By Erin Brown, Sports Editor
For the third consecutive time in his wrestling career at the University of Southern Maine, senior Daniel Del Gallo, of Gardiner, Maine, will be heading off to the NCAA Division III National Championship. The senior has dominated the 149-pound weight class in the 2016-2017 regular season. He finished second at the NCAA Division III Northeast Regional Championship and went 41-1 through the season.
Del Gallo is no stranger to success on the mat, and especially not wrestling in championship matches. This is his third trip to nationals in the four years he has attended USM. Along with the three nationals appearances, he has captained the team the past two years, finished in the top three at the Northeast Regional Championship the past three years, and is currently ranked fourth for his weight class on intermatwrestle.com.
Before his career at USM, Del Gallo says he began wrestling in preschool and it was a family sport. He’s the second youngest of five boys, all who have been successful on the mat through high school and college. His younger brother Peter Del Gallo, a freshman, also wrestles for the Huskies and placed fourth in the NCAA Division III Northeast Regional Competition Championship, just missing the qualification for nationals by one place.
He was also a Maine Class B State Champion his sophomore, junior and senior year of high school, with impressive records all three years: 56-1 his senior year, 52-1 his junior year, and 43-4 as a sophomore. “The past success has helped. I came into college knowing I’d do well. The past success has helped me through this season to hold myself to a higher standard,” Del Gallo said.
While his third consecutive qualification to the National Championship is exciting, Del Gallo said, “This whole season I’ve focused on taking it one week at a time. I’m not only thinking about nationals, but building up to it and focusing more on the process, not the results.”
Though he is still taking his season one week at a time, practices have been more intense for Dan in preparation for his competition. “Since I’m the only one still competing, they’re very much focused on me during practices. We’re focusing on stuff I need to work on,” Del Gallo said, “different techniques my coaches want me to work on and just the level of intensity for me is a lot. So the coaches are looking at me making sure I’m doing stuff right.”
For any athlete and at any competition, mindset is vital. For his final collegiate matches Dan plans to go in with the confidence he has had all season long. This weekend he won’t worry about becoming All-American or a national champion, he will worry about one match at time. He says, “if I wrestle well, it will happen. That’s one of the things we’ve been focusing on all year, going out at scoring points and wrestling aggressive and then the wins are going to come. Not focusing on winning, but focusing on wrestling well.”
Del Gallo is only the second USM wrestler to attend three consecutive national championships, the first being current head coach Mike Morin, who qualified in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Morin and Del Gallo are currently tied for the school record of most wins at 133. Del Gallo made it clear that he was intent on beating Morin for that record.
This year the Division III National Championship will be held in La Crosse, Wisconsin on March 10 and 11. Dan, his family and coaches head out Wednesday for the competition. The competition is broken up into two days. The first day includes two preliminary rounds then the championship quarterfinal. Getting to day two automatically makes a wrestler All-American and includes the semi-finals and final match.