SEWARD, Neb. – On a special night that brought the Seward and York communities together at Walz Arena, the No. 23-rated Concordia wrestling team came agonizingly close to toppling 18th-ranked York College. The Panthers reeled off wins in the final three weight classes to clip the Bulldogs, 20-19, in Seward on Thursday. A battle on the mat between Seward and York High Schools preceded the collegiate match.
With another large home crowd on hand, second-year head coach Dana Vote had hoped to take out York in a budding rivalry. However, the Panthers were the more experienced squad, and it showed according to Vote.
“No. 1, coming off Thanksgiving break this was our first competition,” Vote said. “No. 2, I think youth showed tonight. We were this close in a lot of situations. We weren’t finishing periods. We weren’t finishing shots.”
“We lost probably three matches that we should have won, that we were realistically in. We gave up points late and it hurts.”
The outcome came down to the final bout where Concordia’s Ceron Francisco and York’s 11th-ranked Saia Lotulelei squared off at heavyweight. Francisco never led as Lotulelei took control in the first period with a takedown and two back points on the way to a 5-1 win. That edged York in front by a single point to end the night.
The heavyweight loss capped off a tough night for the Bulldogs, who received the benefit of two York forfeits at 165 and 174. The Panthers, led by head coach Ramon Diaz, found a way to win virtually all of the close matches and came out on top in six of eight contested weight classes.
After Concordia’s eighth-ranked Austin Mogg (125) dropped an intense 10-9 match to No. 11 Oscar Marin to begin the dual, the Bulldogs bit back with their most impressive individual effort of the evening. At 133, No. 12 Emilio Rivera (9-3) scored six takedowns and two three-point near falls in a 19-5 major decision over York’s Brandon Brown.
Concordia’s other contested victory came at 141 where 15th-ranked freshman Foster Bunce (6-4) held off Bryan Magno for a 4-2 victory. Bunce, a wildly successful prep in the state of Michigan, got all he needed with a first-period takedown and then a reversal in the second period.
Vote liked what he saw out of both Rivera and Bunce.
“Emilio wrestled great. He was three seconds away from having a tech fall,” Vote said. “Foster came out and scored early. We didn’t finish strong but we still got the W. Both of those guys did a great job tonight.”
Five of the eight contested matches came down to mere decisions. The Bulldogs’ four losses by decision had margins of one, one, four and six points. Concordia fell a single point short at both 125 and at 197.
Despite an offensive approach that resulted in a takedown just a few seconds after the opening whistle, Mogg was unable to prevail over Marin, whom he topped 5-3 at the Swede Open on Nov. 9.
Rivera believes he and his teammates will eventually overcome the errors that played a role in Thursday’s outcome.
“We let those little mistakes get to us at the end and that’s what cost us the whole dual meet,” Rivera said. “But we’ll be seeing these guys again. We’ll get them.”
Seward native Austin Fehlhafer, who entered the night red hot, did not get the chance to wrestle in front of the large hometown crowd due to a York forfeit at 174. Fehlhafer improved to 10-2 on the season.
In the front end of the dual doubleheader, York High School defeated Seward High School by a count of 42-35.
The Bulldogs will be in action again on Saturday when they travel to Storm Lake, Iowa, for the Buena Vista University Open. The tournament gets underway at 9 a.m. Live results can be followed online via Track Wrestling.