The Concordia University wrestling team had eight team members meet the NAIA qualifying standards for the NAIA National wrestling championships at the Dan Harris Open hosted by Baker University.
Jake Williams (Rio Rancho, N.M.) placed first at 133 pounds. Adam Joseph (Hastings, Neb.) placed third at 133 pounds. Alex Stepanek (St. Paul, Neb.) placed second at 141 pounds. Brandon Starkey (St. Paul, Neb.) secured his third trip to nationals by placing fourth 149 pounds. Freshman Traven Claflin (Sumner, Neb.) placed fifth at 157 pounds. Junior college All-American Boxer Torres, wrestling up a weight class, placed fifth at 184 pounds. Julian Silva (Covina, Calif.) placed third at 197 after dropping his opening round bout, and Dillon Heesch (Dayton, Iowa) had a solid tournament, placing second at 285 pounds.
Jake Williams had a career day, going 5-0 at 133 pounds. Williams recorded four falls and a 17-2 technical fall over Nathan Galloway of Shorter University in the finals. Williams wrestled unattached in the Open tournament. Teammate Adam Joseph finished in third place at 133 pounds with his only loss coming to Williams in the semi-finals. Joseph started the season with a 5-1 record and secured his second trip to the NAIA National Championships.
Alex Stepanek had an outstanding day at 141 pounds. Stepanek, who won the 141-pound starting position in wrestle-offs 10 days ago, continued to dominance with a second place finish on Sunday with four falls in just 11:44. The sophomore is now planning a trip to Iowa in early March for the national championships. High School teammate Brandon Starkey also punched his ticket to the championships. Starkey placed fourth at 149 pounds, picking up a technical fall, a pin, a major decision, and decision during the tournament.
A pair of freshmen from Sumner had a great start to their collegiate careers. Traven Claflin placed fifth at 157 pounds. Claflin went 5-2 on the day, qualifying for the national championships. John Frerichs placed sixth at 149, placing one spot shy of qualifying. Frerichs picked up four solid wins; three decisions and a technical fall in his college debut.
Alfredo Torres placed fifth at 184. Torres, who ranked fifth in the nation at 174 pounds, missed weight and had to wrestle up a weight class. Torres won his first two matches and then dropped a 6-5 overtime thriller that went 11 minutes. Torres bounced back after a tough loss to meet the qualifying standards. Torres wrestled unattached in the Open event.
Julian Silva, the No. 1 seed at 197 pounds, lost his opening round bout by one point and then reeled off five straight decisions to place third. Silva also wrestled unattached in the Open tournament.
Dillon Heesch, the eighth ranked heavyweight in the nation, placed second. After winning three straight matches by fall with two decisions, Heesch dropped a 3-1 decision to Baker’s All-American heavyweight Dylan Berg. Heesch also competed unattached in the Open tournament.
“We were quite happy with the performance,” noted head wrestling coach Doug Reese. “The team members showed their superior conditioning level and mental toughness. That is what stands out most in my mind today. They overcame a lot and wrestled well in the first competition. It shows they were prepared mentally and physically for whatever was thrown at us.”
Also wrestling well at the Dan Harris Open was freshman LeSean Sanders of Oklahoma City, who went 2-2 at 149 pounds. Blake Augustyn (Ord, Neb.) went 2-2 at 165 pounds, and Seth Crane (North Platte, Neb.) went 3-2 at 184 pounds. Brandon Roath (Lincoln, Neb.), Nick Sheppard (Edgewood, Colo.) and Cale Hintz (Hebron, Neb.) also picked up wins on the day.
The Bulldogs will continue the season next Saturday, November 12th at the Knox Invitational in Illinois. Wrestling action starts at 9 am. A number of wrestlers will also compete unattached at the Harold Nichols Open at Iowa State University on November 13 with wrestling scheduled to begin at 9 am.