PACSN Blog

W&J’s Nick Carr Driving Toward National Title

By John D’Abruzzo

Nick Carr 2Competition is all Nick Carr continues to search for every time he takes a wrestling mat.

Considered the nation’s top NCAA Division III wrestler at 157 pounds, Carr has found that being ranked No. 1 in his weight class comes with very little perks.

“Sometimes your opponent looks at you differently because of that ranking,” he said. “Opponents sometimes back away from me and immediately think they can’t flat out beat me, so they try to avoid wrestling me.”

A junior member of Washington & Jefferson College’s wrestling team, Carr has been recognized as the top wrestler in his weight class all year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association and d3wrestle.com. He, however, hopes his future opponents present more of a challenge once he begins his journey toward a national championship.

Carr enters the Mideast NCAA Division III regional tournament March 1 in Mechanicsburg, Pa., with a 19-0 record. He recently captured his first Presidents’ Athletic Conference title Feb. 13 during the 56th Annual PAC Wrestling Championships. Carr pinned Thiel College’s Sean Byham in 2:24 during the first round before earning a 6-2 decision against Waynesburg’s Chris Milligan in the finals.

“Nick is great in all three positions on the mat,” W&J coach Tommy Prairie said. “We’re excited for him to get ready for the nationals at this time of year. He’s a great leader for the team and he elevates the room with his abilities and leadership.”

For the most part this season, though, Carr found himself facing opponents who’d rather back away from wrestling him in an effort to keep matches close in order to save points.

“You train to come out and be confident, and then end up facing guys who come at you halfway,” said Carr, who is a 2011 graduate of South Fayette High School. “To me, that’s a cowardly approach and a waste of my time. There ends up being no flow to a match.”

“Wrestling isn’t supposed to be like a cat chasing a mouse and that makes it more exciting. From my perspective, I want to face someone who actually feels they can beat me. That makes it more fun and engaging. It’s important to wrestle and not just try to run away and avoid getting beat.”

In high school, Carr wrestled at 145 pounds. He accumulated a 128-17 record, won three WPIAL championships and captured a PIAA Class AA state title during his junior year. After earning a Division I scholarship to Kent State, Carr went 21-10 at 149 pounds during his redshirt freshman year with the Golden Flashes.

“Out of high school, I was good and probably in my prime during my freshman year of college,” Carr said. “I got to the level I wanted to be at and elevated myself. I was able to get better but pretty much maintained where I wanted to be.”

Nick CarrCarr, however, found out that Division I wrestling wasn’t for him and decided to transfer to Division II Seton Hill. Carr did not wrestle in a varsity match at Seton Hill and opted to transfer to W&J.

“Wrestling at the Division I level felt more like being inside of a cage,” said Carr, who is majoring in communications at W&J. “I wasn’t able to truly experience the college experience. It was more of a job than anything and I found it more difficult to concentrate on school.”

“Wrestling now [at W&J] is more laid back. The coaches are much more supportive.”

Since W&J had a veteran and eventual conference champion in Josh Etzel at 157 pounds last year, Carr wrestled up at 165 pounds and went 12-1. He also finished as the Division III runner-up and earned All-American honors.

“Nick came in last year and was a national finalist,” Prairie said. “This year, he has displayed leadership in the offseason and helps us with our conditioning and lifting. Having an All-American elevates our room.”

“Coming into the year ranked No. 1, he had that target on his back all year. He’s prepared himself and went about everything the right way in order to compete.”

Carr isn’t the only member of his family experiencing success with the Presidents this season. His younger brother, Seth, won a PAC title at 125 pounds with a 10-5 decision over Thiel’s Vince Vahaly after an 8-4 win over Waynesburg’s Gordan Bieber in the second round. The younger Carr transferred to W&J last spring after earning a scholarship to Division I Clarion.

The Carr’s youngest brother, Mike, who is a junior at South Fayette, recently won his 100th high school victory. The Carrs are now one of nine families in WPIAL history to have three brothers with more than 100 high school wins.

“We all started wrestling at age six,” said Nick Carr, whose older brother, Nathaniel, as well as their father, Michael, also wrestled at South Fayette. “We all bonded as a family through wrestling. Sometimes it can be overwhelming because it’s all we talk about.

“It is pretty interesting that we’re all into it. It must be good genetics.”

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No. 1 Thomas More Focused On Winning, Not National Ranking

By John D’Abruzzo

Rankings and records don’t mean a whole lot to Jeff Hans.

Despite the fact that his Thomas More women’s basketball team remained undefeated as of Feb. 15 and recently took over the No. 1 spot in the NCAA Division III national polls, Hans was simply satisfied that his group has continued to improve throughout the course of this season.

bench“We’ve been getting better with every practice and every game, and that’s what we wanted to do coming into the season,” said Hans, who is in this fourth year coaching in Crestview Hills, Ky. “We came in with a lot of new players and have become more acclimated to the college game, so we’ve seen some steady progress every day. It’s been fun to watch.”

Following a 91-70 victory over Washington & Jefferson College on Feb. 14, the Saints improved to a perfect 23-0 overall record with a 16-0 mark in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. Thomas More spent the majority of the season ranked No 2 in both the USA Today Division III Top 25 women’s basketball poll and the D3hoops.com women’s top 25, but it claimed the top ranking after previous No. 1 FDU-Florham suffered an 88-87 upset loss Feb. 7 against Eastern University (St. Davids, Pa.).

“[The national ranking] is only a distraction if we allow it to be a distraction,” said Hans, who earned his 100th win at Thomas More on Jan. 24 against Waynesburg. “We don’t talk about it. Polls are good for the program and it presents the program with good attention. They get us to that point but we still keep going.”

“The polls and our record don’t mean anything if we don’t perform on the court.”

Dating back to an overtime loss against Calvin College in 2012, Thomas More has won 69 straight regular-season games. The Saints also have a conference regular-season record of 148-7 since they joined the PAC in 2005.

Through 23 games this season, Thomas More was outscoring its opponents by an average of 86.6-49.8.

“We’re playing basketball like it’s supposed to be played,” Hans said. “We’re playing hard and we’re playing as a team. We might have some lapses, but the young ladies are playing well together on both ends of the floor and playing at a fast pace.”

moss_driving

Thomas More’s Sydney Moss is 11th in the nation in scoring.

Sydney Moss, a 5-foot-10 junior guard/forward, has played a crucial role in the Saints’ success this season. Moss, who scored a season-high 43 points against W&J, has been the conference’s leading scorer this season with an average of 21.6 points per game. She’s also averaging 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

“She gets better each and every day,” Hans said. “She’s a great player, a great teammate and a great person.”

Thomas More also has been getting a lot of production out of freshman forward Nikki Kiernan (11.5 points/6.3 rebounds), freshman guard Abby Owings (10.2 points), junior forward Alexa Santamaria (8.2 points), senior guard Sydni Wainscott (8.1 points) and junior forward Sam Cady (5.9 points).

“The mentality of our players really has been remarkable,” Hans said. “They don’t like to lose, and we see it with every drill in practice. They love the competition and it carries over onto the floor during games.

“They’re playing the game of basketball the way it’s supposed to be played and having fun playing. That has made it fun to watch.”

Thomas More continues PAC action Feb. 18 when it hosts Chatham University at 5:30 p.m. at the Connor Convocation Center. The Saints will wrap up their regular season schedule Feb. 21 against St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa.

“The biggest key for us is to stay healthy,” Hans said. “At this point, you have the typical aches and pains.”

“I don’t think we’ve reached our full potential. We have some young players still battling and trying to figure out what they can do and can’t do. We’re going to have to see how everything plays out over the next few weeks.”

Rob Clune Trying To Bring Another PAC Program To Prominence

By John D’Abruzzo

Clune

Rob Clune led the Bethany men to PAC titles in 2001 and 2002.

Rob Clune expected to experience some hardships when he first took over the Thiel College women’s basketball program in 2012.

Despite inheriting a team with two 1,000-point career scorers in Kelly Barzak and Kelly Muffley, the Tomcats and Clune soon realized they would need to find offense elsewhere once those two veteran players graduated in 2013.

“We were in a position where our talent level kind of went down,” said Clune, who’s in his third year coaching Thiel. “We saw where we had backup players all of the sudden need to be role players.

“We want to continue to build depth and continuity. In the past here, I think they saw a lot of turnover with players coming in and then deciding they didn’t want to play anymore or leave.

“We’re now building a little bit more of stability to where I like where I thought we would be.”

This isn’t the first time Clune had to retool a program.

Clune coached the men’s team at nearby Allegheny College for close to a decade before heading over to Greenville. Before that, however, he coached the Bethany men’s program from 1995 until 2002 and slowly turned the Bison into a regular contender in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.

Although his Bethany team lost a program-worst 22 games during his third season in West Virginia, Clune guided the Bison to back-to-back conference championships in 2001 and 2002. During the 2001-02 season, Bethany went 21-7 and won its first NCAA Division III tournament game since 1978.

“We certainly had some good teams,” said Clune, who earned consecutive PAC Coach of the Year honors in 2001 and 2002. “We had some great players and some really great team chemistry. We had a lot of hard workers who competed. It was a lot of fun.”

A 1981 graduate of Albany State, Clune was a standout player and earned First Team All-SUNYAC honors as a senior. He helped lead the Great Danes to three NCAA Tournament appearances and was later inducted into Albany State’s athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.

This season, Thiel has been fighting to stay out of the bottom portion of the PAC standings. After suffering a 100-33 loss Feb. 7 against conference-frontrunner and still-undefeated Thomas More, the Tomcats fell to 5-16 overall and 4-10 against opposing PAC teams.

“We went into this season looking at our team being strong inside with size, but on the perimeter we’re not deep with ball handlers,” Clune said. “We knew we would need to utilize our inside play. We have a couple of strong kids who have been had some good moments.

“It’s still a challenge when you go up against teams that have depth at guards. In this league, you need to have depth at the guard position.”

Watkins 2

Jaclyn Watkins averages nearly a double-double per game.

Jaclyn Watkins, a 6-foot junior forward, has had a lot of good moments this season. Through 20 games, she was averaging 17.7 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

“As the season’s gone on we’ve improved,” Clune said. “We reduced turnovers and have tried to stay in close games.

“We’ve seen our younger players continue to get better with experience and our older players take leadership roles and help those younger players.”

The Tomcats did pick up a big conference win Feb. 4 against Chatham College. Watkins sank a pair of key foul shots with 15 seconds left in the game to push the Tomcats to a 55-53 victory. Watkins finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

“I think we’re OK in position to make the playoffs,” Clune said. “We have some games coming up that we can win if we play well.

“As we reach the final few weeks of the regular season, our challenge will be to keep improving. ”

A Look Back To The 2012 PAC Men’s Basketball Championship

by Randy Gore

Wednesday night the PAC Sports Network features an important doubleheader when the Thomas More Saints visit the Bethany Bison.  In particular, the men’s contest could have great implications on the league standings.  At the moment, Thomas More (9-2) sits just a half game behind conference leading Saint Vincent (9-1).  Bethany, winners of six in a row, is in a three-way tie for third place with a league mark of 7-4.

When I think of this matchup, I can’t help but recall when the Hummel Field House played host to the 2012 PAC Men’s Basketball championship between these same two teams.  The Bison built a 20-point lead early in the second half and staved off a furious Saints rally in the final minutes of the game for a 58-53 victory.  Bethany’s Reece Mabery had perhaps the biggest play of the game when he made a key steal and knocked down four straight free throws in the final seconds to seal a second straight PAC crown for the Bison.

Thomas More senior Colt Stafford played well and finished with a team-high 15 points. Aiding Stafford in Thomas More’s comeback bid was sophomore Spencer Berlekamp who totaled 11 points.

This 2012 PAC Championship was also the first ever broadcast by the PAC Sports Network as we worked in collaboration with the communication students of Bethany College for the broadcast. It was a fun day and a great game as the atmosphere in the Hummel Field House was electric.

As a special treat ahead of our PAC Game of the Week broadcast on Wednesday night, below is the full length broadcast of the 2012 PAC Championship between Bethany and Thomas More.

Down The Home Stretch, The PAC Race Is Shaping Up

 By John D’Abruzzo

College basketball fans following the Presidents’ Athletic Conference might as well go ahead and circle Feb. 21 on their calendar.

With both St. Vincent College and Thomas More College battling it out for the top two spots in the men’s and women’s standings, Latrobe, Pa., will likely be worth the trip when the two schools play a doubleheader at host St. Vincent. Tipoff for the women’s game is slated for 2 p.m. with the men’s contest expected to follow around 4 p.m.

Fans who can’t make those games, however, need not worry. The PAC Sports Network will carry live coverage that afternoon at www.pacstream.net.

Sean Kett

Saint Vincent senior Sean Kett.

As of Feb. 1, defending champion St. Vincent (14-5) remained the top men’s team in the PAC with a 9-1 conference record and owned a one-game advantage ahead of Thomas More. The Bearcats’ lone conference loss — a 56-53 upset — happened Jan. 24 against visiting Bethany.

“The season is pretty much going like we thought it would,” Bearcats coach D.P. Harris said. “We’re still a young team with only one senior, so we’re happy with the way we’ve been playing.”

Pat Jones, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, along with junior guard JC Howard and senior forward Sean Kett have been key offensive weapons for St. Vincent. Jones was averaging 12.7 points a game, while Howard and Kett each followed with a steady 11.3 points.

“We have 12 guys who can play,” Harris said. “We have a deeper bench and a good balance that not a lot of other teams have. We might win the league and not put a single player on the all-conference team.”

“This is a by-committee team. We don’t have superstars, but we have guys who will sacrifice to win another championship.”

Bethany (12-8), Thiel (11-9) and Waynesburg (11-9) each own a 7-4 conference record and followed Thomas More (14-6) in the standings. The Saints stands at 9-2 in the PAC. Bethany, however, is riding a six-game winning streak into Wednesday night’s showdown with Thomas More, a game that will be broadcast live on the PAC Sports Network.

Thomas More’s Drew Mumford, a senior forward, has been leading the league in scoring with an average of 18.9 points a game. Mike Resnik, a senior from Washington & Jefferson, followed with an average of 18.4 points and 7.2 rebounds.

Bethany’s Delonte’ Joyce (18.3 points), Geneva’s Ethan Adamcyzk (16.3), Grove City’s Mitch Marmelstein (15.6) and Thomas More’s Nate McGovney (15.6) also have been among the leading scorers in the PAC.

Saints still undefeated

Moss

Thomas More junior Sydney Moss.

It’s been nearly a year since the Thomas More women’s team last suffered a loss. The Saints have been dominating opponents all season, and as of Feb. 1 they remained atop of the PAC standings and were ranked No. 2 in Division III women’s basketball.

“We were going through an adjustment period earlier this season,” Thomas More coach Jeff Hans said. “We lost a lot to graduation last year, but I feel that we are starting to understand how we want and need to play. I like the way we are working each day and the approach we have in each practice and each game.”

Thomas More (19-0) improved to 12-0 in the conference following an 88-50 win on the road Jan. 31 against Westminster. Through 19 games, the Saints outscored opponents by an average of 85.3-50.

Saint Vincent (17-2) trailed Thomas More by a game in the standings with an 11-1 record. Washington & Jefferson (15-4, 9-3) and Waynesburg (10-9, 7-5) round out of top four teams.

Thomas More’s Sydney Moss, a 5-10 junior guard/forward, remains the conference’s hottest offensive player. She has been leading the PAC in scoring with a steady 20.6 points a game while also averaging 6.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Freshman forward Nikki Kiernan (11.8 points) and freshman guard Abby Owings (10.4) also have played regular contributors for the Saints.

St. Vincent’s Taylor Mathers (18.7 points), Thiel’s Jaclyn Watkins (18.3), Bethany’s Kelsea Daugherty (16.1) and Washington & Jefferson’s Beka Bellhy (15.9) also have been among the conference’s leading scores.

“The key for our team to be successful is to continue to grow each day and take steps forward,” said Hans, who earned his 100th win at Thomas More on Jan. 24 against Waynesburg. “We will continue to get better as the season goes along and hopefully be playing our best basketball in February and March. If we do this, then everything else will take care of itself.”