Close search

BW wrestling gets top spots at nationals

It was a fantastic finish for Yellow Jackets as the men's wrestling team placed third at the NCAA Division III Championships, with grapplers placing first and second and the coaching staff receiving top awards.

photo of Michael Petrella wrestling champ

Junior All-American, 149-pounder Michael Petrella of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, won his first national championship, and junior All-American, 125-pounder Jacob Decatur of Akron, Ohio, was a runner-up. In addition, the Baldwin Wallace men's wrestling team placed third at the mid-March event.

photo of wrester Jacob Decatur

Also receiving honors at the NCAA Division III Championships was men's wrestling head coach Jamie Gibbs, who was named the 2023 Division III Men's Wrestling National Tournament Coach of the Year by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA). Associate head coach Jason Zastrow and the rest of the staff were named the 2023 NWCA Division III Men's Wrestling National Tournament Assistant Coaches of the Year.

Eight Yellow Jackets qualified for the championship, with four being named All-Americans. In addition to Petrella, a digital marketing major, and Decatur, a sport management major, two other student-athletes received All-American top honors. They include junior, 133-pounder Jaden Hinton of Glassboro, New Jersey, who placed fourth, and senior, 197-pounder Doug Byrne of Wickliffe, Ohio, who placed fifth.

Other Yellow Jacket competitors include senior, 141-pounder Zak Anderson of Elyria, Ohio; sophomore, 157-pounder Tommy West of Avon Lake, Ohio; senior, 174-pounder Luke Hopkins of Cuyahoga Heights, Ohio; and senior, 285-pounder Matthew Werts of Buffalo, New York.

The eight wrestlers qualified for the national championships in February when the number-four nationally ranked and Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) Champion Yellow Jackets won the NCAA Division III Central Regional Championships.

Legacy of success

Paul Petrella-football-wrestling champion

The Petrella family became the university's first father-son national champions. In addition to Michael's national wrestling title, his father, Paul '79, earned top honors in wrestling and football.

The 1990 BW Athletics Alumni Hall of Fame recipient was BW's first national champion in wrestling in 1978 at 177 pounds. Paul also was a three-year starter and a mainstay on the 1978 NCAA Division III National Championship-winning football team.

"I had wonderful coaches at Baldwin Wallace who shaped the person, coach and teacher I am today," said Paul, who played under renowned BW football coach Lee Tressel '49. "My BW experience was just exceptional!"

When Michael chose BW and arrived for Week of Welcome in 2020, it was a proud moment for Paul, whose family boasts an impressive wrestling record with six sons in the sport and Paul serving as an outstanding coach and teacher throughout his professional career. He was in Roanoke, Virginia, when Michael won his national title and was elated when the younger Petrella finished the season with a record of 33-0.

Season of accolades and awards

photo of head wrestling coach Jamie Gibbs

For Gibbs, who completed his 12th season as head coach, this year was another Brown & Gold triumph as the athletes transformed Yellow Jacket grit into glory.

BW finished the 2022-23 season with a record of 17-2-1 and a perfect mark of 7-0 in the OAC. The team also won its third straight OAC Championship, earning a seventh top title in eight years. BW was also the NCAA Division III Central Regional Champion for the second time in three years.

In addition to its outstanding OAC and national championship honors, the Yellow Jacket men's wrestling team was recognized in late March by the NWCA as a Top-30 Scholar All-America Team, and seven wrestlers earned Scholar All-American honors.

Earlier this season, Gibbs, Zastrow and the entire staff were named OAC Coaching Staff for the second straight season.

Decatur's success at nationals follows a career record of 62-3 wins. His older brother Josh '17 was a two-time NCAA Division III qualifier.

NOTE: This article has excerpts from stories appearing on the Yellow Jacket athletic site this year and from a 2020 article on the Petrella family written by Kevin Ruple, former director of athletic communications & public relations.

Media Contact

More News

BW wins two national awards for opera productions

BW faculty-student research shows dramatic changes in NE Ohio forests

BW students prevail at US Department of Energy CyberForce Competition