Postseason preview: GPAC wrestling championships

By Jake Knabel on Feb. 14, 2018 in Wrestling

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SEWARD, Neb. – National tournament bids will be on the line on Saturday when the 2018 GPAC Wrestling Championships take place inside Lynn Farrell Arena on the Hastings campus. The action is set to begin at 10 a.m. CT. Nine GPAC institutions now sponsor the sport of men’s wrestling, including new member the University of Jamestown.

Second-year head coach Andrew Nicola and his squad can push the reset button after placing fifth in the final GPAC dual standings. The Bulldogs also checked in at No. 5 in the GPAC ratings released on Feb. 5 by the NAIA. For a change, Concordia enters a regional/conference tournament in an underdog role in regards to competition for a team championship. At last season’s GPAC tournament hosted by Doane, the Bulldogs won the championship by a 10-point margin over second-place Morningside.

Four Concordia wrestlers who scrapped at the 2017 GPAC championships will return to the mat this Saturday: Cam Devers (141), Kirk Kaliszewski (165), Walker Fisher (174) and Josh Nelsen (184). A 165-pound GPAC champion last season, Kaliszewski has one more opportunity to salvage a senior season that has gone off script. Kaliszewski and Ceron Francisco (285) emerged from the 2017 conference postseason with GPAC titles. A strong GPAC tournament showing helped the Bulldogs place nine individuals in the national qualifying field.

Eight of the 12 Concordia individuals in the mix on Saturday are new to the GPAC tournament. The group includes Giovanni Castillo, ranked first in the conference and third nationally at 133 pounds. At 125 pounds, senior Jerry Stepps III will have an opportunity to continue his mastery of GPAC opponents. Last week he completed an 8-0 run through conference duals and was named the GPAC wrestler of the week on Wednesday (Feb. 14). In terms of overall wins, Devers is the team leader with an overall mark of 24-7.

Briar Cliff dethroned the Bulldogs from the top spot in the GPAC dual standings this season. Based on the conference ratings, the Chargers are not necessarily the favorites to come out on top in a tournament format. Ranked ahead of Concordia are Midland, Morningside, Northwestern and then Briar Cliff.

The qualification for the national championships has changed this season. In the past, the top three place finishers of each weight class at the GPAC championships received an automatic berth to nationals. Moving forward, only the conference champions assure themselves of national bids. The rest are based upon how many wrestlers each conference has ranked in each specific weight class.

The 2018 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will take place at the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa, March 2-3. For more information on the event, click HERE.

Concordia postseason wrestling roster
125 – Jerry Stepps III (17-15) – GR: 4
133 – Giovanni Castillo (8-4) – GR: 1 | NR: 3
141 – Cam Devers (24-7)
141 – Chris Kimball (13-16) – GR: 4
157 – Keanu Tom (5-10)
157 – Jared Woods (16-15)
165 – Kirk Kaliszewski (6-13)
174 – Deandre Chery (21-13) – GR: 1 | NR: 17
174 – Walker Fisher (20-9) – GR: 3
184 – Darrin Miller (21-15)
184 – Josh Nelsen (22-13) – GR: 3 | NR: 18
197 – Cyrus Marshall (5-14)
GR = GPAC ranking | NR = national ranking

GPAC team rankings (Feb. 5, 2018)
1. Midland – 150
2. Morningside – 145
3. Northwestern – 114
4. Briar Cliff – 110
5. Concordia – 106
6. Doane – 97
7. Hastings – 86
8. Jamestown – 72
9. Dakota Wesleyan – 10

Final team scoring at 2017 GPAC Championships
1. Concordia – 132.5
2. Morningside – 122.5
3. Midland – 121.5
4. Northwestern – 110
5. Briar Cliff – 99.5
6. Doane – 58.5
7. Hastings – 56.5
8. Dakota Wesleyan – 25.5