August 17, 2011

TOP 5 COUNTDOWN: #2 - 2005-06 Wrestling

EDITORS NOTE: This is the fourth in a five part series of the top teams from the past decade in York College Spartan Athletics. Today we look at the 2005-2006 York College wrestling team. That season, the Spartans went 20-6 in the regular season, won the Metropolitan Conference Team Championship, and took fifth of 50 teams at the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament, finishing the year with four All-Americans including one individual National Champion.

The number two team in our countdown features a squad that was unbelievably talented, decidedly focused, and highly experienced. The 2005-2006 wrestling team entered the season coming off a year in which the Spartans finished a solid 17-7-1 and saw Duane Bastress, as a junior, capture York's first individual national title since Joe Waltemyer in 1974.

"It was a group of 30 young men working towards on goal and that was to become a top-10 team in the country," two-time national champion Duane Bastress said of the 2005-2006 Spartans. "I would also say that it helped having strong leadership not only from the coaching staff but also the individuals in the wrestling room. The team bought into the mentality that we are only as good as our weakest link and everyone pushed everyday to become a better wrestler and person."

York was loaded up and down the lineup. In addition to Bastress at 184 pounds, Tim Bohlman (a returning  Metro champion and NCAA qualifier) manned the 141 class, while juniors Jerry Bowne and Matt Chrzanowski hit the mat at 165 and 197 pounds, respectively. Add in junior Garrett Faulkner at 157 and freshman 125-pounder Kyle Flickinger – who went on to post a 28-10 record as a rookie – and the Green and White were primed for a big season. And a big season they had.

"We had an attitude about us that its hard to explain," Bastress said, recalling what he dubbed the team's 'swagger.' "We just wanted to dominate everyone on every single day. We carried that attitude not only into matches but also into the practice room. Guys pushed each other harder and farther each day and that's what made us so tough.

The Spartans opened the year with a 27-9 win over Wilkes on November 5 before gaining quality experience at the Pennsylvania State Duals at Penn State University on November 13.

York put up a tremendous result at the 2005 Spartan Invitational, as they took first out of six teams on December 3. After a hiccup against Shippensburg on December 6, the Green and White headed into the Christmas break with three straight wins with triumphs over NYU, Centenary, and Kings Point on December 10.

Following the break, the Spartans went a strong 3-1 at the North/South Duals on January 7 and then 4-2 at the two-day Budd Whitehill Duals a week later. Those results put the York squad at 12-6 for the season, admittedly not a stellar mark for our number two team, however, the Spartans would not lose another dual the rest of the year.

"I would say when we lost to Wabash at Budd-Whitehill Duals," Bastress, a senior at the time, commented on when he knew that season's team was going to be good. "We had a team meeting back in the hotel lobby.  Jerry (Bowne), Luke (Panizzi), and I got back from a run when the meeting was starting and some guys were saying how they felt pressure. I told them they shouldn't feel any pressure. I said that I am a returning national champion and if anyone should feel pressure it should be me and I feel none. We got everything out in the open during that meeting which was good for all of us. I also believe that was our 'wake-up' call, because after that we went on a tear for the rest of the season." 

Beginning with a 35-15 win over Gettysburg on January 17, the Green and White ripped off eight straight victories to conclude the dual meet campaign. Those eight team wins included victories over Messiah, Lycoming, Hunter, and Kutztown.

That outstanding team effort sent the now 20-6 Spartans screaming into the 2006 Metropolitan Conference Championships. And there, the host squad did not disappoint. The Green and White had a fantastic tournament, winning the Metro team title with 89 points as three Spartans captured individual championships – Bowne (165), Bastress (184), and Chrzanowski (197) – while Bastress was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler.

"I think what was awesome was after the first round of the Metro Championships Coach Kessler and Coach Lentz had a meeting and said that we are going to win this tournament not because of the championships that we will win but because of the guys in the wrestle backs," Bastress recalled. "The whole team believed that we could win and we each cheered each other on during every match.  Another great thing was watching (Matt Chrzanowski) win the Metro crown at 197!  He worked so hard in the off-season and season and knew heading into the match if he won, we would win the tournament.  He went out and dominated his opponent and punched his ticket to Nationals!" 

Entering the NCAA National Tournament, the Spartans sported four wrestlers as Bohlman, who received a wild card bid into the National Championships, joined the trio of Metro champions. As they had done at Metros, the Green and White put together a simply outstanding National Tournament as for the first time in program history, York saw four wrestlers garner All-American accolades. Bastress proved yet again to be the top 184-pounder in Division III as he captured his second straight National Championship Title, becoming the first Spartan to achieve such an honor. His efforts also allotted him the NWCA Division III National Wrestler-of-the-Year award having finished his senior campaign with a flawless 40-0 mark. Bowne finished fifth while Bohlman took sixth in their respective weight classes. Chrzanowski secured All-American honors with an eighth-place finish at 197 pounds.

Adding to the Spartan accolades, Spartan head coach Tom Kessler was chosen as the NWCA Division III National Coach of the Year.

"One thing that a lot of people didn't know is before Nationals they did a final ranking of individuals and teams," Bastress said. "They had us picked to finish 26th as a team with me being the only All-American.  I know that seeing that fired the four of us up!  We said that we were going to make a statement when we got out there… I can still remember on Saturday morning when we were about to leave the hotel to head over to the arena Coach Dom showed us on the computer that we were sitting in fifth place, with only four guys at the national tournament. There we were competing with the big boys such as Wartburg, Ausburg, and UW LaCrosse.  We all knew at that moment we were going to do something special that had never been done by a York College wrestling team.  We all believed that we could place top-five in the country and we did just that.

"It also wasn't just us four that made that happen," Bastress continued. "It was everyone on the team that made us the team we were.  It didn't matter if a person was fourth string or a starter we all pushed each other each and everyday.  Guys did the extra runs, sprints, weight room, wrestling they could to make themselves and this team better.

Sporting a Spartan record four All-Americans, including one National Champion who was also the National Wrestler of the Year, grabbing National Coach of the Year honors, posting a 20-6 dual meet record, winning the Metro team championship, and finally finishing #5 in the country – the 2005-2006 York College wrestling squad is our #2 team from 2000-2010.

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