ORANGE CITY, Iowa – In a tightly bunched group at the top, the Concordia University wrestling team placed fourth at the 2019 GPAC championships in Orange City, Iowa, on Saturday (Feb. 16). A group of 12 Bulldogs combined for 121.5 team points, just a single point out of third and only nine out of second place. For the second year in a row, Deandre Chery took home the conference’s 174-pound title.
Chery emerged as one of five NAIA national qualifiers for first-year head coach Levi Calhoun’s squad. The Bulldogs again showed they could compete with the league’s top teams after sharing the GPAC dual title.
“We just did not get the bonus points we needed for a higher team finish,” Calhoun said. “Deandre showed up and did what he does and it was awesome to see Walker (Fisher) qualify for nationals. We were expecting a top three finish and we were a point out of third, so there’s a little disappointment. We’re never satisfied. We were a few matches away from having seven or eight national qualifiers.”
Chery and Fisher (both 174-pounders) will be joined at the national championships by Alberto Garcia (133), Zack Moistner (133) and Michael Stann (285). Chery (33-9) recorded his 16th and 17th pins of the season while advancing to the championship match. He defeated both Jacob Williams of Doane and Haggen Meyer of Northwestern. Concordia then elected to have Fisher concede the title match to Chery.
A senior from Ashland, Neb., Fisher will make his first career trip to nationals. He earned his way there by winning by technical fall over Doane’s Scott Teesdale, 15-0, and then by edging Morningside’s Nickolas Madsen, 3-2, in the semifinals.
Like Fisher, Garcia will be headed to the NAIA national stage for the first time. Garcia bounced back from a semifinal loss to D’earion Stokes of Briar Cliff by taking a decision over Moistner prior to a 12-11 squeaker over Briar Cliff’s Isiah Lysius in the third-place tussle.
Moistner may be the team’s biggest surprise entrant into the national field. He earned one of the GPAC’s four allocations at 133 pounds. That was the deepest weight in the conference, in terms of national qualifiers.
Stann just has not quite been able to get over the hump over the last week-and-a-half against Morningside’s Phil Rasmussen. Stann won by major decision and then in sudden victory while making his way to the heavyweight title bout. Rasmussen then dealt Stann a 6-0 defeat.
Eight of the 12 Bulldogs in action in Orange City advanced to the semifinals of their brackets. Five of them suffered defeats in that round – Mario Ybarra (125), Garcia (133), Cameron Devers (141), Chucky Hedrick (157) and Blake Castillo (165). Devers and Hedrick both placed fourth, narrowly missing out on berths to the national championships.
For those who have earned bids, the 2019 NAIA Wrestling National Championships are up next. The national event will take place inside the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa, March 1-2. This will mark the second year in a row that Des Moines has served as the host for the national tournament.
“It’s kind of about what we expected in terms of national qualifiers,” Calhoun said. “I’m excited about who we have going to nationals. I think we have the potential to put multiple guys on the podium. Now it’s time to get back to work.”