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Jeannette grad DePalma aiming for success at NCAA wrestling tourney

| Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Kent State University
Michael Depalma of Jeannette has earned a spot in the NCAA Division I championship tournament, which begins today.

It's not too often that a local product has the opportunity to win collegiate national championship. But that is exactly the opportunity in front of Jeannette High School graduate Michael DePalma this weekend.

DePalma is a redshirt sophomore on the Kent State University wrestling team and earlier this month he took third place at the 149-pound weight class in the Mid-American Conference tournament.

That earned him a spot in the NCAA Division I championship tournament, which begins today in Oklahoma City, Okla.

While DePalma didn't reach his goal of winning the MAC tournament, qualifying for the national championship tournament still gives him a tremendous opportunity. While it's a long shot, if DePalma wins every match he has this weekend, he will win the national championship.

Kent State head coach Jim Andrassy knows DePalma has the talent to compete with the best, but he also knows that, even if DePalma does not win it all, qualifying for the national tournament is a tremendous accomplishment and massive building block for the future.

“This year, for him to qualify for the national tournament for the first time and to go down there and compete against the top guys in the country, to see what it's like, that is great experience,” said Andrassy.

DePalma, however, has only one goal in mind: to win the national title. He knows that will be anything but easy, as he enters the tournament unseeded and will have to compete against the very best grapplers in the country.

“I'm excited to bring my best performance out there,” he said. “I'm excited to go out there and compete against the best and finish as high on that podium as possible. That is the goal. I'm in the mindset, I'm ready. It's going to be fun.”

DePalma has a record of 24-18.

He is scheduled to face ninth-seeded Eric Grajales (20-10), a fifth year senior from Michigan, in the first round today.

The tournament can be viewed on ESPNU and at

Gregory, Charlotte fall

The University of North Carolina-Charlotte women's basketball team, featuring Jeannette grad Ciarra Gregory, made a quick exit from the Division I Conference USA tournament, falling to Louisiana Tech 66-55 in the first round on March 12.

Gregory, a freshman guard, got her first collegiate post-season experience, playing three minutes in the game. She was one-of-five from the floor, giving her five points in the game. She also grabbed two rebounds.

With the loss, Charlotte is 15-15 overall. As of press time, the team was still waiting to learn if it had earned an at-large bid to any post-season tournaments.

Cortazzo racking up numbers

In Division II softball action, Kirstie Cortazzo — a senior infielder at Gannon — is again near the top of her team's stat sheet in several offensive categories.

The Jeannette grad is first on the team with a .786 slugging percentage, second on the team with a .381 batting average, and first with a .435 on-base percentage.

Not surprisingly, through 14 games, she also leads the team with three home runs and nine RBIs and she's second on the team with 16 total hits.

Gannon is 7-7 overall, all nonconference games. Action in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) begins this Saturday for Gannon in a home game with Slippery Rock.

Weightman heats up for St. Bonaventure

Another Jeannette product off to a hot start on the diamond is Brian Weightman, a senior outfielder on the Division I St. Bonaventure University baseball team.

In the Bonnies' three-game sweep of Ohio University last weekend, Weightman played in all three contests, collecting five hits including a double, three walks and five RBIs.

So far this season he has 27 at-bats, a .296 batting average, .370 slugging parentage and a team-high .441 on-base percentage.

After opening the season with eight straight losses, the Bonnies entered the week on a four-game winning streak and a 4-8 overall record.

Brian Knavish is a contributing writer.

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