SEWARD, Neb. – Four Bulldog wrestlers notched individual wins on Thursday night despite visiting Briar Cliff coming away with a 30-12 victory. The dual marked the GPAC opener for head coach Dana Vote’s grapplers, who claimed individual victories at 141, 157, 165 and 174.
“Frank Ayala avenged a loss to a kid that beat him right before Christmas so that was a big win for him. He’s looked good since Christmas break,” Vote said. “(Alex) Stepanek had a good match at 141, moving up a weight class and proving right away he can wrestle there. I’m satisfied with the way those two wrestled.”
Stepanek, a junior who wrestled at 133 in his first 25 matches this season, moved up to 141 to take on the Chargers’ Devin DeRocher. Stepanek, a native of St. Paul, Neb., controlled the match from start to finishing taking a 2-0 lead after his first period takedown and then a 4-0 lead at the end of two periods with a reversal. Stepanek (13-13) finished with a 7-2 victory, with a point added for riding time.
“I didn’t know what to expect going in. I just bumped up weight classes this week with a difference in strength,” Stepanek said. “The good thing for me is that he actually is a 133-pounder but bumped up for this dual.
“I felt good going in, more energy. There was one spot where he got the points that I wasn’t feeling too good right there, but otherwise I felt like was doing great the whole match.”
With Concordia trailing 18-3 after four matches, the Starkey brothers claimed the next two victories at 157 and 165 for the Bulldogs. Brandon (157) got an early takedown of the Chargers’ Aaron Largey and then added to his lead with an escape and a takedown in the second period for a 5-1 advantage. The St. Paul, Neb., native got one more takedown in the final period for a 7-2 triumph, his 10th of the season and 63rd of his career.
Brandon’s younger brother Austin faced a 7-2 first period deficit in his bout with Dillon Freeman at 165. Austin came back to within 7-6 at the end of the second period before scoring a pair of takedowns in the third period that allowed for an 11-11 tie. Starkey completed a 13-11 overtime win to move to 11-8 on the season.
“Austin Starkey has all kinds of talent,” Vote said. “He can compete with anyone. He’s just got to get his mind straight and go out and compete. Just be a little more consistent is the big thing with him. We know he can compete with anyone in the country. We’ve just got to get him to do it on a daily basis.”
Concordia fell behind 30-9 going into the heavyweight match in which the Bulldogs’ Ayala shook off a defeat to the Chargers’ Brian Ervin earlier this season for a better result this time around. The Concordia senior from West Covina, Calif., took a 6-4 decision on Thursday thanks to a reversal and a takedown in the third period following a 2-2 tie at the conclusion of two periods. Ayala improved to 11-14 on the season.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs suffered back-to-back close losses at 174 and 184 where Nick Sheppard and Kale Hintz both fell by just two points. Hintz’s loss came by a 6-4 score in overtime when Briar Cliff’s Dan Harvey ended the match with a takedown.
Concordia won four of the eight bouts that were contested. The Bulldogs had open weights at 125 and 133.
Briar Cliff’s Joseph Weber (149) and Jordan Watkins (197) recorded the only two pins on the night.
For Vote, the improvements his team must make are clear.
“We definitely need to improve on putting things together. We’re hitting one move and we’re stopping,” Vote said. “We’re not continuing to wrestle in positions. That’s where we’re continuing to struggle. We’re definitely competing for seven minutes. That’s where we’re improving.”
The Bulldogs are back in action on Saturday at the Quality Hotel Open hosted by Hastings College. The individual bracket-style event will get started at 9 a.m. Concordia will return to Walz Arena on Jan. 17 when it welcomes Northwestern to Seward for another GPAC dual.