Bulldogs topple York in in-state top 15 matchup

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 10, 2015 in Wrestling

SEWARD, Neb. – The eighth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team made its 2015-16 home debut on Tuesday and flexed its muscles in a battle with neighboring and 11th-ranked York College. The Bulldogs won six of eight contested matches and routed the visiting Panthers, 38-8.

Fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad turned in wins over three nationally-ranked individuals from York and another that was coming off a tournament title over the weekend. Vote put eight NAIA-ranked grapplers on the mat in an impressive showing in front of a strong Walz crowd.

“It was a good start for us. We came out and wrestled strong,” Vote said. “Dmitri (Smith) came out of the gate and set the tone for the team. We wrestled hard and we wrestled with an attitude. We were a little bit tougher than we were last weekend and that’s what we were looking for. I think overall we took a step forward.”

The Bulldogs got pins from both senior Matt Atwood (184) and junior Jr Lule (157) as well as a major decision from junior heavyweight Ceron Francisco in a dominant conclusion to Tuesday night. The second half of the lineup took its cues from Smith (125) and junior Kodie Cole (133) at the top.

Smith, ranked 14th nationally at 125, drew Robert Ozuna, who had just captured the 125-pound title over the weekend at the Bethany College Open. Smith got out to an early advantage with a first-period takedown and edged Ozuna, 3-2, thanks to a late escape.

“Wrestling is different when I get in front of my fans and get to wrestle in front of them,” Smith said. “I think (the early takedown) is what decided the match. Our coach emphasizes us to try to go hard and attack anybody we wrestle.”

Some of the night’s best drama came at 133, where two NAIA All-Americans went toe-to-toe. The fourth-ranked Cole blitzed Oscar Marin (No. 4 at 125 pounds) with a takedown and two nearfall points in the third period to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Cole grinned and the flexed after winning a 6-4 decision.

At 157, No. 12 Lule overwhelmed No. 7 Chrystian Banuelos with a takedown and four nearfall points in the opening period. Just 1:47 had elapsed wen Lule wiped out Banuelos by fall. Atwood was every bit as merciless, jumping out to an 8-0 advantage before pinning Noah Manly in a swift 184-pound bout.

Francisco, who made a surprise run to the national semifinals at this past March’s national championships, ended the dual in style. He recorded four takedowns and eight total nearfall points in dismantling 12th-ranked Jeff Albers. Francisco won by a 18-3 technical fall decision, surrendering all three points by escape.

“You look up and down our lineup we’re pretty solid all the way through,” Vote said. “You look at a lot of teams and they have weights where they’re a little weak, but I feel confident with all 10 guys going in that we put ourselves in position to win every match.”

Other winners for Concordia on Tuesday were 165-pounder Tommy Bailey (4-2 decision over Austin Coy), Foster Bunce (141; forfeit) and Travian Cooke (174, forfeit). Returning All-American Andrew Schulte got pinned in 4:20 by York’s sixth-ranked Willie Fox at 149 pounds. In addition, Bulldog 197-pounder Ken Burkhardt Jr. was clipped, 4-3, in a hotly-contested match that was decided in a second tiebreaker.

Concordia had been 0-4 in duals with York since the Bulldog wrestling program resurrected in 2009.

The Bulldogs return to action on Saturday at the Dakota Wesleyan University Open in Mitchell, S.D. The tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Last week seven Bulldogs earned place finishes at the Grand View University Open.