Matchup of GPAC's top two 2017 national finishers set for Friday

By Jake Knabel on Jan. 9, 2018 in Wrestling

SEWARD, Neb. – GPAC dual action will heat up this month for the 19th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team, the three-time defending conference champions. The Bulldogs have not competed in a conference matchup since dominating Dakota Wesleyan, 55-0, on Nov. 30. Second-year head coach Andrew Nicola’s squad is getting set to host Midland (3-3, 2-1 GPAC) at 7 p.m. CT on Friday. Live coverage will be provided by the Concordia Sports Network.

Based on the most recent official GPAC ratings (released on Dec. 27), Friday’s matchup features the conference’s top team in Concordia against the GPAC’s third-rated squad in Midland. The Bulldogs own an active streak of 22-straight GPAC dual wins. Concordia posted perfect 7-0 conference marks in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 while establishing a conference powerhouse. Additionally, a Bulldog grappler has earned the GPAC wrestler of the year award in four-consecutive seasons: Emilio Rivera (2013-14), Enrique Barajas (2014-15), Andrew Schulte (2015-16) and Ceron Francisco (2016-17).

Concordia and Midland met last week at the NWCA National Duals in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Warriors emerged with a 27-12 victory on a day when the Bulldogs had three open weights. Concordia’s lineup sets up more favorably for Friday when it could feature as many as four nationally-ranked competitors. Junior Walker Fisher cracked the national rankings in late December and carries a six-match win streak at 174 pounds into this week. The Bulldogs could get a big boost at 133 if eighth-ranked Giovanni Castillo is able to make a return from injury.

The headlining performer for the Warriors is David Berg, ranked second nationally at 141 pounds. Berg placed third in the 133-pound bracket of the 2017 NAIA national championships. Two other 2017 national qualifiers – Paul Longshore (149) and Cooper Self (174) – could also be part of Midland’s lineup on Friday. The Warriors, who own conference wins over Jamestown and Doane, are coached by Dana Vote. Credited with successfully rebuilding Concordia’s wrestling program, Vote will return to Walz Arena for the first time since he led the Bulldogs to a GPAC tournament championship in Seward in February 2016.

Concordia and Midland were the GPAC’s highest finishers at the 2017 national championships. The Warriors placed seventh while the Bulldogs finished 15th. Both schools advanced a wrestler to a national title match. Francisco finished as the heavyweight national runner up while Midland’s Scottie Bonds took home the 149-pound title.

Projected lineups

Concordia (4-5, 1-0)
125 – Jerry Stepps III (9-13)
133 – No. 8 Giovanni Castillo (5-3)
141 – Cameron Devers (18-3) / Chris Kimball (10-8)
149 – Cody Lambert (16-15)
157 – Jared Woods (13-9)
165 – No. 12 Jon Lado (10-5) / Kirk Kaliszewski (6-13)
174 – No. 19 Walker Fisher (16-5)
184 – No. 10 Josh Nelsen (15-9) / Darrin Miller (17-9)
197 – Open
285 – Michael Duffy (5-5)

Midland (3-3, 2-1)
125 – Julian Gaytan / DeVante Williams
133 – Godwin Cutler
141 – No. 2 David Berg
149 – Jake Wilson / Paul Longshore
157 – No. 19 Dominique Evans
165 – Stephon Gray / Jahwon Akui
174 – Cooper Self
184 – Gage Hartline
197 – Adam Ball
285 – No. 10 Aaron Rafalko