Castillo bursts to semifinals at NAIA wrestling championships

By Jake Knabel on Mar. 2, 2018 in Wrestling

DES MOINES, Iowa – Day one of the 2018 NAIA Wrestling Championships saw Giovanni Castillo lock up All-America honors at 133 pounds while Deandre Chery and Chris Kimball claimed their first career wins on the national stage on Friday (March 2). The trio combined for seven victories during competition that took place inside the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa. All three appeared at the NAIA national championships for the first time.

With 17 team points, second-year head coach Andrew Nicola’s group stands in 18th place. Castillo will be the team’s lone competitor on Saturday.

“The guys have either wrestled to their seed or above it,” Nicola said. “Starting out at 133, Gio’s the four seed so he’s expected to make it to the semifinals. He kind of dominated his way through. He had two incredible takedowns in the quarterfinals to guarantee an All-America finish. Chris Kimball right off the bat knocked off Gaige Torres. It was nice to avenge a loss there. We had a tough draw then on the backside. Then Deandre had a real good win. I think we wrestled above expectations.”

Things have come together nicely at the most opportune points of the season for Castillo, winner of the 133-pound GPAC title. He carries the weight of the program’s hopes to make it three-straight years with a wrestler in a national championship match following Andrew Schulte (141-pound champion in 2016) and Ceron Francisco (heavyweight runner up in 2017). Castillo’s run to the semifinals has included wins over Jordan Pitt of Reinhardt (Ga.), Brandon Vela of Bacone (Okla.) and fifth-ranked Trevor Murano of Grand View (Iowa).

Castillo entered the weekend with the No. 4 seed. He will draw top-seeded Jake Sinkovics of Cumberlands (Ky.) in his first match on Saturday. The top four seeds at 133 pounds all advanced to the semifinals. Castillo will finish no lower than sixth place. He’s healthy and wrestling his best since becoming a Bulldog prior to the 2016-17 season.

“A healthy Giovanni Castillo is an All-American without a doubt,” Nicola said. “He had some time off to make sure he was rested. He seems to be rising to the occasion. We knew last year what he was capable of. I’m very happy he’s able to cap off his senior season by getting on the podium where he belongs. Now it’s a matter of jumping up the steps.”

After a first-round bye, Chery moved on to the quarterfinals by upsetting Missouri Valley’s fifth-seeded Cody Carson, 4-3. Seeded 12th, Chery concluded his tournament with losses to No. 4 Anthony Orozco of Menlo (Calif.) and No. 7 Colton Gonzalez of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). The 174-pound GPAC champion, Chery ended the campaign with an overall record of 25-15.

A transfer from Palomar College, Kimball made his way to nationals in his first season with the Bulldogs. Kimball made waves of his own by toppling the eighth-seeded Torres of Indiana Tech, 5-3, in the opening round. Kimball responded to a loss to No. 9 Mason Calvert of Life (Ga.) by recording a pair of wins on the backside. His run ended with a defeat at the hands of Midland’s sixth-seeded David Berg.

Session III of the championships will get started at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The championship matches will begin at 7 p.m. and will be shown live on ESPN3.com. All matches at the national championships are streamed live via Trackcast.