BALDWIN CITY, Kan. – The second season of head coach Andrew Nicola’s tenure leading Concordia University wrestling got underway on Sunday at the Dan Harris Open hosted by Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. A total of 23 Bulldogs combined for 51 victories, seven place finishes (top three in each weight class were recognized) and three individual championships.
The Dan Harris Open marked the first of eight tournaments that make up the regular season schedule for 16th-ranked Concordia, a three-time GPAC defending champion.
“The effort was definitely there. It’s going to be a matter of fine tuning the technical things that will make us successful come GPAC dual season and GPAC championships,” Nicola said. “Fortunately we have four months left in the season to work on these techniques. There are a lot of takeaways from the weekend that we can improve upon.”
The three Bulldogs to win titles at the Dan Harris Open were senior Giovanni Castillo (133), sophomore Cameron Devers (141) and senior Jon Lado (165). Both juniors Chucky Hedrick (165) and Walker Fisher (174) claimed runner-up finishes while sophomore Deandre Cherry (174) and junior Josh Nelsen (184) placed third in their respective weight classes. Several others would have recorded place finishes had the top six individuals been recognized.
A native of Ontario, Calif., Castillo brings star potential at 133 pounds. He opened this season ranked 18th nationally in his weight class but has the ability to rise quickly. His path to a title on Sunday included a 6-3 victory over No. 20 Tyler Dickman of Baker. In the championship match, Castillo edged Haidon Allen of University of Saint Mary, 8-6.
“His position is pretty incredible,” Nicola said. “He only got taken down one time. He returned the favor to that guy in the finals a few time. There was one time where he defended a takedown and Coach (Levi) Calhoun and I looked at each other like, ‘How did he just do that?’ He’s very explosive. He’s going to be very difficult to beat this year. He looked healthy. He kind of lit up the competition.”
Devers and Lado also combined for seven victories. Devers defeated Drury University’s Lawyer Morgan-Beckum, 9-3, in the 141-pound title bout. At 165, Lado majored teammate Hedrick, 20-12, for the championship. In the 174-pound championship, Fisher fell by a tight 6-4 score to Drury’s Jacob Brune.
A total of seven grapplers made their Bulldog debuts on Sunday. That group included transfer Keanu Tom, ranked 17th in the NAIA at 157 pounds. He picked up three victories, rebounding after getting pinned in his first match. Nineteen of the 23 Bulldogs that competed earned at least one win. There will be better days ahead for returning 165-pound GPAC champion Kirk Kaliszewski, who went 0-2. Kaliszewski began the year ranked seventh nationally at 165.
Thirteen different institutions were represented at the Dan Harris Open. Ten were from the state of Kansas. Concordia was the lone GPAC school to compete at the event.
Next up is Saturday’s Grand View University Open in Pleasant Hill, Iowa. The competition is expected to ramp up another notch.
“We look forward to this weekend and getting some more guys some hardware at Grand View,” Nicola said. “The overall effort was very good. We’re excited to get back in the room and improve on technical aspects.”