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Plane crash kills four Case Western students, three from wrestling team

Case Western Reserve University lost four students -- three of them wrestlers -- in a Cleveland area plane crash Monday
Case Western Reserve University lost four students -- three of them wrestlers -- in a Cleveland area plane crash Monday
Logo courtesy of Case Western Reserve University, used with permission

Four Case Western Reserve University students – including three Spartan wrestlers – were killed in a fiery plane crash outside Cleveland Monday night, school officials said Tuesday.

The three wrestlers were identified as 20-year-old Lucas Marcelli of Massillon, Ohio, 18-year-old Abraham Pishevar of Rockville, Md., and 18-year-old John Hill of St. Simons, Ga. The 20-year-old pilot, William Felten of Saginaw, Mich. also was killed.

Mark Hawald, about to enter his third season as CWRU head wrestling coach, said at an on-campus press conference Tuesday afternoon, “We are mourning and trying to figure out how we can move on after losing three of our brothers. They're all hard working. They're good students. They're respectful and a joy to coach. They were all great kids.”

"Dealing with this tragedy is not something you expect as a coach," said Hawald. He added there would be a team meeting later Tuesday afternoon.

Marcelli, a sophomore who wrestled at 149 pounds for the Spartans, was one of two CWRU wrestlers to be named NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association) Scholar All-Americans for the 2013-14 season, and was named University Athletic Association (UAA) Wrestler of the Week twice last season. Marcelli was a graduate of Jackson High School in Massillon, and a two-time qualifier for the Ohio high school state wrestling tournament. Pishevar and Hill were both freshmen.

Case Western president Barbara R. Snyder said, “We are truly heartbroken about these promising lives cut short, and feel profound sympathy for their loved ones and friends.”

Lou Stark, vice-president for student affairs, said, “This is a tragedy of immense proportions. We ache for the parents of these young men. Nothing can ease the pain of such a sudden, senseless death.”

Stark added that the school’s counseling center is offering walk-in appointments for students.

The plane, a rented 1999 Cessna 172R, crashed and exploded moments after takeoff from Cuyahoga County Regional Airport in suburban Richmond Heights, about ten miles east of downtown Cleveland, about 10 p.m. Monday. The four men were trapped inside the wreckage.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are in the Cleveland area investigating the crash. According to NTSB investigators the plane never got very far off the ground, crashing only about 50 yards off airport property.

Sadly, both Case Western wrestling and Hawald have had to deal with death in separate incidents in the past. In August 2011, Bob Del Rosa, who had been the Spartan wrestling coach for 47 seasons, passed away. For Hawald, it was in his previous job as head wrestling coach at Ohio's University of Mount Union. In January 2011, the wrestling team bus was struck by a snowplow returning from a dual meet at Ohio Northern, killing Mount Union's director of athletic training.

Founded in 1826, Case Western Reserve began as two separate institutions — Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve College — which joined together in 1967 to form Case Western Reserve University. Based in Cleveland, CWRU describes itself as “one of the country's leading research institutions.” The Spartans wrestling program competes in NCAA Division III.