AMES, Iowa – Twenty-two Bulldog wrestlers opened the 2014-15 season at the Harold Nichols Open hosted by Iowa State University on Saturday. Senior Enrique Barajas highlighted the day with a fifth-place finish at 157 and former junior college All-American Eric Franklin began his Concordia career with a win by major decision in a tournament loaded with NCAA Division I and II competitors.
A total of 10 newcomers made their Bulldog debuts for third-year head coach Dana Vote’s 15th-nationally ranked squad.
“Overall it was a solid day,” Vote said. “We performed pretty well, but you could tell it was our first time out all year. We had some jitters. We’re going to go back to work and clean some things up. This was the toughest tournament we’ll wrestle all year.”
Barajas, who went 18-16 and qualified for the national championships in his first season at Concordia in 2013-14, won five matches at the Harold Nichols Open. On the way to his fifth-place claim, the native of Hayward, Calif., won by a 3-2 decision over St. Cloud State’s Jay Hildreth, a 2014 NCAA Division II All-American (fourth place). Barajas also pinned Indiana University’s Alex Gregory (3:36) as part of an impressive day.
In the fifth-place match, Barajas won his second bout by major decision, topping St. Cloud State’s Travis Holt, 15-3.
“Enrique wrestled outstanding,” Vote said. “He had a great day wrestling against some really good competition. He performed at a real high level.”
Franklin (Tampa, Fla.) and reigning GPAC wrestler of the year Emilio Rivera both won a pair of matches in the 133-pound bracket. Franklin began his Bulldog career by winning a major decision, 13-5, over the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s Ryan Bauer. The former Ellsworth Community College grappler also earned a 5-2 decision over the University of Missouri’s Nickolas Nasenbeny.
Meanwhile, Rivera began his season with a pin of Iowa Western Community College’s Sergio Lopez. He followed that performance with a victory by decision, 5-3, over Joseph Gillham of Nebraska-Kearney.
At 197, sophomore Ken Burkhardt Jr. collected both of his wins by fall, wiping out both teammate Michael Duffy (1:24) and Central College’s Matt Seabold (3:22). Sophomore heavyweight Ceron Francisco (two wins by major decision) and senior 184-pounder Kale Hintz (one pin) also came up with two wins apiece.
Another five Bulldogs registered one win on Saturday: freshman Jerry Stepps (125), junior Brock Dalton (141), junior Austin Starkey (165), freshman Michael Duffy (197) and junior DJ McIntyre (HWT).
The Bulldogs resume competition next Saturday when they travel to the Dakota Wesleyan Open in Mitchell, S.D. The action is set to get started at 9 a.m.