BROCKPORT, N.Y. – Collin Wickramaratna is headed to nationals.
The Ursinus College wrestling star's incredible rookie season added another chapter after he pulled off a remarkable comeback in the semifinals of the Mideast Regional and booked his spot in the NCAA championship. Wickramaratna, who finished runner-up at 125 pounds, is the first Bears freshman to qualify for nationals since Matan Peleg in 2013 and only the second since Steve Kingsland in 2006.
Wickramaratna has been dominant all season, but he needed every last bit of skill to escape a nail-biter with TCNJ's Dan Ortega. The Lions' grappler looked to be in firm command with a 7-2 lead in the third period and more than three minutes of riding time, but Ursinus' prized rookie turned the tables with a late takedown that came with four near-fall points attached to cap a stunning turnaround.
Wickramaratna fell into an early hole as Ortega tallied a quick takedown and racked up nearly a minute and a half of riding time before the freshman managed to escape. Ortega quickly picked up another takedown to stretch his lead to 4-1, and Wickramaratna countered with a second escape to enter the second period down by two.
Starting on bottom, Ortega escaped and then scored a third takedown to make it 7-2 before riding out the rest of the frame. Wickramaratna's third escape opened the third period, and the rookie flipped the script entirely with a takedown and four near-fall points to grab a 9-7 lead. He rode out the remaining seconds of the third, rendering Ortega's riding time advantage moot in a 9-8 final.
The regional final pitted Wickramaratna against Ithaca's Ferdinand Mase, a senior who earned All-America honors with a seventh-place showing at last year's NCAA championship. The veteran Mase made quick work of his younger foe, racking up a quick takedown and four near-fall points en route to a 12-2 major decision. With his place in nationals already secured, Wickramratna's first loss in 17 bouts did no harm.
Senior Anthony Cutrufello nearly made a magical run of his own. Starting the day in need of three consolation wins in the 184-pound bracket, he got two of them but came up just short in a close third-place bout.
Cutrufello kept his hopes alive with a 16-3 major decision over Hunter's Serjey Thomas, putting himself two wins away from third place and an NCAA berth. He trailed 4-3 in the third period to Ryan Marszal of Oneonta, but used a late reversal and riding time advantage to secure a 6-4 victory and book his spot in the winner-take-all third-place bout.
With an NCAA bid hanging in the balance, Cutrufello found himself facing Michael Dooley of Stevens, who broke a scoreless stalemate with a takedown in the waning seconds of the first. Dooley started on bottom in the second period and escaped after about a minute to take a 3-0 lead.
Cutrufello began the third period on bottom and escaped with just over a minute remaining to get on the board. Desperate for a match-tying takedown, Cutrufello was unable to get it and saw his bid denied.
Wickramaratna now prepares for the Division III championship, which takes place March 8-9 at Ferrum College in Roanoke, Virginia.