SEWARD, Neb. – The 11th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team began its trek from Seward to Fort Wayne, Ind., on Tuesday. The Bulldogs will again take part in the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals at the War Memorial Coliseum in first-year head coach Andrew Nicola’s hometown. On Thursday’s (Jan. 5) opening day of the National Duals, the 10th-seeded Bulldogs will take on seventh-seeded Wayland Baptist University (Texas), also ranked 11th, in a tussle set for 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET.
It will be a rematch of a meeting that took place at the Oklahoma City Duals on Dec. 19 when Concordia defeated the Pioneers, 24-15. Win or lose, the Bulldogs will take the mat again in Fort Wayne at 2 p.m. CT / 3 p.m. ET against either No. 2 Indiana Tech or Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.). The NAIA bracket includes 16 teams with both winner’s and consolation rounds.
Nicola’s squad has won five of its first seven duals with victories over ranked NAIA squads Wayland Baptist and No. 8 Campbellsville University (Ky.). The Bulldogs are also 2-0 inside the conference with GPAC dual wins over Dakota Wesleyan and Doane. Concordia has won 16-straight conference duals.
Last season the Bulldogs took home a place finish from the National Duals for the first time in program history. Concordia finished seventh after taking the seventh-place match, 19-15, from then 14th-ranked Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.). During last year’s stay in Fort Wayne, the Bulldogs also picked up wins over Ottawa University (Kan.), 41-3, and over No. 10 University of Great Falls (Mont.), 28-19.
Six Bulldogs made appearances in the national rankings released last week by the NAIA. The hottest among them has been second-ranked 197-pounder Ken Burkhardt Jr., who rides a nine-match win streak into the National Duals. During that streak, Burkhardt Jr. has won six times by pin and three times by major decision. He was named the GPAC wrestler of the week after a 3-0 run at the Oklahoma City Duals. In addition, 125-pounder Giovanni Castillo returns to the rankings at No. 12. Ceron Francisco holds steady as the fourth-ranked heavyweight.
In the Dec. 19 dual with Wayland Baptist, Castillo (125), Cole (133), Jon Lado (157), Burkhardt Jr. (197) and Francisco (285) all claimed wins with bonus points to carry the Bulldogs to the team victory. The Pioneers won five matches as well, but each of theirs was by decision.
NAIA NWCA National Duals – Seeds
No. 1 – Grand View (Iowa)
No. 2 – Indiana Tech
No. 3 – Williams Baptist (Ark.)
No. 4 – Oklahoma City
No. 5 – Southern Oregon
No. 6 – Midland (Neb.)
No. 7 – Wayland Baptist (Texas)
No. 8 – Campbellsville (Ky.)
No. 9 – Missouri Valley
No. 10 – Concordia (Neb.)
No. 11 – Life (Ga.)
No. 12 – Cumberland (Tenn.)
No. 13 – Baker (Kan.)
No. 14 – Northwestern (Iowa)
No. 15 – Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.)
No. 16 – Doane (Neb.)
NAIA NWCA National Duals First Round Pairings
No. 1 Grand View (Iowa) vs. No. 16 Doane (Neb.)
No. 2 Indiana Tech vs. No. 15 Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.)
No. 3 Williams Baptist (Ark.) vs. No. 14 Northwestern (Iowa)
No. 4 Oklahoma City vs. No. 13 Baker (Kan.)
No. 5 Southern Oregon vs. No. 12 Cumberland (Tenn.)
No. 6 Midland (Neb.) vs. No. 11 Life (Ga.)
No. 7 Wayland Baptist (Texas) vs. No. 10 Concordia (Neb.)
No. 8 Campbellsville (Ky.) vs. No. 9 Missouri Valley
Concordia nationally-ranked wrestlers
125 – No. 12 Giovanni Castillo
125 – No. 15 Dmitri Smith
133 – No. 9 Kodie Cole
197 – No. 2 Ken Burkhardt Jr.
197 – No. 11 Alexander Reimers
285 – No. 4 Ceron Francisco
Wayland Baptist nationally-ranked wrestlers
133 – No. 14 DeMarco Speller
165 – No. 11 Zachary Mitchell
174 – No. 2 Jose Alvarez
184 – No. 4 Michael Naiper
197 – No. 8 Riley Williams