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Garcia, Tasser brothers enjoy strong seasons

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

If Fred Garcia continues his consistent improvement with Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania's wrestling team, he could be a national All-American in 2014.

A Ringgold High School graduate and 184-pound redshirt junior, Garcia completed the 2012-13 season with a 28-12 overall record.

He was one of 146 first-time NCAA Division I qualifiers in this year's national championships. Garcia earned the automatic berth after finishing second at the 2013 Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) Championships at Edinboro University.

Garcia then won two of four matches at the NCAA National Championship Tournament at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.

After being pinned by top- seeded and eventual national champion Ed Ruth of Penn State, Garcia advanced to the second day of competition with a 5-4 decision over Canaan Bethea of the University of Pennsylvania.

He then won a hard-fought, 6-5 nail-biter over North Carolina's Alex Utley. Garcia concluded the tournament with a heartbreaking loss to 10th-seeded Jacob Swartz from Boise State.

After seven minutes, the match was still tied at 1-1 and it remained tied after the one-minute overtime. Garcia started the 30-second sudden victory frame down and looked to earn escape with seconds left, but got caught and Swartz earned the pin (8:30) as the buzzer sounded.

At the EWL meet, Garcia scored a 24-9 technical fall over Cleveland State's Bobby Blankenship and an 8-6 decision over Edinboro's Vincent Pickett before losing 9-1 to the University of Pittsburgh's Max Thomusseit in the finals.

Earlier in the season, he became the first Lock Haven wrestler since 2002 to win a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship at 184 pounds. The Donora native rolled to three straight victories at the conference meet at Kutztown University, defeating Millersville's Daniel Cox (21-6), Mercyhurst's Eric Lundgren (13-4) and Bloomsburg's Andre Petroski (4-1).

Garcia helped the Bald Eagles earn a 7-6 dual meet overall record, which was the program's first winning season in five years.

He was ranked 28th in the final Gregg Henry's/WrestlingReport D-I Rankings at 184 pounds.

At the team's annual awards banquet on April 17 he received the Goldthorpe Award, which is given to the squad's outstanding wrestler.

Next season, Garcia will hope to become Lock Haven's 39th NCAA wrestling All-American and first since Obe Blanc in 2007. His two-year cumulative collegiate record at Lock Haven is 44-21.

Tasser bids farewell

Donnie Tasser concluded his successful collegiate wrestling career at the University of Pittsburgh by qualifying a third time for the NCAA Division I National Championships.

The 157-pound senior from Belle Vernon Area High School qualified for Nationals after finishing in third place at the Eastern Wrestling Championships and helping the Panthers win a third straight EWL team title.

After dropping his first match, Tasser clinched third and secured the automatic bid with 3-0 victories over Edinboro's Michael Depalam and Lock Haven's Jacob Kemerer.

At Nationals, Tasser suffered decision defeats to Penn State's Dylan Alton (8-4) and Bloomsburg's Frank Hickman (7-3).

Earlier in the season, Tasser took second at the Franklin & Marshall (Lancaster, Pa.) and Edinboro Open Tournaments and won the National Collegiate Open Tournament with five straight victories in Richmond, Va.

He finished the season with a 21-12 overall record and won 70 career collegiate matches.

Tasser's younger brother, P.J. Tasser, concluded his junior season with a 21-7 overall record, which included an 18-7 mark at 174 pounds.

A redshirt junior, P.J. Tasser took first place at the Franklin & Marshall and Edinboro Open Tournaments.

One of the younger Tasser's wins this past season came at 197 pounds, where he defeated Edinboro's Warren Bosch, 9-2. That win helped the Panthers overcome an 18-0 deficit and defeat Edinboro, 19-18, in the final regular season dual meet. Pittsburgh won that dual meet's final six matches with Donnie Tasser starting the comeback with a 10-2 major decision over the Fighting Scots' Casey Fuller.

P.J. Tasser qualified for NCAA Nationals in 2012 after finishing third at the EWL tourney and heads into his senior season with a 51-29 career collegiate record.

The Panthers finished the 2012-13 season with a 9-6 overall dual meet record and won a third straight Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) tournament championship before placing 15th at the national tournament.

Bruce Wald is a freelance writer.