Francisco upsets way to semis to highlight impressive day 1 at national championships

By on Mar. 6, 2015 in Wrestling

Francisco upsets way to semis to highlight impressive day 1 at national championships

TOPEKA, Kan. – A group of 10 Bulldogs produced a combined 40 points and four individuals advanced to Saturday’s All-America rounds as part of day one of the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships. Sophomore Ceron Francisco stole the show for the 10th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team by upsetting the seventh and second-rated heavyweights on his way to a semifinal berth.

Boosted by Francisco’s big day, Concordia enters Saturday in sixth place (one point out of fifth). The lofty standing was also made possible by the likes of Ken Burkhardt Jr., Kodie Cole and Andrew Schulte in a strong Friday performance from third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad.

“I thought we wrestled hard. Of course you have some close matches that you’d like to have back,” Vote said. “I think overall we had a good day. We went out and battled hard and wrestled tough. Some guys really stepped up. We said all along we want to put ourselves in position to be in the top five. Right now we’re one point out of fifth place. We’re right in the hunt.”

In his first-ever match at the national championships, Francisco (31-14), an at-large qualifier, burst onto the national scene with wins over three ranked wrestlers: Grand View University’s No. 7 Jacob Laden, 3-2, Melo College’s second-ranked Scott Brasil (pin, 8:55) and Life’s No. 14 Tracy Jewett, 3-2. After the long bout with Brasil ended with the Fayetteville, N.C., native’s sixth pin of the season, Francisco leapt into the arms of graduate assistant coach Tyler Kacmarysnki and pounded his chest, announcing his legitimacy at the national championships.

In session 2, Francisco guaranteed an All-America honor with a late takedown that allowed him to edge Jewett. A fan favorite, Francisco’s surprise run to the semifinals produced a loud ovation from a strong group of Bulldog supporters who made the trip. Among those supporters were Francisco’s mother and grandmother, who watched Ceron in person for the first time since he became a collegiate wrestler.

“All my coaches believe in me,” Francisco said. “I’ve got good partners in the room and we have the best facilities. I knew nobody worked harder than me. Even if they did, I just felt like I wanted it more. I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me.

“I didn’t want to let (my mom and grandmother) down.”

Schulte, a dominant performer since becoming eligible after transferring from Santa Ana College, continued his roll. The native of Corona, Calif., won by major decision over both Oklahoma City’s 14th-ranked Parker Bohannan, 13-5, and No. 9 Steele Escobedo, 9-1, of Menlo College. Schulte (19-2) will face top-ranked Brandon Wright of Grand View on Saturday in the semifinals of the 141-pound bracket.

Cole (17-6), a national qualifier at 133 pounds for the second-straight year, extended his personal win streak to 12 with his 4-1 decision over No. 14 Brian Ha of Menlo College in his first match of the day. After a 10-3 loss to fifth-ranked Jacob Colon of Grand View, seventh-ranked Cole (17-6) then topped Graceland’s No. 11 Cartland Allen, 7-0, to lock down his first career All-America claim.

In one of the final bouts of the entire day, Burkhardt Jr. (33-16) snuck past York’s Logan Paul Eickhoff, 6-5, to secure an All-America finish of his own. The Milford native went 4-1 on the day with a trio of victories over nationally-ranked foes. Burkhardt also appeared at the 2014 national tournament.

On the other hand, 149-pound senior Enrique Barajas saw his fortunes fade after he won two matches to push himself into the quarterfinals. That’s where he fell 6-2 to eighth-ranked Ryan Martin of Great Falls. Barajas was then eliminated by Bethany’s Victor Hughes in a 5-4 decision. Barajas, the 2014-15 GPAC wrestler of the year, concluded his season with a record of 27-10.

Senior Emilio Rivera (28-11) also saw his Bulldog career come to an end on Friday. The 2013-14 GPAC wrestler of the year dropped his final two bouts after pinning Missouri Valley’s Ryan Stearns. In two seasons at Concordia, Rivera went a combined 51-19 with two national tournament qualifications.

Both Jr Lule (149) and Austin Fehlhafer (184) were eliminated on Friday after dropping their two bouts during session one. Twelfth-ranked sophomore Dmitri Smith (125) and 13th-ranked junior DJ McIntyre (285) went were bounced from the tournament during the evening session and also went winless.

Day 2 of the national championships pick back up at 10 a.m. CT from the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. All wrestlers who advanced to Saturday’s action have already assured themselves of All-America recognition.

“I feel like we’re good enough to wrestle with anyone in the country,” Vote said. “Ceron has a tough guy, but Ceron’s tough too, and he’s wrestled solid in this tournament. He continues to do that. I think they both (Ceron and Andrew) have a shot at the finals. Kodie and Ken have to keep fighting and keep climbing the stand. They’re on the stand and now we want to work towards that third-place finish.”

View updated brackets HERE. For a national perspective of Friday’s action, click HERE.

Team standings (top 10)


Grand View 



Great Falls 



Lindsey Wilson 



Southern Oregon 



Oklahoma City 









Dickinson State 



Missouri Valley 



Montana State-Northern