MITCHELL, S.D. – Ceron Francisco still has yet to lose in the early going in his senior season for the eighth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team. Francisco took home a 285-pound title for the second-straight tournament while again highlighting the efforts of the Bulldogs, who earned a total of five place finishes at Saturday’s Dakota Wesleyan University Open in Mitchell, S.D.
Twenty-five grapplers represented Concordia at the tournament. Twenty-one of them recorded at least one win on the day.
“I’m just so proud of these guys for grinding,” Nicola said. “They refuse to quit no matter how broken their bodies are feeling. We as a coaching staff have to take it upon ourselves to make sure we get these guys healed up.
“We’re on track with the goals that we have set for the season. The boys came to do work and they did just that. They just go so hard. They do everything we ask of them at practice.”
Francisco, now 9-0 on the year, defeated four NCAA Division II opponents as part of his run through the heavyweight bracket in Mitchell. In the championship match, Francisco dominated Augustana University’s (S.D.) Michael Lowman, winning by major decision, 12-2. It marked the third victory of the day that came by a major for Francisco, a 2015 All-American currently ranked No. 4 in the NAIA. Francisco appears poised for his best season yet.
After a pair of losses to highly-rated opponents last week, No. 1-ranked 133-pounder Kodie Cole got back on track on Saturday, advancing to the title bout. That’s where Cole suffered his only loss of the day – a 15-7 major decision at the hands of No. 8 Michael Andreano of Briar Cliff. It was an otherwise dominant outing for Cole, who earned pins in three of his four wins.
“He looked night and day different compared to how he competed last week,” Nicola said. “I was very proud to see the senior step up his game. He was always mat side cheering on his teammates as well.”
At 149, Foster Bunce rattled off four wins in a row before withdrawing from the title match that would have put him up against Augustana’s Colin Ayers. Bunce, ranked 11th in his weight class notched two pins on the day.
Other place finishers for Concordia were sophomore Alexander Reimers and senior Ken Burkhardt Jr., both at 197. The two were set to face each other in the third-place match, but the decision was made not to contest it. Burkhardt Jr. added three wins to his career total as he continues his pursuit of victory No. 100. Meanwhile, Reimers shook off a loss in his first match by pinning his next four opponents.
At 125, transfer Giovanni Castillo made his Concordia debut and won a pair of matches by decision before withdrawing. At that same weight, teammate Dmitri Smith posted three wins on the day.
The Bulldogs will return to action on Thursday (Nov. 17) when they travel to nearby York College for a dual with the 19th-ranked Panthers. In last season’s meeting with York in Seward, Concordia won going away, 38-8. The Bulldogs are 1-0 in duals this season having defeated Dakota Wesleyan, 51-0, on Friday.