Mountaineers produce four champions in tournament win
March 7, 2023
App State wrestling capped off its 2022-23 season with an undefeated Southern Conference record and a conference tournament title for the first time since 2018.
Of the 10 weight classes, the Mountaineers finished with eight tournament finalists and three individual champions at Holmes Convocation Center March 4. Every wrestler participating finished within the top four in their respective weight class.
The tournament win marks coach JohnMark Bentley’s third of his 14 year coaching tenure, paired with his seventh regular season conference title.
“Overall, I was proud of our guys and the way they represented Appalachian State,” Bentley said. “We did sweep the regular season, we finished top 20 in the country in duals and we won the tournament this year in a pretty dominant fashion.”
Redshirt senior Jon Jon Millner secured his fourth straight conference title at 149 pounds and capped off a historic career with an unbeaten combined record in SoCon dual matches and tournament competition. Millner’s 41 wins are the most conference wins with an undefeated record in modern league history.
“It’s just a blessing,” Millner said. “To have four straight titles and for all of them to be at home, I think that’s pretty special.”
Redshirt sophomore Caleb Smith at 125 pounds and sophomore Tommy Askey at 157 pounds also claimed championships. The pair’s first ever SoCon championships contributed to the Mountaineers’ victory with 103 total points.
“There’s feelings of relief and hard work paying off,” Smith said. “The job’s not done yet, but God gave me the chance to go out there and compete as a champion, and that’s what I did.”
After qualifying, redshirt freshman Ethan Oakley began finals competition at 133 pounds with a 4-3 decision loss. Sophomore Will Miller dropped a 4-2 decision against UTC’s Rocky Jordan, a top 15 wrestler, but was named an NCAA qualifier for the first time in his career.
Redshirt junior Will Formato dropped a 4-2 decision at 165 pounds. At 197 pounds, freshman Carson Floyd dropped a 3-1 decision after a late takedown, while junior Jacob Sartorio fell by pin in the heavyweight class.
Sophomore Heath Gonyer at 141 pounds and redshirt freshman Luke Uliano at 184 pounds finished in third and fourth place, respectively.
Millner looks to become the first ever three-time All-American in program history at the NCAA Championships, while Smith makes his second straight appearance, this time as a conference champion. Askey and Miller look to make strides in their first ever tournament appearances.
“Our season’s not over,” Bentley said. “We’ve got four guaranteed NCAA bids, and I think we’ll have five or six when at-large bids are released, so the message is going to be the same for our guys, the season is not over.”
The NCAA Championships will take place March 16-18 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.