SEWARD, Neb. – The 10th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team used a 21-6 takedown advantage and a 15-3 edge in back points to move to 2-0 in GPAC duals. A large Walz crowd saw the Bulldogs take care of No. 15 Midland, 32-9, in Seward on Thursday night.
Head coach Dana Vote’s squad, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA’s North Group, won seven of 10 matches over the Warriors to improve to 3-1 overall in dual meets.
“We definitely did a great job of coming out and pushing the pace and forcing our style on them,” Vote said. “We wrestled with high energy, something we haven’t really done a whole lot in duals yet this year. It was definitely a huge positive for us. We were coming out each match and forcing our style and it paid off.”
Three of Thursday’s matches featured a pair of ranked wrestlers going head-to-head. One of those bouts came at 174 pounds, where sixth-ranked sophomore Austin Fehlhafer earned a 12-3 major decision over No. 8 Tyler McMichael, a 2014 NAIA All-American. Fehlhafer piled up 11 points in the second period by racking up two takedowns and seven total back points. The Seward native’s second win of the season clinched the team victory, putting Concordia up 28-3 at the time.
“It doesn’t matter who it is, I go out there and wrestle the way I wrestle,” Fehlhafer said. “The start was a little rough. I got taken down right away. I was a little sloppy. I should have done a little bit better, but I’m coming around.”
On a night that came without a pin on either side, senior Enrique Barajas (11-5) put forth the most dominant effort. Ranked sixth nationally at 149 pounds, the native of Heyward, Calif., won by technical fall, 21-5, over Midland’s Cooper Self at 157. Barajas went on the offensive immediately and led 13-3 after posting five takedowns and three nearfall points in the opening period en route to his team-leading 11th win. Barajas totaled seven takedowns in the match.
Of the remaining six contested weights, Concordia picked up wins at 125, 165, and 285. Making his first appearance of the season in a dual meet, heavyweight DJ McIntyre (No. 6 in the North Group) came within an eyelash of pinning Aaron Rafalko before settling for a 12-2 major decision. McIntyre notched five back points and then tacked on riding time as he pushed his overall mark to 5-6.
Sophomore Dmitri Smith got Concordia off to a promising start with his 10-4 decision over Anthony Norez at 125 pounds. Smith (2-5) got two takedowns in the first period and then one apiece in the second and third periods to put three team points on the board.
No. 16 Austin Starkey edged his record above .500 (6-5) with a 10-2 major decision over Jonah Hoshino. Starkey got a late takedown and then added a point for riding time for his first win by major decision of the young season.
At 133, Concordia’s fifth-ranked Eric Franklin went toe-to-toe with No. 2 Josh Heinzer, 2014 national runner up at 125 pounds. Franklin led 1-0 after two periods, but relinquished the advantage when Heinzer recorded an escape and a decisive takedown in the final period. In the other matchup of ranked combatants, No. 5 Kolton Kerston of Midland won by a 6-0 decision over Concordia’s Ken Burkhardt Jr. at 197.
Both 141-pounder Emilio Rivera (10-3) and 149-pounder Foster Bunce (5-5) were credited with wins via forfeit.
Vote likes the look of his team after GPAC dual wins over Doane and Midland. Five conference duals remain on the schedule.
“I like where we’re at,” Vote said. “I think we’re putting ourselves in position to accomplish our goal of winning the GPAC championship. Right now we’re wrestling tough. We’re making guys battle. If someone’s going to beat us, they’re going to have to bring their best game.”
The Bulldogs return to tournament action on Saturday when they compete at the Buena University Open in Storm Lake, Iowa. At the same tournament last season, Concordia turned in a total of eight place finishes and 36 combined wins.