By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
TOPEKA, Kan. – (Brackets – PDF) History was made Saturday night in the final session of the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by Blue Chip Wrestling, as Grand View (Iowa) won its fourth-straight team title, while Brock Gutches of Southern Oregon ended his collegiate career with a fourth-consecutive title at 174 pounds.
Despite only having two individuals advance into the title round, the Vikings cruised to the team title with 147.5 points – 38.5 points better than second-place Southern Oregon.
“All four titles we’ve won have been totally different,” said Grand View head coach Nick Mitchell, “and this year was not an exception. It was a really tough tournament. We only had two in the finals, which was the least over the last four years, but I really thought our team wrestled well having eight guys in the Top 4.”
With the win, Grand View joins former member Central State (Okla.) (1984-1987) to win four-consecutive banners.
“There’s a lot of good history with NAIA wrestling, and for us to be part of that history is awesome. We’re excited to make our mark in the NAIA,” said Mitchell.
Both of the Viking finalists accomplished their mission of repeating as national champion. Ryak Finch at 125 pounds ended a stellar two-year career with Grand View by beating Aaron LaFarge of Oklahoma City, 10-1. The senior from Reading, Ariz., is the fourth two-time national champion for Grand View and ends his two-year career with a 55-0 record.
“It feels awesome,” said Finch. “First year there wasn’t a lot of pressure. I wasn’t really nervous and did not have a lot of expectations, so I went out there and just wrestled. I had to force myself to do the same thing this weekend, especially with everyone talking about not losing for Grand View. I ended up closing my college career with a title, and it felt really good.”
Brandon Wright at 141 pounds was Grand View’s other champion. Wright’s title bout against Kyle Wilson of Great Falls (Mont.) came down to an extra point for riding time, 4-3. The win made him the fifth two-time champion in program history and 15th overall – tied for ninth most in NAIA history.
The other major story at the championships was the conclusion of a collegiate career of arguably one of the most dominant wrestlers in NAIA history. Gutches, who had an 8-0 major decision against Campbellsville’s (Ky.) Travis McIntosh, is only the seventh grappler in NAIA history to win four consecutive titles. Turk Lords of Montana State-Northern (1998 – 2001) is the most recent wrestler to accomplish this feat.
“It was a long and stressful journey,” said Gutches. “I had a lot of fun and got to be on some great teams. I enjoyed the ride with a lot of great people.”
Gutches was named both the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the National Championship and the National Wrestling Coaches Association Outstanding NAIA Wrestler of the Year at the awards ceremony following the event.
As a team, Southern Oregon finished second with 109 points. The Raiders have claimed the runner-up trophy in five of the last seven seasons.
Joe Cozart of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and Jake Williams of Cumberland (Tenn.) were the other two repeat winners at this year’s championships. Cozart downed Dalton Urrutia of Southern Oregon, 8-2, to become one of the most decorated wrestlers in Blue Raider history. He is the first three-time All-American in program history and joins former teammate Jameel Bryant as a two-time national champion.
“Last year was my first national title ever as a wrestler,” said Cozart, “so there’s no beating that moment. There have been many ups-and-downs with my wrestling this season, and to come here and really prove myself among the doubters and critics is just an awesome feeling.”
Williams claimed a 7-5 sudden victory over Jake Ekster of Missouri Valley. The Mid-South Conference also had a champion from Campbellsville, as Davion Caston defeated top-ranked Michael Ruiz of Great Falls (Mont.), 10-6. Caston is the third national champion for the Tigers, first since Tommy Pretty in 2010.
Overall, the league had three national champions and three runners-up.
In addition to Caston, four other individuals earned their first-ever national title – Ricky McCarty of Oklahoma City, Jose Cruz III of Embry-Riddle (Ariz.), Charles Johnson of Southern Oregon and Gabi Musallam of Missouri Valley.
Musallam is the 15th national champion from Missouri Valley, which is the eighth most all-time and third most among active NAIA programs.
Outside of Grand View and Southern Oregon in the team standings, Lindsey Wilson took third with 104.5 points, Great Falls claimed fourth with 87.5 points and Oklahoma City came in fifth with 71.
For more information on the NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.