Wrestling club visits nationals
Winona State athlete earns ‘All-American’ status
Michaela Gaffke / Winonan
The Winona State University wrestling club competed at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships, a three-day event where sophomore Giovanni Guarnero placed sixth, making him Winona State’s first All-American wrestler.
The top eight wrestlers in each weight class are considered to be “All-American” wrestlers. They are awarded a silver watch with “All-American” engraved on it, according to senior Devon Patton, a wrestler who competed.
Three wrestlers qualified for nationals, but only two competed. First-year Collin O’Brien was sick with the flu, making Patton and Guarnero the only two to compete.
Each year wrestlers from Winona State’s Great Plains Conference qualify to compete in nationals. The Great Plains Conference has 11 wrestling teams, according to coach Louis Orr. In order to qualify for nationals, the wrestler has to place third or higher.
“In ranking, the Great Plains Conference is the fourth hardest out of nine conferences based on rankings,” Orr said. “At nationals, 96 schools were represented.”
This year marks Patton’s last year competing at nationals. He has been in the wrestling club for all four years of his time at Winona State.
“I pinned the first guy I wrestled and then lost the next two matches. My main weakness was not being in very good shape,” Patton said. “I only practiced once or twice in the two weeks before nationals. We have a small team, so I didn’t really have any practice partners around my weight.”
Orr said he is proud of the whole team.
“I am honored to be part of something special. Finishing 23 out of 96 teams, and fantastic ‘All-American’ finish… Giovanni worked his way through to ‘All-American’ status with a sixth place finished,” Orr said. “Patton put on a display of wrestling moves you cannot coach. The team has come a long way and we’re just getting started.”
By Michaela Gaffke
*Update to this article on 4/4/17: Giovanni Guarnero is not Winona State’s first All-American wrestler. According to the NAIA website and a story in a 1997 Winonan issue, multiple wrestlers in the 1960s and 70s were named All-American.