Bulldog wrestling makes statement, sweeps GPAC triangular
MITCHELL, S.D. – The 22nd-ranked Concordia wrestling team went up against a pair of GPAC teams that sported undefeated conference marks heading into Thursday evening’s duals in Mitchell, S.D. That fact would not be true by night’s end. As part of a triangular, the Bulldogs (8-7, 4-1 GPAC) took down No. 17 Dakota Wesleyan (8-6, 4-1 GPAC), 19-18, and No. 21 Midland (2-4, 2-2 GPAC), 25-13, in a big night for the program.
Up against two of the top teams in the conference, the Bulldogs won six of 10 bouts, two via pinfall, on the way to knocking off Midland in the first match of the triangular. Concordia also triumphed in six matches against Dakota Wesleyan to come back for a 19-18 win in the night cap.
At 4-1 in the conference, the Bulldogs look up at just one team – No. 12 Morningside – in the GPAC dual standings.
“Based on where we were at a year ago, if you said we would be sitting No. 2 in the conference people would say you were crazy,” second-year head coach Dana Vote said.
Dakota Wesleyan held an 18-13 advantage going into the final two bouts – 125 and 133 (the match began at 141). After 13th-ranked Austin Mogg notched a 5-2 win at 125, No. 10 Emilio Rivera (17-6) upset No. 6 Richard Rios, 5-2, to complete a sweep at the triangular hosted by the Tigers.
In reversing a recent frustrating trend, Vote’s squad showed toughness to win the nail biters.
“Finally,” Vote said. “We went back to the drawing board after last week. We emphasized winning those close matches. We even had some of our guys watch youth tournaments to remember where they came from and the passion you need to have. We talked about digging deep and that’s what they did.”
Rivera was one of several standouts as Bulldog wrestling made a statement. The native of Escondido, Calif., has now won five-straight matches and is 7-1 in dual meets.
“Emilio gets tougher every time he goes out,” Vote said. “Something a lot of people didn’t know was that he was pretty beat up during the first semester. Now he’s 100 percent and he’s going out and dominating.”
Fifteenth-ranked 174-pounder Austin Fehlhafer (23-8 overall, 10-4 duals) pushed his winning streak to seven with a pair of wins for the Bulldogs. While he did not add to his pin total of 16, the Seward native made a splash by pulling out a 6-5 victory over Midland’s Sterling Terry, the NAIA’s sixth-rated wrestler at 165.
Wednesday also saw the return of Mogg (125) and freshman Ceron Francisco (285) from injury. Mogg (12-5), who holds more than 100 victories over his career with Buena Vista and Concordia, racked up victory Nos. 103 and 104 of his career. The 13th-ranked 125-pounder won both of his matches by exactly three points.
Also key in the upset of Dakota Wesleyan was Austin Starkey’s 12-5 decision over 2013 All-American Dusty Paulsen at 157 and a 2-0 overtime victory for Alex Stepanek (2-0 on the day) at 141.
“All our guys just wrestled tough,” Vote said. “They went out and wrestled for each other.”
The win over Midland was fueled by a pair of falls as No. 11 Enrique Barajas (149) and Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) both notched third-period pins. At the time, the victory marked the fourth in his last five bouts for Barajas. Burkhardt’s fall came after the Warriors had pulled within 12-10 after having won at 157, 165 and 184.
The Bulldogs participate in their final open of the season on Saturday when they head to Sioux City, Iowa, to compete in the Briar Cliff University Open. The action will get started at 9 a.m. Concordia also has two more GPAC duals remaining before the North qualifying tournament on Feb. 22.