NCAA Championships Await Four Aggie Wrestlers

No. 7 seeded 174-pounder Ken Cook will look to extend his 11 match winning streak at the 2006 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships which begin on Thursday. (Photo by Randy Martin)
 
No. 7 seeded 174-pounder Ken Cook will look to extend his 11 match winning streak at the 2006 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships which begin on Thursday. (Photo by Randy Martin)
 

March 14, 2006

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THIS WEEK
Mar. 16-18 - at NCAA Division I Championships, All Day

LAST MONTH
Feb. 26 & 27 - at Pac-10 Championships, 6th Place

PAC-1O REVIEW
February 27, 2006 marked an important day in UC Davis wrestling history. In a matter of hours the Aggies went from having one Pacific-10 conference champion in the program's 14 years as a member of the conference to having two wrestlers named conference champions in one evening. Current assistant coach, Jeremiah Jarvis had been the lone first place finisher in the Aggie's Pac-10 history. In 2003 Jarvis took first in the Pac-10 tournament's 157-pound bracket. Jarvis is now joined in the UC Davis record books by Derek Moore and Ken Cook who each brought home conference titles.

Moore, who finished third at last year's tournament in the 133-pound bracket, dominated all three of his tournament matches. In his first quarterfinal match, Moore pinned Jordan Brock of Boise State in four minutes and 53 seconds. Moore followed by defeating No. 3 tournament seed Matt Schumm of Cal State Bakersfield in an 11-3 major decision in his semifinal match. In the 141-pound championship, Moore dominated from start to finish only allowing his opponent, Cal Poly's Dave Roberts, a one point escape as Moore took an 8-1 decision and the conference title.

Only three matches later, Cook was able to defeat No. 1 seed Jeremy Larson of Oregon State in a 9-1 major decision to capture the 174-pound title. Cook won his quarterfinal match by fall over Ben Gilliand of Boise State and won his semifinal match in a 13-4 major decision over Christian Arellano of Cal State Bakersfield. With the conference titles under their belts, both Moore and Cook automatically qualified for the 2006 NCAA Division I Championships.

Both Omar Gaitan and Tyler Bernacchi were given wild card berths into the NCAA tournament. Gaitan wrestled his way into fourth place at 133-pound at the Pac-10's. Gaitan dropped his first match to No. 3 seed, and eventual Pac-10 champion, Scott Jorgenson of Boise State in an 11-6 decision which placed Gaitan in the consolation bracket. Gaitan won his next two matches before facing the No. 1 seed Justin Pearch of Oregon. Gaitan came out ahead in a 10-7 decision and advanced to the third place match where he was defeated by Cal Poly's Darrell Vasquez in a 8-3 decision, taking fourth in the tournament.

In his first Pac-10 tournament appearance, Bernacchi upset No. 3 seed Ryan Halsey of Cal Poly to advance to the 184-pound third place match where he lost to Cal State Fullerton's Jesse Taylor for the second time in two days and took fourth place.

Senior Jesse Padilla captured fifth place at 149-pounds as he upset No. 6 seed Orlando Perez and No. 4 seed Patrick Payne of Arizona State in his final Pac-10 tournament appearance. Eliot Kelly wrestled his way to the fifth place match at 197-pounds but came up short in a 12-2 major decision to Chris Chambers of Cal State Fullerton. The Aggies took sixth overall as a team with 78.5 points, Arizona State took the conference title.

UC DAVIS AT NCAA'S
This will be the third consecutive season that UC Davis has sent four wrestlers to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Moore is the only Aggie making a repeat appearance at the championships. In his two previous appearances, Moore has posted the best UC Davis record, going 3-2 both years at 133-pounds. UC Davis has yet to win an individual or team title at the NCAA's. In 2005, the Aggies finished 60th out of 69 teams with 2.5 points.

This is the first time in UC Davis history that an Aggie has recieved a seed into the NCAA tournament, let alone two. Moore recieved the No. 8 seed at 141-pounds while Cook received the No. 7 seed at 174-pounds. The tournament will be held Thursday, Mar. 16 through Saturday, Mar. 18 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.

THE AGGIE LINEUP
Omar Gaitan (133 POUNDS): Gaitan, a junior, has posted an overall season record of 25-7 and leads the Aggies in wins, dual wins (12), Pac-10 wins (11) and is tied for second for the most team points scored in duals this season (44). This season Gaitan's performance has earned him several places in the Aggie record books; he ranks in the top-10 for wins in a season, winning percentage and dual wins. This fourth-place Pac-10 finisher will be attending his very first NCAA tournament and will face No. 8 seed Matt Keller of University of Tennessee Chattanooga in the first round. Keller, a University of Nebraska transfer, has qualified for the NCAA's for the third consecutive season after winning the Southern Conference title and being named the conference's Outstanding Wrestler.

Derek Moore (141 POUNDS): Moore, the veteran of the group, will head into his third NCAA appearance with the No. 8 seed and current national ranking. Moore is currently 22-3 on the season and leads the team in pins with eight total. Moore also leads UC Davis in team points scored in dual matches with 47 points scored in 11 duals. This season Moore took second at the Las Vegas Invitational and won his first Pac-10 title. At the past two NCAA championships, Moore has come within one match of All-American status. Moore has earned himself a spot on the UC Davis career wins (63), career wins by fall (12), and career dual wins (26) lists following his performance during the regular season. Moore will face Brandon Carter of Central Michigan in the first round on Thursday. Carter will be competing at the championships for the first time after earning a wild card berth following his second place performance at the Mid-American Conference Championships.

Ken Cook (174 POUNDS): Cook received the No. 7 seed into the NCAA tournament following his dominating performance at the Pac-10 championships and will head into the NCAA's riding an 11 match winning streak. Cook has posted a season record of 22-4 and has gone an impressive 11-0 in matches won by major decision. Cook captured not only the Pac-10 title this season, but also placed eighth at the Las Vegas Invitational and third at the Reno Tournament of Champions. Cook was also the lone Aggie to captured three straight wins at the Virginia Duals earlier this season. Cook will wrestle Blake Mauer of Ohio State in the first round on Thursday. Mauer took seventh place at the Big Ten Championships to earn his bid to NCAA's. Mauer fell to Penn State's James Yonushonis in a 6-4 decision during his Big Ten quarterfinal match, Cook pinned Yonushonis earlier this season at the Reno Tournament. Cook has most recently been ranked sixth nationally by the NWCA/Intermat Coaches' Poll.

Tyler Bernacchi (184 POUNDS): Redshirt freshman Bernacchi finished the regular season with an overall record of 20-17 and a fourth place finish at the Pac-10 championships. Bernacchi, who leads UC Davis in wins for tournament bouts with 13 this season, also took third early in the season at the Las Vegas Invitational. Bernacchi was only one of a few UC Davis wrestlers to start every dual and compete in all team tournaments this season. Bernacchi will face possibly the toughest first-round draw out of all the Aggies when he wrestles Joseph Mazzurco of Cornell on Thursday. Mazzurco, a three-time national qualifier, finished fifth at last season's nationals and earned All-American honors at 174-pounds. Mazzurco finished second at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships this season.

Session I will begin at 11 a.m. CST on Thursday, Mar. 16 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla. Championship matches are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 18.