MARSHALL, Mo. – In a preview of what could transpire later this season at the NAIA National championships, 41 NAIA wrestling programs descended upon the Burns Athletic Complex in Marshall, Mo., both Friday and Saturday (Jan. 18-19) for the Missouri Valley Invite. The Concordia University wrestling team racked up 39 team points and placed 18th at the event. Individually, Michael Stann took sixth place in the heavyweight bracket.
First-year head coach Levi Calhoun’s squad placed third amongst the seven GPAC teams to make the trip. The invite featured 12 nationally-ranked NAIA teams and nearly 400 total wrestlers.
“It was a tough tournament like we expected,” Calhoun said. “I thought we got exposed in some areas. It’s bad at the time, but good in that we know what we need to work on and what we need to improve on. Our guys got a good taste of national competition and realized we have to continue to work hard and get better. Our expectations are always high. Overall I’m satisfied with our effort.”
Ten Bulldogs combined for 19 victories over the two days of scrapping at Missouri Valley. Stann led the way with his four victories. The redshirt freshman from Temecula, Calif., showed he could compete with anyone in the nation. Each of Stann’s three losses came by decision against opponents with heavyweight national rankings of 1, 3 and 5, respectively. Stann guaranteed himself of at least a spot in the fifth-place bout with his major decision (14-0) over No. 20 Brix Brickey of Bethany College (Kan.). Stann’s day ended with a 7-1 loss to fifth-ranked Cooper Thomas of Grand View University (Iowa).
While Stann paced Concordia with 16 team points, freshman Mario Ybarra (125) emerged from the tournament with 5.5 points thanks to a pair of pins on his day. Next in line in terms of team scoring were Deandre Chery (4.0) at 174, Josh Nelsen (4.0) at 184 and Kyle Carey (3.5) at 141. Tyler Jorgensen’s (197) three wins ranked second best on the team. Exactly five Bulldogs collected two wins apiece at the Missouri Valley Invite.
Concordia was missing a couple of key pieces on Saturday with the absences of Alberto Garcia (133) and Walker Fisher (174). With them out of action, Stann again gets the headline. He moved his season counts to 27 wins and 15 pins. His pin total is the highest for the program in a season since Austin Fehlhafer struck for 20 during the 2013-14 campaign.
“He competed well in all of those matches,” Calhoun said of Stann. “We just have to figure out how to take the next step to win those matches. As a redshirt freshman, he’s competing with the best kids in the country and giving himself an opportunity to win. He continues to make improvements.”
A select few Bulldogs will compete on Sunday at the Roger Denker Open hosted by the University of Central Missouri. For most of the team, the focus now shifts to next week’s GPAC Duals. Concordia will host Hastings, Jamestown, Doane and Briar Cliff inside Walz Arena on Jan. 26. The first duals will get started at 9 a.m. CST on that date.