Burns earns bid to NCAA Championships; Wins East Regional individual title at 285 pounds

LYNCHBURG, Va. - Campbell senior heavyweight Parker Burns won a pair of matches at the East Regional Championships Sunday and earned his second consecutive automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.

Campbell's Gabe Gardner (133 pounds) and Peter Comis (174) also wrestled in championships bouts in their respective weight classes, but were denied titles and settled for second place.

Liberty, which hosted the event, won the team title with 88 points. Gardner-Webb finished second (74.5) and was followed by Sacred Heart (52.5), Millersville (48.5), and Campbell (47).

"Parker had a great weekend and looked really sharp all week," said first-year head coach Joe Boardwine. "He brought the right attitude to the week of training and he looked great. We couldn't be more proud of him and we hope to have many more NCAA qualifiers in the years to come."

Burns picked up a fall in 1:27 over Millersville's Bradley Ladd in his first match, and won a 7-1 decision over Sacred Heart's Paul Schweighardt in the championship match to earn the individual crown at 285 pounds.

Last year, Burns became the first Camel to qualify for the NCAA tournament since 2002 after winning the 197 pound championship at the East Region tournament. The Everett, Wash., native moved up a weight class this offseason and has now become just the second Campbell wrestler to qualify for the NCAA tournament twice; Anthony Cox accomplished the feat in 1987 and 1988.

At 133 pounds, Gardner bested GWU's Alex Hamm 8-2 to qualify for the finals, but Liberty's Thomas Mitchell claimed a 13-0 major decision to clinch the NCAA bid.

Comis topped Millersville's Shane Smith in a narrow 7-5 decision in his semifinal match but was pinned by Liberty's Royal Brettrager at 2:31 in the first period of the title bout.

Tanner Bidelspach and John Merickel each earned third-place finishes for the Camels.

Bidelspach lost a narrow 7-6 decision to Gardner-Webb's Brett Kostern in the opening round at 125 pounds. However, he registered a pin in 4:15 against Sacred Heart's Billy Chamberlain in the third place match.

GWU's Jonathan Velasquez defeated Merickel 5-2 in the semifinal round of the 184-pound weight class, but Merickel rebounded with a 10-3 decision over Sacred Heart's Zachary Moran to finish third.

John Nichols (197 pounds) won his opening-round match over Sacred Heart's Sam Morison in a 12-0 major decision, but lost a major decision to GWU's Travis Porter in the semis.

Ethan Carmody, Darien Peele, Jake Fose, and Joel Caudill also competed for Campbell at the event.

"Overall, I'm satisfied; I think we wrestled hard this weekend," said Boardwine. "Our guys gave us everything they had left. Some of them are wrestling hurt and that's hard to do.

"We're looking forward to building this program and we'll improve and get ready for next year."

The NCAA Championships will be held March 17-19 in Philadelphia.