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Tasser, Garcia end wrestling seasons

| Thursday, May 15, 2014, 2:18 p.m.

Two local wrestlers produced solid seasons for NCAA Division I programs this past season.

University of Pittsburgh senior heavyweight wrestler and Belle Vernon Area High School graduate P.J. Tasser concluded his collegiate career by qualifying for the NCAA Division I National Championships for the second time in three years.

Tasser finished the 2013-14 season with an 18-11 overall record and went 1-2 at the Nationals, which were contested in Oklahoma City, Okla.

He opened the tournament with a 6-4 setback to Michigan State's seventh-seed Mike McClure. In the wrestlebacks Tasser defeated American (Washington, D.C.) University's Blake Herrin, 4-3, before being pinned by Boise State's J.T. Felix.

Remarkably versatile, Tasser wrestled at five different weight classes throughout his collegiate career (165, 174, 184, 197 and 285) and finished with 69 career victories. His cumulative record over the past two seasons was 39-18.

Earlier this past season, Tasser became the first Pitt wrestler to earn the Atlantic Coast Conference Wrestler of the Week honor. He earned the distinction after giving up nearly 50 pounds to 14th-seeded Austin Marsden of Oklahoma State but earned a 3-1 overtime match with the Panthers trailing, 18-15. His win tied the match, and Pitt won on criteria.

Also during the regular season Tasser helped Pittsburgh win the ACC dual meet championship with a perfect 6-0 mark in its inaugural season.

The Panthers then finished second in the ACC Wrestling Championship Tournament. Tasser won two of four matches and earned an automatic NCAA berth after finishing fourth.

Tasser was one of eight Pitt wrestlers that competed at the NNCAA National Championships and the Panthers finished in 22nd place. This marked the third consecutive season that Pitt Wrestling concluded the NCAA Championships ranked in the Top 25.

A 2009 graduate of Belle Vernon Area High School, Tasser compiled a 112-49 cumulative overall scholastic record, including a 35-5 overall mark his senior season. A two-time PIAA Class AAA qualifier, Tasser finished fifth at the 2009 state tournament and was a two-time WPIAL third-place finisher.

Garcia shines for Lock Haven

For the second consecutive year, Lock Haven University 184-pound junior Fred Garcia qualified for the NCAA Division I National Wrestling Championships.

A native of Donora and a graduate of Ringgold High School, Garcia went 1-2 overall. After a 5-2 decision over Indiana University's Lucas Sheridan, he suffered a 7-3 loss to Michigan State's John Rizquallah and an 11-4 season-ending setback to Iowa State's Lelund Weatherspoon.

Garcia finished the season with a 25-9 overall record and the three-year starter was ranked 18th at 184 in the final set of Division I College Rankings. He was 27th in the final NCAA Coaches' Panel rankings.

He earned his return trip to the nationals after finishing in second place at the Eastern Wrestling League Championship Tournament.

Garcia's and 141-pound teammate Dan Neff's runner-up finishes helped the Bald Eagles finish in third place in the team standings, the program's highest EWL finish since a third-place showing in 2007.

Lock Haven had four wrestlers overall compete at the Nationals, their most since 2006. The Bald Eagles finished 56th overall.

Garcia heads into his senior season with a 69-30 cumulative overall record and will hope to become the Bald Eagles' first Division I All-American since 2007. In 2013 Garcia received the Bald Eagles' Goldthorpe Award, which is given to the squad's outstanding wrestler.

A 2010 graduate of Ringgold High School, Garcia finished his scholastic career with a school record 124 victories and was 34-0 his senior season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals. He was a three-time section champion.

Bruce Wald is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.