This will be a big weekend for five wrestlers who attended local high schools and now are competing at the collegiate level.
Three individuals will compete in the NCAA Division II Championships at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while two athletes will take part in the NCAA Division III Championships at the Cleveland Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio.
Leading the way in the D-II meet is Lockport graduate Vince Dietz, who competes for top-ranked St. Cloud State. The Huskies, who captured NCAA D-II titles in 2015 and 2016 under coach Steve Costanzo, are the favorites over No. 2 Notre Dame of Ohio, who is the defending national champion.
Dietz, a senior who is making his first appearance at the NCAA meet, enters the competition with a 31-2 record and is ranked No. 3 at 197 pounds. He’s ranked as the eighth-most dominant wrestler in D-II with 3.97 points a match. Dietz won the Super 3 Regional title, 3-1, in sudden victory over Upper Iowa’s Nick Baumler.
Also taking part in that same Super Regional in St. Cloud, Minnesota, was McKendree University, which features two area national qualifiers, Plainfield North graduate Marcus Povlick and Romeoville graduate NaQuan Hardy. St. Cloud defeated the fourth-ranked Bearcats, 161-129, for the super regional title.
Sophomore Povlick (26-13), ranked No. 4 at 125 pounds, lost the title match, 5-2, to St. Cloud’s Brett Velasquez, while senior Hardy
(28-12) took fourth at 133 pounds. Hardy is a national qualifier for the third straight year and earned All-American honors in 2016 after taking sixth place at 133 pounds.
In D-III, Augustana senior Christos Giatras (25-2), a Lemont graduate, earned a second national finals trip after placing third at 184 pounds in the Lower Midwest Regional at Dubuque, Iowa. A year ago, Giatras earned All-American honors by finishing in seventh place at 184 pounds.
And another Lemont graduate, freshman Egan Berta (33-6), will represent North Central College in the national finals. After falling to the second-ranked competitor at 157 pounds in the semifinals at the Lower Midwest Regional, he bounced back to win, 6-5, over the fifth-ranked wrestler at his weight class to take third place and assure himself of a trip to nationals.