Twelve Bulldog grapplers set for North qualifier on Saturday

Twelve Bulldog grapplers set for North qualifier on Saturday

SEWARD, Neb. – Berths in the 2014 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will be on the line when 12 Bulldogs begin action at the North Qualifying Group Tournament hosted by Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D., on Saturday. The North is comprised of 11 teams, including all seven GPAC wrestling members as well as Dickinson State (N.D.), Jamestown (N.D.), Waldorf (Iowa) and York.

The top four finishers in each weight class, plus 15 at-large selections from the North, receive invitations to the national championships.

North breakdown by weight class:

125

Concordia competitors: Austin Mogg (12-6) and Dmitri Smith (12-11)

North top four (national rank in parentheses)
1. Oscar Marin (9), York
2. Diego Quintana (12), Northwestern
3. Josh Heinzer (15), Midland
4. Austin Mogg, Concordia 

Outlook: Austin Mogg is no stranger to national success having earned All-America status at the NCAA Division III level in 2010. This is the final chance for the senior, who dropped out of this week’s national rankings, to make some noise. Mogg is 1-3 against the three wrestlers ranked ahead of him in the region. He owns a win over York’s Oscar Marin. Meanwhile, Smith enters his first regional. He narrowly lost to Marin, 5-3, on Jan. 23.

133

Concordia competitors: Kodie Cole (14-13) and Emilio Rivera (18-6)

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Emilio Rivera (8), Concordia
2. Richard Rios (9), Dakota Wesleyan
3. Nathan Ryan (12), Morningside
4. Marcus Banducci, York

Outlook: Emilio Rivera is a slight favorite in a tight race for the North 133-pound title. Rivera’s 5-2 decision over Richard Rios helped boost him into the top spot in the region rankings. Rivera carries a six-match winning streak with an impressive major decision over No. 15-ranked 125-pounder Josh Heinzer included in that stretch. Kodie Cole, nationally-ranked at one point this season, has the potential to place in the top four. He has one loss apiece to the top three in the region – all by just a single point.

141

Concordia competitor: Alex Stepanek (15-14)

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Jason Arreola (5), York
2. Blake Fruchtl (12), Hastings
3. Kevin Olson (13), Morningside
4. Garret Lambrecht (16), Morningside 

Outlook: Alex Stepanek is ranked sixth in the North at 141 pounds. He will have to hold off at least one nationally-ranked wrestler in order to claim an automatic bid to nationals. The native of St. Paul, Neb., has come through with some big wins and owns a third-place claim at the Buena Vista Open to his credit.

149

Concordia competitors: Enrique Barajas (14-12) and Foster Bunce (14-8)

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Tyler Lashbrook (5), Morningside
2. John Lynch (8), Northwestern
3. Kyle Gerlach (11), Dakota Wesleyan
4. Enrique Barajas (14), Concordia 

Outlook: Enrique Barajas built momentum last week by knocking off No. 12-ranked 141-pounder Blake Fruchtl on the way to earning GPAC Wrestler of the Week recognition. Barajas has lost one hotly-contested match apiece to each of the three North grapplers ranked ahead of him. Freshman Foster Bunce holds one of the Bulldogs’ top winning percentages and is a capable performer as an underdog.

157

Concordia competitors: Tommy Bailey (9-11) and Austin Starkey (13-17)

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Tyler Johnson (5), Dickinson State
2. Aaron Lopez (8), York
3. Tyler McMichael (12), Midland
4. Zach Fishman (13), Northwestern 

Outlook: Not ranked among the North’s top six, Tommy Bailey and Austin Starkey will look to upset their way into top-four finishes at 157. It won’t be easy against a field that includes five grapplers ranked inside the top 15 nationally. Bailey and Starkey are both aiming for their first tournament place-finishes of the season.

165

Concordia competitors: none

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Sterling Terry (5), Midland
2. Trever Deverstern (6), Dakota Wesleyan
3. Patrick Nord (8), Jamestown
4. Jon Solano (14), Dickinson State 

Outlook: Midland’s Sterling Terry is the top-rated 165-pounder in a bracket that will not feature any Bulldogs.

174

Concordia competitor: Austin Fehlhafer (24-8)

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Joseph Sievert (4), Morningside
2. Anthony Pike (11), Briar Cliff
3. Joe Madison (15), York
4. Austin Fehlhafer, Concordia 

Outlook: Former Seward High School star Austin Fehlhafer gets his chance to prove that he has been underrated all season despite a gaudy 24-8 record and 17 pins. Provided he gets the opportunity, Fehlhafer will try to avenge earlier losses to both Joe Madison (D, 15-9) and Anthony Pike (D, 13-11). Concordia’s wins leader is red hot having come out on top in eight-straight matches. Fehlhafer is used to tournament success, as evidenced by his title at the Nebraska-Kearney Open this season and by his pair of runner up state high school finishes.

184

Concordia competitors: none

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Lane Oversen (7), Dickinson State
2. Randall Null (11), Northwestern
3. Rulin Pederson (13), Morningside
4. Tyler Sarringar (14), Dakota Wesleyan 

Outlook: Lane Oversen of Dickinson State receives top billing in a bracket devoid of Bulldogs.

197

Concordia competitor: Ken Burkhardt Jr. (18-16)

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Jesse Hellinger (4), Dickinson State
2. Grant Harrill (13), Hastings
3. Logan Paul Eickhoff (15), York
4. Jared McCoy, Morningside 

Outlook: Dickinson State’s Jesse Hellinger, a national runner up at 184 pounds in 2013, is a prohibitive favorite to win the 197-pound title. However, Ken Burkhardt Jr. has shown he can compete with just about anybody. He has been close in all three losses against York’s 15th-rated Logan Paul Eickhoff and his defeat at the hands of Grant Harrill came by a single point (8-7).

285

Concordia competitor: Ceron Francisco (14-16)

North top four (NR in parentheses)
1. Saia Lotulelei (3), York
2. Tyler Kacmarynski (5), Morningside
3. Abram Reynolds (10), Briar Cliff
4. Lonnie Brown (11), Midland

Outlook: The heavyweight bracket is loaded at the top with three wrestlers ranked in the top 10 nationally. In addition, Midland’s 11th-rated Lonnie Brown is a returning All-American. Freshman Ceron Francisco is green in terms of wrestling experience, but he has progressed enough to be a serious threat. He will have to be at his best to have a chance to earn a bid into the national championships.

19 February 2014

Junior Emilio Rivera (133)

Junior Enrique Barajas (149)