KEARNEY, Neb. – Twenty-one Bulldogs entered the fray at Saturday’s (Nov. 18) University of Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open that put the 20th-ranked Concordia University wrestling squad up against some of the most challenging competition it will see all season. Amongst a loaded field that included representative from 42 different institutions, the Bulldogs combined for 20 victories.
The hope is that the many matches against NCAA Division I and II wrestlers will make second-year head coach Andrew Nicola’s squad better moving forward. Saturday’s tournament featured “elite” and “amateur” divisions.
“With the majority of our losses being to NCAA Division I and II opponents, we have to realize that the quality of competition in our first three weeks has been very, very good,” Nicola said. “We did see some positives when we faced some people from other NAIA schools. Victor Haro beat the guy ranked 12th at 157 and Chris Kimball had a very convincing win over an Air Force guy. A couple of guys that were banged up really pushed through. I’m excited for them to have some time now to recover.”
Haro’s win over No. 12 Brandon Lawson-Archuleta of Bethany College (Kan.) came by a 10-5 decision. Meanwhile, Kimball took a 7-3 victory over Air Force’s Jake Kurzhals. In terms of overall wins, sophomore 174-pounder Deandre Chery turned in the best day. He piled up four wins, including three by fall. Chery has racked up a team high six pins already this season. Other Bulldogs with multiple wins on the day included Cody Lambert (2-2 at 149), Blake Castillo (2-2 at 174) and Micahel Duffy (2-2 at 285).
Kirk Kaliszewski (165) and Josh Nelsen (184) both earned pins over NCAA competition. Kaliszewski wiped out Air Force’s Luke Boyle in 1:27 while Nelsen took care of New Mexico Highlands’ Jacob Hawthorne in 2:42. In matches against GPAC opponents, Concordia went a combined 6-8, including 3-0 against Midland grapplers.
Chery, a native of Miami Gardens, Fla., stands out so far as a Bulldog on the rise. Said Nicola, “I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of his four years if he’s one of our leaders career-wise for pins. He pins a lot of people. He’s going to score a lot of team points for us this year and in the future.”
The next date on the schedule is the team’s first dual, which is set for Nov. 30 when Dakota Wesleyan will make its way to Seward for a 7 p.m. CT tussle. The Bulldogs will be looking to extend an active streak of 21 GPAC dual wins in a row. The team will get a breather Thanksgiving weekend.
Nicola believes his team will build upon some of the challenges it went through on Saturday. Said Nicola, “We really do need to put it into perspective that when we start getting into our division we’re going to have a lot more success than we’re having right now. I’m looking forward to that.”