Dantzler earns third straight trip to NCAA

T.C. Dantzler earned a third consecutive trip to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships and in the process of continuing his streak, he kept alive the one associated with the overall NIU mat program.

Thanks to the Huskie 158-pounder, the 1992 national meet in Oklahoma City (March 19-21), will mark the 21st season in a row in which a NIU wrestler competes in the NCAA’s top postseason event.

Unfortunately for coach Ed Vatch’s pre-NCAA West Regionals Championships meet hopes, Dantzler will be making the trip without the company of any teammates.

Seeded second at 158 pounds, Dantzler decisioned Eastern Illinois’ Mike Layne, 15-6, and then downed Illinois State’s Pete Maggio, 4-2. In the championship contest with No. 1-seeded Jamie Byrne of Northern Iowa, Dantzler came up on the short side of a 9-8 score that Vatch felt could have been an overtime battle.

“T.C. wrestled an aggressive match the whole way, right to the very end. We thought the UNI guy could have been penalized for backing up but it didn’t happen. It was undoubtedly the best match of the day, two guys with great talent trading the lead,” Vatch explained. “Needless to say, T.C. was the runner-up picked. We’re really proud to carry on the tradition of sending qualifiers to nationals.”

While all ten night class champions earn berths to the NCAA meet, the West Regional is accorded an additional ten slots. Meet coaches filled these by sending seven runner-ups and three third-place finishers from the strongest weight classes—one of which was Dantzler’s 158-pound division where third-place finisher Maggio advanced. In addition, the coaches tabbed three alternates in the event those chosen are unable to attend.

The No. 3 alternate is NIU’s Courtney Pitter, who placed third in the 177-pound division. Pitter was one of three Huskies to battle back to take a third-place plaque.

Pitter, the No. 3 seed, opened the meet with a 2-1 win before losing a 7-1 contest to No. 2-seed J.J. McGrew of Notre Dame. In the wrestleback, Pitter downed Southwest Missouri State’s Joe Chatman by an 8-6 count and then pinned Marquette’s Joe Garretson in 4:49 to earn the white ribbon.

NIU’s Shannon Gregory (118-pounds) and senior Bill Walsh (134), both used the wrestleback route for third-place finishes as well.