untested with a record of 21-0. The junior has created a habit of laying waste to his opponents by manhandling all three of his counterparts on way to a regional crown. Comparably, Haddad has taken his game to an entirely new level this season, as he has yet to surrender a takedown to an opponent. His forefront will be improving on his fourth place finish last season when he enters this year’s event as the nation’s top ranked heavyweight.
Yenolevich will enter as a rare three-time national qualifier. The New Tripoli, Pa. native was eliminated in the first round last season at the 141 after finishing fourth nationally at 133 in 2012. Yenolevich has overcome much adversity in a 2013-2014 season hampered by injuries. He was an alpha among betas all weekend, securing victories in all four of his matches effortlessly. He competed with what looked like a buildup of anger and consternation that hit its boiling point on Sunday.
The senior came out of the gate like a caged animal freed from incarceration as he defeated his opponents either by pin or shutout. This showcase of voracious grappling earned him the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament award. After overcoming many encumbrances, he will look to finish his illustrious career at the top of the mountain.
Candelaria is the lone newcomer to this venue. He has played under the shadow of the two aforementioned all season, but will not be subservient on the paradigm of college wrestling events. The nearby Reading product earned all three wins in exiting fashion. His highlight was his third-place match against Pitt-Johnstown’s Gary Lantz. Candelaria overcame a 1-0 deficit all match until forcing overtime with an escape in the closing seconds. In overtime, he would deliver the coup de grace with another escape and kept Lantz on his stomach for the entire period to advance to nationals. The junior currently stands at 11-1 at 165 this season.
This trend of success has become normal for the Golden Bears. At the beginning of the year, head coach Rob Fisher said that this team can be his best ever. With almost the same number of wrestlers returning to Nationals, that dream can come to fruition on March 14, in Columbus, Ohio.