SEWARD, Neb. – Four members of head coach Andrew Nicola’s Concordia University wrestling team were named either first or second team All-GPAC, as announced by the conference on Wednesday (Feb. 21). Seniors Giovanni Castillo and Jerry Stepps III landed on the first team while sophomore Deandre Chery and junior Josh Nelsen picked up second team accolades. Honorable mention status went to sophomore Cam Devers and junior Walker Fisher.
Now in his second season at Concordia, Castillo saved his best for last week’s GPAC championships, where he earned the 133-pound title. The Ontario, Calif., native went 3-0 while earning a pin in the title bout. Ranked third nationally in the most recent polls, Castillo owns an overall mark of 11-4 with a résumé that includes a Dan Harris Open championship. Only one of his losses came against an NAIA opponent. Castillo now looks forward to next week’s national championships.
After serving as a backup for the first three years of his career, Stepps III (St. Louis, Mo.) has taken advantage of his opportunity this season. He fell just short of reaching the national championships, but went an impressive 8-0 in GPAC duals at 125 pounds. Stepps posted an overall mark of 19-17 this season, giving him six more victories than he had combined his previous three years at Concordia. Stepps went 2-2 at the GPAC championships and took fourth place.
Chery has been a breakout performer in his second collegiate wrestling season. He will enter the national championships with an overall record of 24-13 on the heels of his 174-pound GPAC title. His conference championships run featured an upset of the NAIA’s 12th-ranked competitor in his weight class. The native of Miami Gardens, Fla., also placed at four other tournaments this season. His 13 pins are a team best.
A first team All-GPAC performer last season, Nelsen (Marysville, Kan.) placed fourth in the 184-pound bracket at the GPAC championships. Ranked 18th nationally in his weight class (as of Feb. 7), Nelsen went 24-15 with six pins during his junior season. He turned in place finishes at the Dan Harris Open and the Doane Open.
Both Devers and Fisher have earned all-conference recognition for the first time in their careers. At 25-9, Devers (Holly Springs, N.C.) paces Concordia in wins. He also went 9-3 in duals, won a 141-pound title at the Dan Harris Open and placed third at the Grand View Open. Fisher (Ashland, Neb.) ranks right behind Devers with a 24-11 record. He finished fifth in the 174-pound bracket at the GPAC championships after also placing at the Dan Harris and Doane Opens.
Castillo, Chery and Chris Kimball (141) earned bids to the national championships, which will be held at the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa, March 2-3.
Jerry Stepps III