FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Seniors Ken Burkhardt Jr. and Ceron Francisco turned in perfect 3-0 days at the National Wrestling Coaches Association NAIA National Duals held at the War Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Thursday. After claiming a dominant 36-7 win over seventh-seeded Wayland Baptist University (Texas), the 10th-seeded Concordia University wrestling team got bounced from the 16-team, double-elimination bracket due to losses to No. 2 Indiana Tech, 31-18, and to No. 9 Missouri Valley College, 21-18.
First-year head coach Andrew Nicola’s squad, ranked 11th in the NAIA coaches’ poll, moved to 6-4 overall this season. The GPAC-leading Bulldogs competed in the hometown of Nicola.
The day got off to a good start when No. 15 Dmitri Smith pulled out a 5-3 decision in the 125-pound bout with Wayland Baptist’s Adelfo Valdez. That victory spurred the Bulldogs to victories in eight of 10 matches over the Pioneers, whom Concordia also defeated at the Oklahoma City Duals on Dec. 19. Fourth-ranked heavyweight Ceron Francisco put an exclamation mark on the dual with a pin in the final match.
Francisco and Burkhardt Jr. were again the headlining performers for the Bulldogs. Francisco has lost just once all season in 14 matches. Meanwhile, Burkhardt Jr. pushed his personal winning streak to 12, though he was challenged in a 5-4 squeaker over Missouri Valley’s Alex Destra. That triumph came over Burkhardt Jr. made victims of Wayland Baptist’s eighth-ranked Riley Williams and Indiana Tech’s 10th-ranked Oscar Martinez.
In addition, Smith went 2-0, Giovanni Castillo won his only bout at 125, Kodie Cole went 2-1 at 133 and Jon Lado went 2-1 at 157. Collectively, the Bulldogs won 17 of 30 individual bouts. Lado gave his team a shot when he pinned Indiana Tech’s Mitch Roadruck after the Warriors had taken three-consecutive matches.
Concordia met Missouri Valley after dropping down to the second round of the consolation bracket. The Bulldogs raced out to a 12-0 advantage before the Tigers responded by winning the next five matches, including the last three by bonus points. That run rendered victories by decision for Burkhardt Jr. and Francisco insufficient to climb out of the team hole that had been dug.
Up next on the schedule is the Missouri Valley Invite in Marshall, Mo., on Jan. 20-21. Concordia’s next dual is slated for Jan. 28 versus Northwestern in Orange City, Iowa. The Bulldogs remain unbeaten in GPAC duals.