NAIA Wrestling National Championships — Session II Recap
If Grand View wins a sixth-consecutive national title, the Vikings will become the only NAIA program to accomplish the feat and the only the fourth program in collegiate wrestling history (NAIA, NJCAA, NCAA). The other programs to do so are NCAA Division I Iowa (six-straight (1995-2000) and nine-straight (1978-1986)), NCAA Division I Oklahoma State (seven-straight (1937-1949)) and NCAA Division II Cal Poly (seven-straight (1968-1974)).
With all 12 individuals punching through to the All-America rounds, Grand View sets a new program record for All-Americans in a single season and is the first program since Dana (Neb.) in 2006 to place all entries.
Highlighting the individuals for Grand View are Jacob Colon (133 pounds), Michael Pixley (184 pounds) and Dean Broghammer (285 pounds). All three student-athletes are in the semifinals and are vying for a second-straight national championship.
Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) held its second-place position in the team race with 50.5 points. The Blue Raiders had four wrestlers earn All-America accolades, including three individuals in the semifinals – Cam Tessari (157 pounds), Rhodes Bell (174 pounds) and Matt Walker (184 pounds).
Southern Oregon rests in third-place with 48.5 points, while Campbellsville (Ky.) (46.5 points) and Indiana Tech (45.5 points) round out the top five.
Twenty different programs have grapplers still competing for a shot at a national title, including nine individuals from Grand View. Campbellsville boasts the next most with four wrestlers, while Lindsey Wilson has the previously mentioned three. Seven different squads have two student-athletes in the semifinals.
The parity among this year’s championship field was on display during Session II as only three weight classes – 133 pounds, 157 pounds and 184 pounds – fell true to seeds.
Jeremiah Gerl of Hastings (Neb.) was the only non-seeded wrestler to advance to the semifinal round. The junior knocked off No. 12 Eric Fan of Eastern Oregon, 9-4, to become only the third individual in Bronco wrestling history to reach the semifinals – Blake Fruchtl (141 pounds) in 2014 and Brandon Hudiburgh (197 pounds) in 2008 are the others. Hastings has never had an individual finish higher than fifth-place at the national championships.
Dustin Miller of Lyon (Ark.) became the first-ever All-American in program history with a hard-fought 4-3 victory over Chandler Strand of Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) in the consolation bracket. The Scots are one of the relatively new programs to NAIA wrestling, as the team has only competed at the varsity level since the start of the 2014-15 season.
Eastern Oregon, which resurrected a program that had been dormant since the 1970’s, had its first All-American since Greg Nelson finished fifth at heavyweight in 1972 when Matthew Nguyen earned a spot in the semifinals. The junior from Vancouver, Wash., squares off against West Group rival Troy Lakin of Menlo (Calif.) in the semifinals. Nguyen is 2-0 against Lakin this season, including a 9-4 decision in the championship match of the West National Qualifier on Feb. 18.
Mitch Pawlak (133 pounds) of Indiana Tech and Tyler Cowger (149 pounds) of Southern Oregon solidified themselves as two of the best wrestlers in their respective program’s history, as both became four-time All-Americans today by advancing to the semifinals. Pawlak, who won the 125-pound title last year, is searching for a second-straight national championship, while Cowger is hoping for his first after finishing second a season ago.
Other notable performances on the day came from Lawton Benna (174 pounds) of Grand View and Dalton Bailey (197 pounds) of Life (Ga.). A pair of grapplers kept their unbeaten seasons alive with wins in the quarterfinals.
All 10 top seeds advanced to the semifinal round.
For more information on the NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.