UPPER BURRELL, Pa. -- Penn State New Kensington junior wrestler and Burrell High School graduate Phillip Marra is headed back to the nationals after winning the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Mid-East Conference Feb. 27. A year ago, Marra finished second at the NCWA national championships, which is set for March 10-12 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida.
Marra is undefeated on the year at 19-0. The Lower Burrell resident is ranked 18th nationally in the 184-pound weight class. In addition to winning the Mid-East crown, Marra captured the Penn State University Athletic Conference title. Last year, he finished second at the nationals in the 174-pound class. He will be vying with 185 other wrestlers in his weight group. A graduate of the storied Burrell wrestling program, Marra went 98-42 in high school and earned fourth place at the state championships in 2013.
Nearly 100 wrestlers and 14 teams competed in the Mid-East Regional Qualifier in Baltimore. The top six individuals in each weight class received invitations to the nationals. New Kensington's Dylan McAnallen and Ryan McCauley just missed securing their tickets to the national tournament. McAnallen and McCauley finished seventh and eighth, respectively. The New Kensington Lions are under the direction of first-year head coach Francis Healy.
Since the reincarnation of the wrestling program, 11 campus grapplers have made the trip to the NCWA nationals. Lou Gardone was the first, earning a fourth seed in the 197-pound division.
NCWA is the governing body for collegiate club wrestling teams in the United States and Canada. It is divided into seven regional conferences: Mid-East, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, North Central, Southwest, and West Coast. The New Kensington Lions compete in the 18-member Mid-East region that includes programs from the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, University of Delaware and Lehigh University.
The campus ties to the NCWA are strong. Former Penn State New Kensington student Jim Giunta, a wrestler for the original campus program in the early 1970s, is the founder and executive director of the organization.
Giunta, a 1971 graduate of Burrell High School, was a biology major at the campus. He switched to education after transferring to Texas A&M University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in education and a master’s degree in exercise physiology and cardiac rehabilitation. After graduation, he began teaching high school in Richardson, a North Dallas suburb, and served as the head wrestling coach there for seven years.
A resident of Dallas, he launched the Texas Interscholastic Wrestling Association in 1987 to promote wrestling in high schools. He formed the NCWA in 1997. Giunta was honored in 2004 with a lifetime achievement award by the Texas Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
For schedule and results of the NCWA tournament, visit http://ncwa.net/.
For a list of all campus wrestling honors since the sport returned in 2010, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/46464.htm.