SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University Wrestling team knew it had little margin for error while up against Morningside in Thursday (Dec. 10)’s home opener inside Friedrich Arena. The visiting Mustangs snapped a GPAC dual win streak of 10 for the Bulldogs by taking six of 10 matches, including three with bonus points. Concordia junior Issiah Burks managed to edge a nationally-ranked opponent in what amounted to a 28-12 team loss.
Members of the Bulldog program have had more than just wrestling on their minds this week. Head Coach Levi Calhoun has been away from the team following the loss of his mother. Assistant coach Tyree Cox took the lead on Thursday.
“It’s definitely been a crazy week-and-a-half,” Cox said. “We’re trying to support Coach Calhoun as much as possible and try to take as much of a load off him as we can and give him his space and his time to be with his family. It’s taken a lot of help from our athletic directors, our athletic trainers and our strength and conditioning coach. I appreciate all the people who have helped out while Coach Calhoun has been gone. It’s been amazing.”
In the four matches Concordia (2-2, 2-1 GPAC) won, it had to scrap and claw and come through in the waning moments of the third period. From a ratings perspective, Burks produced one of the more significant victories of his career in holding off NAIA 13th-ranked John Diener at 157 pounds. Burks collected all of his points in the 3-2 win in the final period. In similar fashion, freshmen Jeaven Scdoris (149) and Jacob Telles (285) eked out victories courtesy of takedowns just before the clock ticked out.
A captain and a veteran on this roster, Burks could be in line for a bid to nationals this season. He’s working to try to set the tone for a youthful team.
“Coach Calhoun sent an email about how he was leaving (temporarily),” Burks said. “We, as captains, took it as we have to be more accountable for ourselves. With us being a young team, we have to mentor the guys and just talk to them. We still had to hold each other accountable and wrestle hard for each other.”
A state champion at Milford High School, Scdoris showed growth in a match he nearly put away with a pin. A monster effort in the third period allowed him to rally for the 9-7 decision over Noah Styskal. To wrap up the night, Telles (16-4) pushed his team high season win count to 16. Telles topped Derrell Zagurski thanks to an escape and a takedown in the third period.
Returning GPAC champion Mario Ybarra (141) put the first Concordia win of the night on the board. Ybarra (8-1) moved his personal win streak to eight with a 3-2 squeaker over Ethan Sorenson. At 165, senior Gabe Crawford (ranked 14th in the NAIA) came up short an 8-6 loss to the Mustangs’ Caleb Connor.
Morningside (1-0) has had a light schedule to this point. In their first dual of the season, the Mustangs racked up big team points with the help of Evan Shell (tech. fall at 125), Jonah Egli (tech. fall at 174) and Kasten Grape (pin at 197). Head Coach Jake Stevenson’s squad went 6-2 last season in GPAC duals.
Cox and the coaching staff hope to see continued growth as the season moves on. The Bulldogs (43-5 in GPAC duals since the start of 2014-15) are used to reigning atop the conference.
“We have a good group going forward,” Cox said. “They’re all pretty young. We have two seniors right now so we’re going to be getting better. We’re taking some lumps right now, but I think in the future we’re going to be a team to be reckoned with and get back to where Concordia is used to being.”
Next up on the schedule are the Concordia Bulldog Duals set for Saturday, Dec. 19 inside Friedrich Arena. The full slate for that event will be publicized early next week. Consistent with local COVID-19 health guidelines, Concordia will allow up to 25 percent capacity in the arena.