PARK CITY, Kan. – The presence of senior Tanner Farmer caused a stir among onlookers on day one of the 2020 NAIA Wrestling National Championships. In action on Friday (March 6) near Wichita, Kan., Farmer won three matches while advancing to the semifinals of the heavyweight bracket. Senior Alberto Garcia followed suit at 133 in headlining the performances of eight national qualifiers for the GPAC champion Concordia University wrestling team.
Second-year head coach Levi Calhoun’s squad took the most qualifiers of any GPAC program to the national stage. With the first day in the books, the Bulldogs currently sit 13th in team scoring with 25.5 points.
“Overall I’m thrilled with the effort of all eight of our guys,” Calhoun said. “I’m heartbroken for Mario (Ybarra) and Chris (Kimball) dropping close matches in the blood round. Those losses are the toughest to take. I’m excited to see Tanner and ‘Berto compete for a spot in the national championship match tomorrow. Both of them have the talent and mental toughness to punch their ticket to the big stage.”
There were plenty of mentions made throughout the day of Farmer’s recent past as a starter on the Nebraska Cornhusker football team. The plotline for Farmer (25-0) grew thicker on Friday evening when he squeaked by seventh-ranked Aaron Johnson of Cumberlands (Ky.), 2-1, in the quarterfinals. In the previous rounds, Farmer earned a 5-0 decision and a pin. He did not allow any offensive points on the day. Later he was interviewed by Track Wrestling.
Seeded 10th at 133, Garcia is out to make up for time he lost this season (only six matches wrestled entering the weekend). He was a fourth-place finisher and All-American at the 2019 national tournament. Garcia avenged his third-place loss from last season in upsetting second-seeded Gresh Jones of Dickinson State (N.D.). Each of Garcia’s victories on Friday came by decision.
“It means a lot to me (to get back to the semifinals),” Garcia said. “I’ve been working hard for this for almost 10 years. Last year I wrestled against Gresh Jones and I fell short of third place. It was icing on the cake to be able to defeat him today.”
As mentioned by Calhoun, Kimball (141) and Ybarra (125) came up one win shy of earning podium finishes. Ybarra made a splash early in the day by upsetting No. 3 seed Koby Milner of Reinhardt (Ga.). Ybarra then won in sudden victory in round two as part of his first appearance on the national stage. Unfortunately, Ybarra was upended by the by decision in his next two bouts – the last one by a 2-1 score. Meanwhile, Kimball bounced back nicely from a first-round loss with two wins, including a pin of sixth-rated Bryce Nickel of Cumberlands. Kimball then relinquished a lead to No. 9 Jody McAlister in the blood round and was edged in sudden victory.
Kimball’s career has come to a conclusion – as is the case for fellow seniors in three-time national qualifier Deandre Chery (174), Blake Sang (last name formerly Castillo | 174) and Darrin Miller (184). They each went 0-2 on the day and were eliminated. The same happened for 157-pound GPAC champion Gabe Crawford, a junior from Virginia Beach, Va. Five of Concordia’s qualifiers had never appeared at the national tournament.
Saturday will mark the second and final day of the national championship tournament. The morning session is slated to get underway at 10 a.m. CT. Championship matches will begin at 6 p.m. and will be viewable live via ESPN3.com. Garcia will take on No. 6 Austin Wallace-Lister of Warner Pacific (Ore.) in the semifinals while Farmer will go head-to-head with sixth-rated Justin Harbison of Providence (Mont.) in the heavyweight semifinal bout.
In program history, two Bulldogs have reached the national final – Andrew Schulte (141-pound national champion in 2016) and Ceron Francisco (heavyweight national runner up in 2017). With Farmer and Garcia clinching All-America honors, Concordia will have at least one All-American for the seventh year in a row.