LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Making its first appearance in Las Vegas since 2014, the Concordia University wrestling program again put itself to the task against opponents from the Cascade Collegiate Conference. The action on Sunday (Dec. 22) at the annual Desert Duals Classic took place inside the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The Bulldogs defeated Vanguard University (Calif.) and Life Pacific University (Calif.) and was beaten by No. 9 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.) and Arizona Christian University.
2019 Desert Duals Classic Results
vs. Vanguard | W, 22-21
vs. (9) Embry-Riddle | L, 12-25
vs. Life Pacific | W, 31-17
vs. Arizona Christian | L, 21-22
Head coach Levi Calhoun’s squad had not competed since dominating Midland at home on Dec. 13. Concordia’s overall dual record stands at 5-2.
“Being able to see these teams from the Cascade Conference is valuable for our guys to see where we’re at on more of a national scale,” Calhoun said. “We’re not completely thrilled with the results, but I think the effort was there. There were just some little things that we need to improve upon to help us win the close matches that slipped away from us.”
Twelve Bulldogs took to the mat in Vegas and 10 of them claimed at least one victory on Sunday. In the opening dual that begin at 8 a.m. local time, Concordia fell behind 15-0 before winning five of the final seven matches while up against Vanguard. Heavyweight Michael Stann came through in the clutch with a third-period pin of 18th-ranked Joshua Sapien. Those six team points made it 21-21. The Bulldogs were credited with the team triumph based on criteria.
According to the rankings, Embry-Riddle posed the most significant challenge of the day. The Eagles boast eight nationally-ranked grapplers. At 174 pounds, second-ranked Daniel Butler of Embry-Riddle went head-to-head with Concordia’s ninth-ranked Deandre Chery. Butler edged Chery, 3-0. Stann also finished this particular dual off with a pin, but it was too little, too late in terms of team scoring. The Eagles were winners in seven of 10 matches.
In the third dual of the day, sophomores Mario Ybarra (125) and Issiah Burks (165) both turned in dominant victories. Ybarra won by major decision while Burks earned a pin. The Bulldogs were also the beneficiary of three forfeits and a Gabe Crawford victory by decision at 157. The Warriors had led the dual 14-4 after the first four matches.
Concordia narrowly fell in the final dual of the event despite a pin each from Zack Moistner (133), Burks (165) and Chery (174). Crawford also came out on top by decision at 157. The Bulldogs owned a 21-19 advantage in team scoring entering the heavyweight tussle. Arizona Christian’s Caleb Baker edged Stann, 7-2, to lift the Firestorm to the team triumph.
By day’s end, Concordia had earned wins in 18 of 40 individual matches (six pins). Crawford led the way by going 3-1. Five other Bulldogs notched exactly two victories: Burks, Darrin Miller, Moistner, Stann and Jason Watkins. Burks and Stann both turned in a pair of pins (Stann’s pins came over two ranked foes).
The experience will likely stand as a memorable one for all dozen Concordia wrestlers who made the trip. Said Calhoun, “It was a good experience overall. We got here and did some go-karting, which is really fun. The guys got to walk down the Vegas strip, see the lights and all the stuff. We had quite a few families here from California and a few others. We had a pretty decent support system for all our duals, which was nice to see. It was a pretty cool event to come and compete at.”
Dual action will continue after New Year’s when Concordia will host Ottawa University (Kan.) on Thursday, Jan. 9. The dual is slated for a 7 p.m. CT start from Walz Arena.