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NAIA Wrestling National Championships — Session I Recap

March 03, 2017
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Photo by Tim Tushla

TOPEKA, Kan. – (Brackets – PDF | Team Scores) Five-time defending team champion Grand View (Iowa) ended Session I of the 2017 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by USA Wrestling-Kansas, leading the team competition with 39.5 points. Wrestling in Session II starts at approximately 6:30 p.m. CST. The 60th annual event is taking place inside the Kansas Expocentre for the fourth-straight year.

Ten of Grand View’s 12 qualifiers remain on the championship side of the bracket, including all three of the club’s returning national champions – Jacob Colon (133 pounds), Michael Pixley (184 pounds) and Dean Broghammer (285 pounds).

Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) is currently in second place with 23.5 points, followed by third-place Indiana Tech with 23.0 points. The Blue Raiders have five individuals in the quarterfinals, headlined by top-seeded Cam Tessari at 157 pounds, while Indiana Tech has three wrestlers that still have a chance at a national title.

Arguably the largest upset on the day so far came early in the morning session, as Casey Dobson of Great Falls (Mont.) downed returning national champion Victor Hughes of Baker (Kan.), 2-1, at 149 pounds. Dobson, a redshirt freshman from Great Falls, Mont., trailed 1-0 late into the third period until a takedown with less than 30 seconds left in the match decided it all.

Dobson then pinned Isaiah Frank of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) to become the first Great Falls grappler on the day to punch a ticket to the quarterfinals. He next faces the No. 10 seed Jaedin Sklapsky of Campbellsville (Ky.). Sklapsky is looking to improve upon a sixth-place finish last season.

Indiana Tech’s Mitch Pawlak, who is a returning national champion and the No. 2 seed at 133 pounds, looked strong through his first two matches. The three-time All-American opened the tournament with a first round pin of Demarco Speller of Wayland Baptist (Texas), before sticking Colby Watters of Baker (Kan.) in the round of 16.

Tyler Cowger (149 pounds) of Southern Oregon, who was the national runner-up last year, is also vying for his fourth All-America honor. The senior advanced to the quarterfinals with wins of Robert Humphrey of Indiana Tech (4-2) and Kenny Boyd of Missouri Valley (6-0). He faces the No. 12 seed Hunter Bell of Cumberlands (Ky.) tonight in the evening session.

Three wrestlers kept their unbeaten streaks alive by punching tickets into the quarterfinals – Lawton Benna of Grand View (17-0), Nicholas Meck of York (Neb.) (18-0) and Dalton Bailey of Life (Ga.) (22-0).

History was made for first-year programs Central Christian (Kan.) and Reinhardt (Ga.) during the opening session. Devontae Fitzgerald – the Central Christian’s lone qualifier – picked up the program’s first-ever victory at the national championships, downing Brandon Aragon of Jamestown (N.D.), 13-11, in the consolation bracket.

Reinhardt’s Tucker Russo at 157 pounds knocked off Brandon Archuleta, 10-4, in first round. The freshman from Soddy Daisy, Tenn., is the program’s lone qualifier. In his second round match, Russo was pinned by No. 2 seeded Brandon Weber of Montana State-Northern. Unfortunately, his championship came to an end in the first session due to a loss 7-5 Mitch Roadruck of Indiana Tech.

All 10 top-seeded grapplers advanced to the round of eight.

For more information on the NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.