TOPEKA, Kan. – (Brackets – PDF | Team Scores) Three returning champions punched tickets into the finals, while Grand View (Iowa) locked in a sixth-straight national championship and set another team scoring record Saturday in Session III action at the 2017 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by USA Wrestling-Kansas.
For the second-straight year, the championship bouts will be distributed live on ESPN3, while a mat-side broadcast is also available on www.NAIANetwork.com. Wrestling starts at 7 p.m. CST. To access the ESPN3 broadcast, click here.
Grand View is the first team in NAIA wrestling history to win six-consecutive national titles. Additionally, the Vikings are 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)).
The Vikings ended the afternoon with 211.5 team points to eclipse 2016’s team total of 210.0 points. Grand View has either tied or set a new scoring record in three out of the last four years.
Grand View had all 12 of its entries earn All-America honors, including six that have a chance at a national title tonight in Session IV. Jacob Colon, who is the top-seed and returning national champion at 133 pounds, has arguably been the most dominant of the Viking grapplers. The three-time All-American has three pins on the tournament, including a stick of No. 4 David Berg of Midland (Neb.) in the semifinals.
Colon faces four-time All-American Mitch Pawlak of Indiana Tech in the 133-pound title match. Pawlak, who won the 125-pound championship last season, is hoping to become the first two-time national champion in program history. These two met earlier this season at the National Duals in a match that was won by Colon, 13-0.
Blake Cooper (165 pounds) of Warner Pacific (Ore.) was the third returning national champion to punch a ticket into the finals. The sophomore defeated Ricky McCarty of Oklahoma City – the 2015 national champion at 165 pounds – for a shot to be a two-time title winner.
Three other programs have multiple individuals in the finals – Campbellsville (Ky.) (2), Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) (2) and Montana State-Northern (2). Among these three schools, Montana State-Northern has gone the longest without a national champion. The Lights most recent title winner was Evan Heinbauch at 184 pounds in 2011.
Dalton Bailey (197 pound) of Life (Ga.) and Demetrius Thomas (285) and Williams Baptist (Ark.) both became their program’s first-ever finalist. Bailey, who is the top-seed at 197 pounds and boasts a 24-0 record on the year, downed unseeded Jeremiah Gerl of Hastings (Neb.) – the only non-seeded individual in the semifinals – 5-2. Prior to Bailey, Life had never had a wrestler finish better than fourth at the national championships.
Thomas, who in addition to teammates Tyler Fraley (141 pounds) and Joshua Chiles (184 pounds) are only the fourth, fifth and sixth All-Americans in their program’s young history, upset returning national champion Dean Broghammer of Grand View, 18-9. The Ferguson, Mo., native is also an All-American for the first time in his career.
In the team race, Lindsey Wilson rests in second-place with 74.5 points. The Blue Raiders previous-best team finish came in 2015 when they took third place.
Rounding out the top five within the team scoring are Campbellsville (64.5 points), Southern Oregon (60.5 points) and Indiana Tech (59.5 points).
Perennial powerhouse program Southern Oregon pushed its NAIA record number of All-Americans to 227. Overall, the Raiders had four wrestlers place at this year’s national championships, including fourth-place finishers Tyler Cowger at 149 pounds and Hunter Hodges at 157 pounds.
Montana State-Northern boasts the next most all-time All-Americans with 171.
For more information on the NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.