KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (National Qualifier Schedule/Results) Six defending national champions highlight a group of 180 wrestlers that automatically qualified for the 2017 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by USA Wrestling-Kansas. Automatic qualification was given to the top three finishers in each of the area’s 10 weight classes at today’s 2017 NAIA Wrestling National Qualifiers.
The remainder of the 240-man field is filled out with wildcards. Each of the six qualifying groups receives five wildcards, which were chosen today at the post-event coaches’ meeting. The remaining 30 wrestlers are determined by a national selection committee. Up to 15 nomination from each area are considered by the national committee. The full field will be announced Tuesday.
Grand View (Iowa) continued its quest for an unprecedented sixth-straight national title by winning the Central Qualifier with 215 points. The Vikings, who qualified all 12 wrestlers for the fourth-consecutive year, have now claimed the title in the Central for seven-straight seasons.
Eight of Grand View’s automatic berths were earned by first-place finishes – Jacob Colon (133 pounds), Josh Wender (141 pounds), Walker Marshall (149 pounds), Grant Henderson (165 pounds), Lawton Benna (174 pounds), Michael Pixley (184 pounds), Evan Hansen (197 pounds) and Dean Broghammer (285 pounds).
Marshall at 149 pounds had arguably the upset of the day in the Central, as he defeated defending national champion Victor Hughes of Baker (Kan.), 12-9, in the title match. Hughes had previously bested Marshall, 4-2, on Jan. 5.
Similar to Grand View, No. 2 Indiana Tech was dominant in the Midwest Qualifier. The Warriors claimed the top team prize for a second-straight year with 224 points, followed by Williams Baptist (Ark.) with 145 points.
Indiana Tech had 11 of its 12 entries finish among the top three, including sweeping the first and second-place spots in the 133-pound, 149-pound and 157-pound weight classes.
Three-time All-American and 2016 national champion Mitch Pawlak headlines the qualifiers for the Warriors. The senior pinned his way to the title match before teammate Enrique Early forfeited to give Pawlak top-honors. Pawlak, who won his national title last season at 125 pounds, has never finished higher than fifth at the national championships at 133 pounds.
Ray Porter of Lourdes (Ohio) became the program’s first-ever national qualifier, as the freshman finished third at 125 pounds. Porter, who fell to eventual Midwest champion Sawyer Miller of Indiana Tech in his first match, pinned back-to-back opponents before collecting a 12-4 major decision win over Jaln Gornillia of Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.) to punch a ticket to nationals. The Lourdes wrestling program is in its first year of varsity competition in the NAIA.
Oklahoma City cruised to a second-straight team title in the South Qualifier, as the Stars gathered 188.5 points – 47 points more than second-place Wayland Baptist’s (Texas) total of 141.5.
The Stars had 10 grapplers automatically qualify for the national championships, including six via first-place finishes – Mason Naifeh (125 pounds), Matt Landgraff (141 pounds), Ricky McCarty (165 pounds), Derek Sivertsen (184 pounds), Evan Hudson (197 pounds) and Korey Walker (285 pounds). McCarty is the only repeat South champion and is a two-time All-American, including a national title in 2015. He finished fourth at the national championships last season.
For the third-consecutive season, Concordia (Neb.) earns the top-spot in the North Qualifier. The Bulldogs, who also won a third-straight Great Plains Athletic Conference dual title this season, send six individuals to the national championships via an automatic berth, including North champions Kirk Kaliszewski (165 pounds) and Ceron Francisco (285 pounds).
The overall team race was highly contested, as Concordia (132.5 points), Morningside (Iowa) (122.5 points) and Midland (Neb.) (121.5 points) all fell within 11 points of each other.
Despite finishing fourth in the team standings, Northwestern (Iowa) boasts the most individual title winners out of the North with three – Dante Preciado (141 pounds), Andras Lukacs-Farkas (174 pounds) and Luis Rivera-Santiago (197 pounds). Among the trio, only Lukacs-Farkas placed at last year’s North Qualifier.
The Blue Raiders of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) reign supreme in the East for the second time in the last three seasons, as the club posted seven top-three finishes en route to 167.5 points. Cumberlands (Ky.) was second with 131 points, followed by Life (Ga.) with 119.5 points.
Daniel Leonard (149 pounds), Cam Tessari (157 pounds), Diorian Coleman (165 pounds), Rhodes Bell (174 pounds and Matt Walker (184 pounds) all claimed first-place for the Blue Raiders.
Arguably the surprise of the East Qualifier was the tremendous tournament by Jeff Chandler of Truett-McConnell (Ga.). The freshman took second-place at 285 pounds after entering the event ranked fifth in the area. After pinning his first two opponents, Chandler downed Jacob Roza of Life (Ga.) – the highest ranked individual in the group entering the event – 5-3. In the title bout, the Athens, Ga., native fell to Terrell Moore of Campbellsville (Ky.).
The heavily contested West Qualifier crown went to Southern Oregon for the third time in the last four seasons. The perennial powerhouse program tallied 131 points and had eight individuals place among the top three, including champions Devin Poppen at 141 pounds and Tyler Cowger at 149 pounds.
Menlo (Calif.), which entered the event ranked No. 3 in the Coaches’ Poll, finished a surprising fourth at the qualifier, trailing second-place Great Falls (Mont.) and third-place Embry-Riddle (Ariz.).
Sam Goings of Embry-Riddle pulled one of the larger upsets at the event, as he knocked off second-ranked and defending national champion Blake Cooper of Warner Pacific (Ore.), 5-3, in overtime. The Fallon, Nev., native also downed No. 8 Khaldoon Rashid of Great Falls, 2-0, en route to the title.
For more information on the 2017 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.