Six years ago, Dakota DesLauriers visited Mercyhurst University in Erie and that visit had a lasting effect on DesLauriers, who is now a senior at Burrell High School.
"I was in sixth grade and the Junior Olympic state [wrestling] tournament was at Mercyhurst," said DesLauriers, who has been a varsity starter for Burrell since his freshman year. "I got a good look at the college that weekend and really liked what I saw. I've attended wrestling camps at Mercyhurst ever since."
With that in mind, it's no surprise that DesLauriers chose Mercyhurst, an NCAA Division II program, to continue his athletic and academic career. He signed with the Lakers on National Letter of Intent Day earlier this month.
"I've known coach [Mike] Wehler since he came to Mercyhurst [in 2007]," DesLauriers said. "At first, I wasn't sure whether he could give me a full scholarship. When he offered a full ride, I just couldn't turn it down."
DesLauriers turned down the same offer from Pitt-Johnstown.
"I also know [Pitt-Johnstown] coach [Pat] Pecora very well and I felt bad to have to turn down his offer," DesLauriers said. "But I'm very happy with my decision."
DesLauriers considered several Division I schools. He made visits to Pitt, Maryland and Virginia among others.
"It would probably be easier to list the schools that I didn't visit," DesLauriers joked. "I made at least 10 college visits over the summer. Some were official visits and others were unofficial. I just wanted to check out all my options."
Facing the probability of having to cut weight is one reason he didn't chose the Division I schools.
"When I looked at the Division I schools and who they had at each weight class, I realized I would probably have to cut to 174 or maybe even 165 and I didn't want to cut that much weight."
DesLauriers competed in the 182-pound weight class last year and plans to stay at that weight this year.
"I'm weighing in at 190 right now, so cutting to 182 for the regular season will be no problem," DesLauriers said. "And next year [at Meryhurst], I'll be wrestling in the 184-pound weight class."
DesLauriers would like to start as a freshman, but realizes he could be redshirted.
"I'm hoping to start right away, but I may have to redshirt," DesLauriers said. "I'll just have to wait and see what coach Wehler wants me to do."
DesLauriers is quite familiar with Mercyhurst's roster, especially because three current Lakers wrestlers are from Burrell. Tyler Berger is a redshirt junior, Jeremy Landowski is a sophomore and Brian Beattie is a redshirt freshman.
"That did not influence my decision, but it will be nice to have some former Burrell teammates on the team," DesLauriers said.
"I could have had the same thing if I had picked Pitt-Johnstown, since Travis McKillop wrestles for them."
DesLauriers is looking forward to this season, as the Buccaneers try for their seventh consecutive WPIAL Class AA team title.
"Our goal every year is to win a WPIAL title," said DesLauriers, who was a starter on three of Burrell's championship teams. "But the ultimate goal is to win the PIAA team title."
Individually, DesLauriers has attained plenty of honors. He's a three-time WPIAL finalist and two-time champion, a three-time Southwest Region finalist and two-time champ, and a three-time PIAA Class AA place-winner.
As a freshman, DesLauriers placed sixth in the state at 171 pounds.
He finished third at the same weight as a sophomore. Last season, he made it to the PIAA title match at 182 pounds before dropping a 6-4 decision to Grove City's Wes Phipps.
"Winning a PIAA title is the only goal I haven't reached," DesLauriers said. "I worked hard all summer with that goal in mind. Phipps is now wrestling at Penn State, so I should be the top kid back in my weight class."
DesLauriers enters his final season at Burrell with a 116-14 career record. He has no chance of breaking the school record of 177 wins, set by Shane Welsh in 2008. "We should have a very good team," DesLauriers said. "We didn't lose many starters. We also have a heavyweight coming back to Burrell after attending Kiski School last year."
DesLauriers is referring to Allan Beattie, who attended the Burrell School District until he transferred to Kiski School last year. He compiled a 26-13 record during his freshman year, but decided to transfer back to Burrell this year.
Burrell has picked up one Beattie, but may lose another. Derrick Beattie posted a 34-15 record for the Buccaneers last season as a 170-pound sophomore, but sustained a shoulder injury during football season that could keep him from wrestling this year.
"I'm not sure of Derrick's status, but it would be a big loss for us if he can't wrestle," DesLauriers said.