Daniel Del Gallo describes himself as being “happy, not satisfied” to be competing in the NCAA Division III national championship tournament this weekend.

Del Gallo, a Gardiner native, is one of two University of Southern Maine wrestlers who advanced to the national tournament, which starts Friday in Hershey, Pa. Senior Jonathan Deupree is making his second consecutive appearance at nationals.

“I want to do more and perform better at a higher level,” said Del Gallo, a sophomore who wrestles in the 149-pound weight class. “I was happy with my performance at regionals, especially leading up to the final. Everything worked out good.”

Del Gallo and Deupree punched their tickets to Pennsylvania with outstanding performances at the Northeast Regional championships two weekends ago in Bristol, RI. Del Gallo was the runner-up in his weight class. Seeded fourth, he upset top seed Joey Gaccione of Johnson & Wales with a pin at 4:36 of their semifinal. He nearly pulled off another upset in the championship match, taking second-seeded Eamonn Gaffney of Ithaca College to overtime before falling, 5-3.

It took some time for the three-time Class B state champion to adjust to college-style wrestling, yet he still posted an impressive 21-8 record as a freshman. Even after a disappointing ending last season, he never doubted he could become a champion again at the college level.

“At the end of last year, I didn’t place at regionals. That kind of lit the fire. I knew at the beginning of this year if I put the work in, I was going to make it to nationals,” he said. “It feels good to have all of the hard work pay off.”

It helped that Del Gallo could turn to Deupree for guidance and inspiration, and offered plenty of inspiration in return.

“We just feed off of each other,” Deupree said. “When I’m feeling down and tired, Dan brings me up.”

Deupree, a two-time regional champion at 184 pounds, is just the third USM wrestler to return to the NCAA tournament. Last year at nationals, he won his first match by forfeit, then lost the next two and was eliminated.

This year, he heads into the tournament with a 25-3 record and seeded second.

Deupree said mentally preparing for the tournament should be easier the second time around and is confident head coach Joe Pistone will have him and Del Gallo physically and mentally ready.

“The coaches design the practices leading up to nationals to keep our lungs open and stay loose and have us peak right at the tournament. It allows our bodies and minds to get ready for the tournament,” said Deupree, an Ozona, Fla. native.

Del Gallo is the seventh Husky ever to reach nationals. He is 36-3 and unseeded in the tournament, where he will take on No. 2 seed Derek Arnold of Ursinus College, the East region champion.

While he isn’t familiar with Arnold or most of the rest of his weight class, Del Gallo is confident heading into nationals, and thinks the coaches and Deupree will have him ready. “The entire year, we’ve been talking about going to nationals, so I have a feeling of what to expect,” he said.

So what does he expect?

“I’m expecting to win,’ he said. “I know I can wrestle at that level, and even if I don’t win I know I’m going to be an All-American (top eight finisher).”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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