2016 National Qualifying Tournaments Recap
Photo provided by the Missouri Valley athletic department
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (National Qualifier Schedule and Results) A trio of defending national champions highlight the 180 wrestlers that secured a spot in the 2016 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 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Qualifying Tournaments.
The remainder of the expanded 240-man field will be filled with at-large individuals. Each of the six qualifying groups receives five wildcards, which were chosen by the coaches at their respective post-event meetings. The remaining 30 wrestlers are determined by a national selection committee. Up to 15 nominations from each area will be considered by the national committee. The full field will be officially announced on Monday.
The 59th annual national championships will take place for the third-straight year at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. The four-session event begins Friday, March 4 and concludes with the 10 championship bouts on Saturday, March 5.
Four-time defending national champion Grand View won a sixth-straight Central team title with 223 points, followed by Missouri Valley with 156 points. For the third-consecutive year, the Vikings qualified all 12 wrestlers with at least a third-place finish. Seven of Grand View’s 12 individuals won titles – Tristan Bundy (125 pounds), Jacob Colon (133 pounds), Andrew Long (149 pounds), Tanner Werner (157 pounds), Dallas Houchins (165 pounds), Michael Pixley (184 pounds) and Grant Harrill (197 pounds).
The three other individual titles went to runner-up Missouri Valley – Jake Ekster (141 pounds), Riley Boomer (174 pounds) and Gabi Musallam (285 pounds). Musallam, who is now 16-2 on the season, is the defending national champion at 285 pounds. With the win, Ekster has now won back-to-back group titles – claimed the 2015 individual crown at 149 pounds en route to a runner-up finish at the national championship.
Overall, Missouri Valley had six grapplers automatically qualify.
Oklahoma City claimed the first-ever South Qualifying Group team title with 152 points, edging second-place York (Neb.) (144.5) by 7.5 points.
The Stars had 10 individuals punch a ticket to the national championships, including defending national champion Ricky McCarty at 165 pounds. McCarty (37-2) cruised to the title, including a 10-2 major decision win over Joseph McAleavey of Bacone (Okla.) in the title bout.
Other Oklahoma City grapplers to claim individual crowns were Adrian Gaines at 125 pounds and Zach Skates at 157 pounds. Both wrestlers are returning All-Americans.
York’s day was highlighted by tremendous performances by Willie Fox at 149 pounds and Nicholas Meck at 174 pounds. Fox, who entered the event ranked No. 2 nationally, followed an opening bout pin with back-to-back tech falls to win the title. Meck pinned his first two opponents, before claiming a hard-fought 10-8 upset win over Derek Sivertsen of Oklahoma City in the third tie breaker.
Fueled by six individual champions and eight qualifiers, Indiana Tech won the Midwest team title. The Warriors’ strongest performance came from two-time All-American Travis Barroquillo. The Wolcottville, Ind., native pinned all four opponents to contribute a team-best 23 points to Indiana Tech’s final score of 195.0.
Williams Baptist (Ark.) with 169 points and Missouri Baptist with 113.5 points finished second and third in the Midwest Group. The Eagles boast eight national qualifiers, including group champions Tyler Fraley at 141 pounds, Josh Chiles at 197 pounds and Conor Karwath at 285 pounds. Fraley, who pinned his first three opponents before downing Matthew Miller of Indiana Tech, 4-0, in the finals, improved to 16-0 on the year.
Missouri Baptist’s team performance was highlighted by 149-pounder William Upson, who scored 20 points for the club with tech falls in the quarterfinals and semifinals before pinning Jacob Gross of Indiana Tech in 1:24 in the title bout.
For the second-straight year, Concordia won the North Group team title with eight national qualifiers and 169 points. Top-ranked Andrew Schulte improved to 19-0 on the season at 141 pounds en route to his second-straight individual title at the qualifier. His title defense was completed with an 11-3 major decision win over Sonny Gulesian of Briar Cliff (Iowa).
Other notable performances by the Bulldogs came from Jr Lule at 157 pounds, Matthew Atwood at 184 pounds and Ceron Francisco at 185 pounds, as all three grapplers won individual titles. Lule claimed the most points for Concordia – 21.5 – on the day after going 4-0, including one pin and three technical falls.
Morningside (Iowa), which finished fifth at last year’s North Qualifier, took second-place with 115.5 points, while Northwestern (Iowa) claimed third-place with 110 points.
In the East Qualifier, Campbellsville (Ky.) and Cumberland (Tenn.) tied for the team championship with 142.5 points each. Defending national champion Davion Caston kept his title defense hopes alive with an impressive showing at the event. He won via major decision through the first two rounds, and downed Sammy Rosario of Cumberland, 3-2, in a tough title contest.
Two other Tigers claimed individual titles at the event – Jaedin Sklapsky (149 pounds) and Sean Black (165 pounds).
Cumberland had seven qualifiers, including five runner-up finishers.
Life (Ga.), which entered the East Qualifier as the highest ranked team in the area, finished fourth with 106.5 points.
The latest finishing of the six qualifiers went to Montana State-Northern, claiming the West Group team title with 152.5 points. Southern Oregon, which had won six of the previous seven events entering Saturday, finished in second-place with 140.5 points.
The heavier weight classes were the key to the Lights’ success, as Willie Miller (174 pounds) and Garrett DeMers (197 pounds) won their respective weight classes, while Toby Cheff and Taylor Kornoely claimed first and second at 285 pounds.
DeMers is a two-time All-American and with the victory today has now won two-straight West Group titles at 197 pounds. Cheff, Montana State-Northern’s other returning All-American, gains some positive momentum entering the championships as he looks to improve upon his third-place finish a season ago.
Southern Oregon had three individual medalists – Tyler Cowger (149 pounds), Aaron Demay (157 pounds) and Ryan McWatters (184 pounds). Similar to Montana State-Northern, the Raiders swept the top two spots at 157 pounds when Demay won by forfeit over teammate Hunter Hodges.
For more information on the national championships, click here.