SEWARD, Neb. – The 16th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team capped last week’s GPAC tournament title run with seven automatic national qualifiers. The suspense that spilled into this week surrounded whether senior 174-pounder Deandre Chery would earn an at-large berth. Good news filtered in just after 5 p.m. CT on Tuesday (Feb. 25) when the NAIA announced Chery as the eighth Bulldog qualifier in the field of NAIA Wrestling Championships competitors.
Chery actually has the most national tournament experience among Concordia’s eight qualifiers with two prior appearances. Fellow seniors Alberto Garcia (133) and Chris Kimball (141) will both be making their second appearances on the national stage. A year ago Garcia placed fourth at 133 pounds and garnered All-America recognition. Five Bulldogs will be first-timers at NAIA nationals: Mario Ybarra (125), Gabe Crawford (157), Blake Castillo (174), Darrin Miller (184) and Tanner Farmer (285).
Automatic berths were determined by using the final regular-season coaches’ poll. The GPAC received 19 automatic bids based on that poll. The conference was also awarded three wild cards and one national at-large. The entire NAIA qualifying field is complete with 240 wrestlers. Preliminary brackets will be announced on Friday by the NAIA.
Head coach Levi Calhoun’s 2019-20 squad swept GPAC regular-season and tournament titles and had three individual GPAC champs: Ybarra (125), Crawford (157) and Farmer (285). The eight national qualifiers (most among GPAC teams) represents a significant increase from the five qualifiers the program took to nationals in 2019. The school record for national qualifiers in a season is 10 (2015 and 2016).
The 63rd annual national championships will be held inside Hartman Arena in Park City, Kan., March 6-7. For more information on the national event, click HERE.
Concordia 2020 NAIA National Qualifiers
*125 – Mario Ybarra (20-7)
133 – Alberto Garcia (4-2): second career national appearance
141 – Chris Kimball (16-8): second career national appearance
*157 – Gabe Crawford (17-11)
*174 – Blake Castillo (21-16)
174 – Deandre Chery (18-9): third career national apperance
*184 – Darrin Miller (16-6)
*285 – Tanner Farmer (22-0)
*First time national qualifier