SEWARD, Neb. – The de facto GPAC championship match proved no contest. The seventh-ranked Concordia University wrestling team bludgeoned visiting Morningside, ruler of the GPAC from 2011-14, by a final count of 32-7 inside Walz Arena on Thursday night. The Bulldogs (13-4, 7-0 GPAC) won eight bouts on the way to celebrating a second-straight undefeated run through conference dual action.
The latest accomplishment is another feather in the cap of fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s program, which finished 12th at last year’s NAIA national championships. From the bottom up, Vote built a program that has now won 14-straight GPAC duals.
“It was about getting kids to buy in,” Vote said. “I came in with a vision for the program with where we wanted to go. I went out and found kids and told them what our plan is. I told them if you buy in this is what’s going to happen. It’s a process. I don’t think we’re where I want to be yet, but we’re building in that direction.”
The stars didn’t disappoint for the Bulldogs on Thursday. Senior Jr Lule and junior Andrew Schulte continued their ruination of conference opponents, both claiming wins by technical fall. Schulte tore apart Lane Nicholas with five first-period takedowns before breaking his opponent in the second period. The NAIA’s No. 1-ranked 141-pounder breezed to his 18th-straight win by a 22-5 score. Schulte, like Lule, finished 7-0 in conference duals.
Schulte (32-6) has yet to be part of a Concordia team that suffers a defeat to a conference rival.
“It means a lot, honestly,” Schulte said of the second GPAC dual title in a row. “To be a part of something like this, I’m grateful, period. That’s it. I’m just grateful.”
Lule (30-7) has not taken a backseat to his top-ranked teammate. Lule, ranked seventh at 157, came within an eyelash of a pin of the Mustangs’ Dakota Drenth in amassing 14 total near fall points. Drenth couldn’t last a full two periods against the red-hot Lule, who joined Schulte in the 30-win club in his final collegiate dual.
Four Bulldogs registered major decisions on the night, including Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) and Ceron Francisco (285). Both did big work late in the third period. Francisco (25-13) nearly brought the roof off with a takedown in the closing seconds that secured a major decision over Erick Carrillo. The match prior, Burkhardt Jr. (24-11) held a slim 6-4 lead before exploding with a takedown and a four-point near fall to claim the major.
The evening began at 184 pounds, where No. 11 Matt Atwood got Concordia started right with a victory by major decision, 12-2. Atwood also produced clutch third-period takedowns to run away with four team points. The other Bulldog major decision was delivered by 174-pounder Travian Cooke.
Triumphs by decision were recorded by Concordia’s Kodie Cole (133) and Tommy Bailey (165). They were part of an impressive team performance that nearly accomplished Vote’s aim – send a message by winning all 10.
“It was a good performance by the guys,” Vote said. “Honestly I think we could have won all 10. That’s just our expectation as a team, but I saw a lot out of guys. We’re building leads and putting matches away. Morningside’s a good team and we took it to them.”
The Mustangs (6-4, 5-2 GPAC) entered the night hopeful of a win and a share of the GPAC dual title. Morningside won three-straight conference championships before being dethroned by the Bulldogs last season. The Mustangs, whose only other conference loss this season came at Northwestern, settled for a tie for second place in the league standings.
The dual season is over the Bulldogs, whose most significant outings are yet to come. They will now prepare to host the NAIA North Group Qualifying Tournament (which includes all eight GPAC wrestling institutions) on Saturday, Feb. 20. National tournament berths will be on the line at the regional event.