For 10 years, the Wilkes Wrestling program has qualified at least one wrestler to the national tournament each year. Nick Racanelli was the lone wrestler to qualify for the tournament in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Racanelli is a sophomore who wrestles at the 157-pound weight class, and he finished his second season with a record of 24-11. In order to qualify for the national tournament, Racanelli had to place in the top three of the regional tournament. He took second place in the regional tournament.
He qualified after wrestling Ian Evans of Scranton. In that semi-final match, Racanelli took down his opponent in overtime to win, 3-1. After that, he wrestled in the finals with Brett Beltz of Thiel and got pinned by him for second place.
“Qualifying for nationals was awesome. I accomplished my one goal this year and that was making it to the NCAA tournament,” Racanelli said.
His first opponent in the national tournament was a familiar one: Raymond Jazikoff of NYU had wrestled Racanelli earlier in the year during the dual match between both schools. The match earlier in the year ended 7-6 and Racanelli won. The match at the national tournament was very close as well, but Racanelli lost 10-8.
“Facing Jazikoff in the first round was rough because he was a tough wrestler who I had beaten in a very close match. I knew I had to be ready to go,” Racanelli said.
In the wrestle back round, Racanelli faced Brandon Arteaga of Wisconsin-Whitewater. This match was fairly close as well. Racanelli fell 4-2 and ended his run in his first national tournament.
“Unfortunately, I did not wrestle to the best of my ability and was eliminated the first day, but it motivates me to be an All-American even more. My ultimate goal by my senior year is to become the national champion,” Racanelli said.
Racanelli’s season ended after his national tournament run. He has two more national tournaments that he could potentially qualify for, but the seniors who hoped for one more shot were devastated. Senior Michael Fleck, ranked in the top-ten for most of his final season, was picked to take a second place in the national tournament before the regional tournament. He injury-forfeited his final match for sixth place in the regional. Kyle Diesel was also ranked in the top ten for most of his season, yet placed fifth in the regional.
“Next year, I will miss the seniors because I became really close with all of them. Brian Broderick [the graduate assistant] will also be missed; I knew him coming into my freshman year. He always kept me on track and would train with me whenever I needed to. He really had me prepared for the post-season,” Racanelli said.