Local products Fleetwood, Parker eye NCAA wrestling tournament

Smyrna High product Brent Fleetwood, right, a senior at North Dakota State, is seeded No. 10 in the 125-pound weight class. Photo courtesy of Big 12 Conference

Two Henlopen Conference products will be ending their collegiate wrestling careers on the NCAA’s biggest stage.

Brent Fleetwood, a Smyrna High graduate, and Zack Parker, a Caesar Rodney High grad, each qualified for the 2019 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. Action begins today and goes through Saturday at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Fleetwood, a senior at North Dakota State University, is seeded No. 10 in the 125-pound weight class. Parker, a senior at Ohio University, is the 31st seed in the 285-pound (heavyweight) bracket.

Both wrestlers received one of 285 automatic berths to nationals based on their placing at their conference tournaments.

Fleetwood finished second in the Big 12 Conference Tournament two weekends ago. He was runner-up to Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccinni after a 2-0 decision in favor of Piccinni in the finals.

Piccinni entered the match as the top seed and unbeaten. Fleetwood was on an 11-match win streak before facing Piccinni.

Caesar Rodney High product Zack Parker, left, a senior at Ohio University, is the 31st seed in the 285-pound (heavyweight) bracket. Photo courtesy of Ohio University Athletics

Fleetwood is 24-4 and will face No. 23 seed Carmen Ferrante (Penn) in the first round. Fleetwood recorded two pins, two tech-falls and a major-decision during his winning streak.

He is currently ranked No. 9 in his weight class in the NCAA Coaches Panel Ranking and in the InterMat.com rankings. He’s ranked No. 7 according to FloWrestling rankings and WIN Wrestling Magazine.

It’s possible Fleetwood could meet Piccinni again in the quarterfinals at nationals. The 2-0 result at the Big 12 Championships was the closest match Piccinni has been in all year.

“I feel like I didn’t really wrestle to my potential,” Fleetwood told Bison Illustrated. “In that match, maybe the pressure got to me or I just shut down, but he didn’t do a whole lot either. I think we both kind of danced a little bit and nothing really happened. It does add to my confidence because he’s No. 2 and I think that’s a winnable match.”

Fleetwood is one of only 10 Delaware high school wrestlers who won four individual state championships. He won a state title each year from 2011-2014 while at Smyrna and won a Beast of the East title as a junior.

This is the third appearance for Fleetwood at NCAA nationals but first time wrestling for North Dakota State. He transferred from Central Michigan before his senior season has a 1-4 record at nationals as a member of Central Michigan.

Parker meanwhile won a pair of state titles with Caesar Rodney as a junior and a senior in 2013 and 2014. He is making his second appearance at the NCAA National Championships for Ohio.

Parker went 15-12 this year and had to win a challenge match over Buffalo’s Jake Gunning for fourth-place in the Mid-American Conference — the last automatic qualifying spot for the conference. Parker earned a 6-4 decision to qualify.

“It means everything,” said Parker to Ohio’s official website. “It was great to have my team there cheering me on while I’m out there battling to go to NCAAs. Considering I didn’t have the best senior year I would’ve liked, it just means so much to go out and turn it around and be an NCAA qualifier again.”

Parker last qualified for the national tournament in 2017.

He will face the second seed in the heavyweight bracket Anthony Cassar of Penn State in the first round.

The first round begins at noon and will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN3. The second round will be at 7 p.m. and will be on ESPN.

Friday’s quarterfinals will be on ESPNU and ESPN3 at 11 a.m. with the semifinals at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

The medal round starts at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPNU and ESPN3. The finals begin Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

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