New Kensington wrestler earns All-America honors

March 26, 2014

Freshman Dean Lusk became Penn State New Kensington’s first All-American wrestler March 14 at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association national championships in Allen, Texas.

Lusk, a product of Ringgold High School, finished fifth in the 285-pound division with 3-3 record. His 6-2 victory over Marlen Morgan of Shorter (Georgia) University secured his membership on the NCWA All America team. The top eight of each weight class earn the national honor.

Under the direction of first-year head coach Joe Makara, three New Kensington wrestlers qualified for the national tournament. In addition to Lusk, freshman Phillip Marra (Burrell High School) had a top 10 finish with a 2-2 record at 149 pounds. Freshman Colin Austin (Penn-Trafford) lost his first two matches and took 19th place at 165. The results confirmed the New Kensington wrestlers national status going into the tournament; Lusk was ranked fifth, Marra ninth and Austin 21st.

Lusk was the lynchpin of the campus' wrestling program, now in its fourth year. He owned a team-best 15-4 record with 11 pins during the regular season. The Monongahela, Pa., native procured his lofty ranking by winning the NCWA Mid-East Conference March 1, the second New Kensington wrestler to win the conference title. Lou Gardone turned the trick in 2011. Lusk’s accomplishments included winning the Penn State New Kensington Open and finishing fifth in the Waynesburg University Invitational, a major tournament by NCWA standards.

Marra arrived in Texas with a 14-5 mark, including seven pins. The Lower Burrell resident captured the title of the New Kensington Open and took sixth place at the Jamestown Community College Open. 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. Austin, who was raised in Jeannette, Pa., went 11-10 on the year, with seven of the wins coming by pins. Austin has one top finish, first place in the New Kensington Open.

Makara, a former assistant wrestling coach at Burrell, has continued the resuscitation of a campus program that was dormant from 1975 to 2010. Wrestling was a staple of the athletic program in the early 1970s. A two-time state champion from Burrell, Makara was inducted recently into the Southwestern Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame.

NCWA is the governing body for collegiate club wrestling teams in the U.S. 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 '70s, 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 a list of previous campus NCWA participants, visit

For more about the campus wrestling program, visit

  • Wrestling duals meet

    Penn State New Kensington's All-America wrestler Dean Lusk, left, in action during a regular season tri-match in the campus Athletics Center. 

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated March 27, 2014