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Grand View Captures First-Ever Championship

March 04, 2012
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DES MOINES, Iowa (Team Scores, Brackets) Grand View (Iowa) crowned a pair of individual titlists and captured its first-ever NAIA Wrestling National Championship Saturday in the Jacobson Exhibition Center. Omi Acosta won his first 133-pound championship and heavyweight Eric Thompson pinned his way to victory in just 1:57 as the Vikings racked up 172 total points.

“This is crazy,” Grand View head wrestling coach Nick Mitchell said. “It hasn’t set in yet. There’s so much build up heading into this and there’s so much focus on getting ready. I never celebrate the wins and with this, I am going to try to celebrate, really let it soak in.”

Two other Vikings took runner-up honors in addition to five All-Americans en route to the team title in only its fourth year of competition. Mitchell was bestowed with NAIA Coach of the Year honors.

“It’s gratifying,” Mitchell said. “To get this far takes a lot of commitment and time away from family. It feels like it has paid off and all was worth it, but it’s important that this is also beyond me; it’s the whole coaching staff and the administration. Once they hired [assistant coach] Paul Reedy full time, he changed the whole program. This would not have happened without him.”

Southern Oregon finished in second place with 141 points, with three Raiders emerging as national titlists, including Mitchell Lofstedt with his second at 125 pounds. He needed just 1:06 to stick Kory Kistner of Morningside (Iowa) for his 10th fall of an 11-match win streak to cap off his junior campaign. Lofstedt was a two-time finalist, winning it all in 2010, before taking last season off and won it all again in his return.

“It feels good to win two championships,” Loftstedt said. “I wanted to go out and dominate. Since I took last year off, I’ve come back really passionate and had the initiative to work two times harder. Back then I was wrestling for something else. Now I am wrestling all for myself and that’s what I am passionate about and what inspires me.”

Lofstedt’s accomplishment, along with his four wins by fall in 7:37 while in Des Moines, earned him NAIA Most Outstanding Wrestler honors with the Gorriaran Award and the Most Falls in the Least Time award.

Joining Lofstedt as a two-time champion was Great Falls’ (Mont.) 141-pounder Anthony Varnell. The Argonaut senior went out in dramatic fashion with a sudden victory takedown to defeat Chris Teague of Campbellsville (Ky.), 10-8. Varnell held a 5-1 lead after the first period thanks to a takedown and a three-point nearfall, only to have Teague battle back in the second stanza. A takedown and a pair of escapes sent the bout into sudden victory. A quick strike takedown in sudden victory by Varnell secured the win.

“It feels great to win again,” Varnell said. “It is definitely harder to repeat. You have to work harder and make sure you compete each week because there’s so much pressure. This one has a different meaning to me. I was confident that I could repeat, but it was a struggle to wrestle my own teammate [Myles Mazurkiewicz in the quarterfinals]. I feel great and I am proud that I could make my family happy.”

Charlie Pingleton defeated Nik Turner of Oklahoma City, 3-2, with a takedown in the third period to become Lindsey Wilson’s (Ky.) first national champion.

“It feels so great to be Lindsey Wilson’s first national champion,” Pingleton said. “It took a lot of time and a lot of hard work. There were so many emotions; I was so happy and ecstatic. Coach [Corey Ruff] told me that he was so proud of me for living the right way. I wanted to win a national championship and I knew that Lindsey Wilson was the place for me to do that.”

Pingleton was one of three finalists for the Blue Raiders en route to a fourth-place finish in the team standings with 96.5 points. The trio of championship contenders were the first for head coach Corey Ruff in the program’s three-year history.

“I am so proud because we have come such a long way,” Ruff said. “I am so happy with what we have done because we are following through with the vision and are seeing ourselves that way. Having a national champion is the greatest thing ever. I have had a lot of success as an assistant coach, but as a head coach, I am so proud and know that we can do so much more. We’ve shown that you can come to Kentucky and be a great wrestler. We’ve set the bar high and created a lot of motivation for the future.”

Midland (Neb.) also crowned its first its champ in Jahsua Marsh at 197 pounds. William Penn (Iowa) also sent Eric Burgey to the top of the 149 pound podium.

Rounding out the top-five teams were Campbellsville (Ky.) in third place with 121.5 points and Oklahoma City with 94 points. The Stars also crowned a national champion at 165 pounds in Kevin Hardy.