SEWARD, Neb. – Fans who were anticipating the Bulldog debut of Tanner Farmer had to wait until the end of the evening on Thursday (Jan. 9). Once he got his chance, Farmer managed to eke out the heavyweight match as one of seven victors for the home team in the first appearance of 2020 for the 18th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team. The Bulldogs held off visiting Ottawa University (Kan.), 24-15, inside Walz Arena.
Head coach Levi Calhoun’s squad claimed victory in what was a matchup between reigning regular-season champions of the GPAC and Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. Concordia is now 6-2 in dual meets. The Bulldogs had not been in action since the Desert Duals Classic on Dec. 22.
“They came back and went right back to work,” Calhoun said. “We actually had a few injuries moving into today, so we had a few new guys in the lineup. We faced a little adversity so I’m really happy with how our guys handled it. We had guys bumped around and they did a really good job.”
Coached by former NAIA national champion Colby Crank, the Braves (5-2) present a significant challenge while featuring a deep lineup full of competitors ranked highly at the conference level. While the heavyweight bout may have been the most anticipated one of the night, Bulldogs at several other weights shined. At 157, senior Gabe Crawford rallied from a 9-5 deficit after the second period for an upset of NAIA 10th-ranked Ryan Delforge.
Crawford went on the attack in the third period, which saw him put 10 points on the board, including six via near falls. Crawford’s key victory was part of a stretch of five Concordia wins in the first six matches of the dual. That run also included an impressive 18-3 win via technical fall for Cameron Devers at 149. Devers piled up 10 near-fall points.
“Cam has been beat up all year and that was only his second match of the season,” Calhoun said. “He came out firing and was ready to go. We’re excited to see how he progresses through the season. The match of the night for me was Gabe Crawford. Down most of the match, he stayed resilient against a ranked opponent. That was a big victory for us.”
By the time Farmer stepped onto the mat, the Bulldogs held a 21-15 lead in the team score. Farmer fell behind 2-0 after getting taken down in the first period. The former Cornhusker football offensive lineman eventually pulled out a 3-2 triumph over 20th-ranked Lex Plummer with the help of riding time. Farmer excited the crowd with a couple of big lifts.
Farmer is relishing the chance to compete collegiately for one more semester. He spent this past fall as a volunteer assistant football coach for Concordia. Said Farmer, “This is just an amazing university, amazing staff … I kind of felt I had found my calling in coaching after I had lost my opportunities as a player. Then I found out I could have another semester as an athlete.”
Freshman Giancarlo Facio began the night by taking a major decision (13-3) at 125. Other Bulldogs to win by decision were 18th-ranked senior Zack Moistner (141), junior Issiah Burks (165) and 16th-ranked senior Darrin Miller (184). Meanwhile, Ottawa got pins from Bobby Robinson (133) and No. 11 Carson Savage (197).
Select members of the team will be in action on Saturday at the Cusatis Open hosted by Hastings College. The tournament will take place at Hastings High School with action set to get underway at 9 a.m. CT. The next duals will be Jan. 25 when the Bulldogs will go head-to-head against four GPAC opponents in Crete, Neb., on that single day.