KEARNEY, Neb. – A group of 23 Concordia University wrestlers combined for 44 victories and four place finishes at the annual University of Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open held in Kearney, Neb., on Saturday. For the second time in three years, the Bulldogs produced the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Junior Ceron Francisco took the honor by winning heavyweight bracket.
Francisco continues to make massive strides as a Bulldog. Inexperienced as a wrestler coming out of high school, the product of Fayetteville, N.C., earned All-America honors last season and is ranked No. 4 nationally in his weight class. “Ceron wrestled really well. He was very dominant. He didn’t give up an offensive score the whole day,” said fourth-year head coach Dana Vote.
Francisco won each of his three matches on the day, all against NCAA Division II opponents. He worked Mick Dougharity of Western State Colorado University by major decision (12-2), then got past Adams State’s Amer Tipura, 11-6, before a 7-4 win over Central Missouri’s Nick Lovejoy in the title bout. The performance marked Francisco’s first career tournament championship and his fifth place finish as a Bulldog.
Additional place finishes were turned in by junior Tommy Bailey (fifth at 165), freshman Travian Cooke (fourth at 174) and junior Daniel Melcher (fifth at 149). Bailey and Melcher both claimed six victories while Cooke went 4-2.
Of the 23 Bulldogs that competed on Saturday, 18 recorded at least one win with 12 posting multiple triumphs. Standouts such as 2015 All-Americans Ken Burkhardt Jr., Kodie Cole and Andrew Schulte did not wrestle at UNK.
The Bulldogs will break for Thanksgiving week before returning to action the weekend of Dec. 4-5 with a trip to Great Falls, Mont., for dual action on day one. They will shift to a tournament format on the second day. Concordia will next appear at home on Jan. 21 when Doane visits Seward for a GPAC dual.