Canton grad Wesneski set to compete at NCAAs

When Garrett Wesneski approached Lycoming coach Roger Crebs about the possibility of transferring to wrestle for the Warriors, he did so under the condition that he could move to heavyweight.

Making the cut to 197 pounds at the University of Maryland had become borderline impossible. He knew at heavyweight he could lift weights, he could eat and it might even just help him rekindle his love for the sport.

Crebs agreed and now Wesneski, a Canton graduate, will compete at the NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships this weekend in Cleveland. He’s one of three Lycoming wrestlers to qualify for the national tournament, joining Trevor Corl (149 pounds) and Brandon Conrad (174). Wrestling in the two-day tournament begins Friday morning.

“Wrestling is fun again,” Wesneski said. “I can come to practice every day ready to work and get better and focus on little things. It’s made the season pretty fun.”

At the time Wesneski made his request to move to heavyweight, he was walking around naturally at 230 pounds or so. Trying to cut to 197 at Maryland had become a chore. He struggled getting there and was usually working until the last minute to make the weight.

At heavyweight, he’s allowed his body to grow naturally. He’s maintained a proper diet, especially over the course of the second half of the season, and has maintained the level of quickness and athleticism which made him a two-time PIAA placewinner at Canton at 195 pounds.

He enters the national tournament this weekend at the eighth seed in the 18-wrestler bracket, needing to finish in the top eight to become an All-American. His 37 wins are tops on the team, as is his .949 winning percentage. His lone two losses this year have come to the Nos. 2 and 5 seeds in the national tournament.

It’s been a rather remarkable turnaround for Wesneski who spurned an offer to wrestle at Lycoming out of college in order to compete for Penn State great Kerry McCoy at the University of Maryland. But in his three years in College Park, Wesneski struggled with injuries and struggled to find comfort in his weight.

After the death of his grandmother last year, Wesneski thought it was time to come closer to home, and he approached Crebs about making the transfer. Wesneski’s dad Lyle, who is currently Canton’s head coach, and his uncle Luke both wrestled for Crebs at Lycoming in the mid-90s. Occasionally, Crebs likes to regale Wesneski with stories of his family when they wrestled for the 25-year veteran coach.

Lyle was a two-time Middle Atlantic Conference champion and three-time NCAA qualifier who posted 54 career wins for the Warriors. In just one season, Garrett is just 17 wins shy of that mark.

“It’s funny to hear stories about my dad being here. It’s fun,” Wesneski said. “I really like wrestling for him. I respect everything he’s done for me. He brought me in and recruited me out of high school hard. He was cool about me not coming here right away, and now he’s treating me just the same coming back home.”

Wesneski showed up at Lycoming with high expectations. He still talks about being a national champion, something the Warriors haven’t had since Matt Miller captured the 197-pound title in 2008.

So far he’s taken the right steps toward that goal. When he didn’t feel like he was in his best condition at the start of his season and worried he might be too big, he changed his diet and got his weight into the 240s. He said he’s feeling the best he’s felt all year going into the national tournament.

He spends time rolling around with assistant coach Cody Wheeler to maintain his quickness, but can still adjust his style if he wrestles another heavyweight who is pushing the 285-pound limit.

“It’s about always being able to adapt to stuff,” Wesneski said. “If I wrestle guys more my size, I can still funk and move around like did at 197. I know how to funk and scramble with the top guys in the country and I can carry it over to heavyweight.”

Wesneski is 3-2 against the rest of the 285-pound national tournament field already this year with wins over Ohio Northern’s Nathan Barcaskey, Ferrum’s Alveno Matthews and Southern Virginia’s Nico Ramirez.

“Obviously that doesn’t matter because everyone is zero and zero,” Wesneski said. “Anyone can have a good day and go win the national tournament in college. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, which is being confident in myself, scoring points and having fun. Then, whatever happens, happens.”