SEWARD, Neb. – Hoping to avenge a loss to rival Midland at last week’s National Duals, the 19th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team came up on the wrong end of a 31-12 final score inside Walz Arena on Friday night (Jan. 12). The visiting Warriors left town with seven match victories, including five in a row spanning the 133 through 165-pound bouts.
The defeat ended a run of 22-straight GPAC dual wins for the Bulldog wrestling program. Andrew Nicola’s defending conference champions now stand at 4-6 overall and at 1-1 in GPAC duals.
Concordia is unaccustomed to getting knocked off in its own building. Said Nicola, “It’s frustrating when you have a lot of talent. We’ll go back to the drawing board.”
The night got started with a loud roar when Jerry Stepps III opened things up with a pin in the closing seconds of the first period. His match with Devante Williams had been tight until the St. Louis native nailed his opponent to the mat after 2:58 had elapsed. The victory gave Stepps III his 10th of the season. These are the moments that senior has been working towards.
“It took a lot of extra drilling and coming in with people I used to wrestle with,” Stepps III said. “They know my capabilities and they just wanted me to keep working. I know coming in tonight that I was going to have to start us out right because we were already down one person at 133. The only thing on my mind was just to get the pin.”
Unfortunately, a Midland (4-3, 3-1 GPAC) avalanche engulfed the Bulldogs. Once Stephon Gray finished off Kirk Kaliszewski with a pin at 165, Concordia found itself in a 25-6 hole. Jake Wilson also earned a pin at 149 for a Warrior squad that has gotten stronger since the calendar flipped to 2018. Making his return to Seward, Midland head coach Dana Vote has put together a team that is likely to soon make a move into the national rankings.
The Bulldogs tightened the score a bit by claiming wins by decision at 174 (Walker Fisher) and 197 (Josh Nelsen). Fisher (17-5), now ranked 19th nationally in his respective weight class, pushed his personal winning streak to seven by toppling Cooper Self. Fisher has drawn praise from Nicola for the improvements he has made as a junior.
“He does everything that we ask of him,” said Nicola of Fisher. “He goes above and beyond. He’s a blessing to our team and a blessing in my life. He just wants to improve in every facet of life. It’s pretty awesome.”
Nicola was joined on the bench on Friday by local supporter Grant Fehlhafer, one of the program’s most loyal fans. Fehlhafer served as an honorary coach.
Next up for the Bulldogs is next week’s Missouri Valley Invite (Jan. 19-20) in Marshall, Mo. The month of January will conclude with four key GPAC duals at Briar Cliff in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 27. On that date, Concordia will go up against Briar Cliff, Doane, Hastings and new conference member Jamestown.