HASTINGS, Neb. – Giovanni Castillo and Deandre Chery became the latest members of the Concordia University wrestling program to produce individual GPAC titles. The winning duo helped the Bulldogs place fourth among the nine conference teams that convened upon Hastings for Saturday’s (Feb. 17) championship event.
Second-year head coach Andrew Nicola’s squad turned in eight place finishes and racked up a total of 98.5 points, edging out fifth-place Morningside (96.5) while finishing just behind Hastings (99.0). Concordia placed one spot above where it was ranked in the most recent GPAC poll (Feb. 5). Castillo, Chery and Chris Kimball have punched their tickets to the national championships.
“I would say that the tournament kind of went as planned,” Nicola said. “Midland was a heavy favorite and they won. Northwestern was kind of a surprise in there. It’s just been kind of a funky year in the conference. You could say that we lived up to where we were ranked.”
Seeded second instead of first due to last week’s upset loss in the dual at Morningside, Castillo earned himself a measure of redemption. At 133 pounds, Castillo took decisions from Northwestern’s Cole Mills and Briar Cliff’s Isiah Lysius on the way to the title bout. That’s where Castillo pinned Northwestern’s Jacob Hergott late in the first period. The win locked up a spot at nationals for Castillo, who is now 12-4 this season.
A native of Miami Gardens, Fla., Chery has made a big rise in his sophomore season. Chery dominated his first two matches of the day, winning by pin over Morningside’s Jacob Wiley and then by technical fall over Jamestown’s Tanner Smith. Chery then won a tough battle with 12th-ranked Brandon Shuler of Northwestern. Chery took the decision in a tiebreaker, 7-4.
“Gio wrestled outstanding today,” Nicola said. “In the finals the kid was giving him a fit. He actually fought off his back at one point and then pancaked his opponent and got the win. We really needed that one. Then Deandre upended a guy who was near the top 10 in the country. He looked good throughout the day.”
Kimball is also headed to nationals via his third-place claim at 141 pounds. Kimball went 3-1 with his only loss coming against eventual GPAC champion David Berg of Midland. Kimball recovered by winning his final two bouts, including the third-place match over Briar Cliff’s Sonny Gulesian, 7-4.
Five other Bulldogs placed in the top five of their brackets: Jerry Stepps III (fourth at 125), Jared Woods (fourth at 157), Walker Fisher (fifth at 174), Darrin Miller (fifth at 184) and Josh Nelsen (fourth at 184). Fisher and Nelsen are still potential wild card selections for nationals, but are considered to be longshots.
For the program’s national qualifiers, the season will extend into the 2018 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, which will take place March 2-3 at the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa. More information on the national championships can be found HERE.