ASHEVILLE — Nick Kee, a three-time state champion during his time at Scotland High, helped his collegiate squad clinch a conference title this weekend.
Appalachian State, spurred by the efforts of Kee and others, won the 2016 Southern Conference Championship on Saturday.
The all-time record holder for wins at Scotland also qualified for the NCAA Wrestling Championships set to take place later this month after winning a trio of matches.
Kee, now a redshirt sophomore with the Mountaineers, dominated his opening match against Nathaniel Powers of Davidson, winning by 17-0 technical fall. The 174-pounder then marched on to the final with a 13-4 major decision over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Conner McMahon. Kee completed his unblemished SoCon season in the championship tilt, winning by 14-6 major decision over Chattanooga’s Sean Mappes.
Kee will head to the NCAA Championship for the first time in his career.
The Southern Conference Championship came down to the final period of the final championship match. Denzel Dejournette delivered in the final moments of the heavyweight match to claim Appalachian State wrestling’s first SoCon Tournament title since 2003.
The Mountaineers (12-4, 6-1 SoCon) trailed 77-73.5 to five-time defending champion Chattanooga going into the championship matches. SoCon Champions Michael Longo at 141 pounds, Kee and Dejournette all secured wins to snap the Mocs run as champions.
“I’m so proud of this team, and how they battled today,” said 2015-16 SoCon Coach of the Year JohnMark Bentley. “This championship took a team effort. Our focus now is on getting some All-Americans.”
Longo used a first round pin of Billy McClelland of Davidson to advance to the semifinal match at 141 pounds. Longo was down early but fought back to pin John Muldoon of SIUE in the second round to secure his spot in the finals. Longo defeated Mike Pongracz of Chattanooga in a low-scoring contest for the second straight year. With the win, Longo is headed to New York for his second trip the NCAA Championship in as many seasons.
Dejournette cruised to an opening round technical fall over Will Cooley of Davidson, winning 17-2. Dejournette continued to roll with a 12-2 major decision in the semifinal to set up a rematch of the 2015 heavyweight championship with Jared Johnson of Chattanooga. A late takedown gave Dejournette a 4-2 decision win, his third win of the year over Johnson.
App State had two wrestlers finish as runner-ups for the second consecutive season. Vito Pasone placed second at 125 pounds while Forrest Przybysz was second at 165 pounds.
Pasone needed just over a minute to rack up a 16-0 technical fall victory over Zamir Ode of Davidson. In the semifinal, Pasone notched his second technical fall of the afternoon over Alonzo Allen of Chattanooga to punch his ticket to the 125-pound final. Pasone lead for most of the first two periods, but came up just short of a trip to nationals and had to settle for runner-up. Alfredo Rodriguez took control in the third period and went on to win 17-10.
Przybysz shut out Davidson’s Adam Flatt 12-0 in his opening round match to advance to the semi-final of the 165-pound bracket. Przybysz won a nail-biting semifinal match with a takedown in the overtime period to advance to a SoCon final for the second consecutive season. Przybysz competed hard all match and used a late flurry to tie the match in the third period against Austin Trott of Gardner-Webb. Trott’s riding time proved to be the difference as he used the extra point to win, 5-4.
Along with the five wrestlers that were in the finals, the Mountaineers had another four third-place matches. Irvin Enriquez placed third at 133 pounds and Matt Zovistoski, Taylor Jackson, and Randall Diabe all finished fourth.
App State’s three conference champions will head to New York Ciy for the NCAA Championship held at Madison Square Garden starting March 17.