DES MOINES, Iowa – Senior Alberto Garcia blazed into the national semifinals with a pair of upsets on the opening day of the 2019 NAIA Wrestling National Championships on Friday (March 1). The field included five Bulldogs, who each took the stage at the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Garcia is the lone Concordia representative still standing entering the final day of the event.
Garcia’s advancement ensures the program will have an All-American for the sixth year in a row. Head coach Levi Calhoun had hoped to put multiple grapplers on the podium, but the work of Garcia was a major bright spot on day one.
“Alberto came out on fire,” Calhoun said. “He came out and wrestled a really good match against (Julian) Gaytan and ended up getting the fall. It was really exciting. He was relentless today. He was continuously looking to score points. He never slowed down.”
Seeded 12th, Garcia tore through No. 5 Zach Durbin of Missouri Valley by major decision (10-2) before pinning Gaytan in the third period. Gaytan was a national finalist a year ago and was the 133-pound GPAC champion this season. The Palomar College transfer moved to 17-3 overall this season while becoming the 10th individual in program history to lock down All-America honors.
Concordia’s other four grapplers endured a less celebratory fate. Constants all season long, Deandre Chery (174) and Michael Stann (285) had their seasons end on Friday. Chery posted a win over Logan Bowen of University of Saint Mary (Kan.). That loss was sandwiched between defeats for Chery, who was seeded ninth. His elimination loss came at the hands of unseeded Noah Clary of Lourdes. Meanwhile, Stann went 0-2. He started his tournament by going up against the No. 1 rated heavyweight.
While ending his career, senior Walker finished earned his first ever win on the national stage. The 174-pounder from Ashland, Neb., toppled Sterling Griffin of Midway, 4-2, in the first round. Fisher then lost to a pair of seeded opponents to finish his run.
“Walker wrestled really tough,” Calhoun said. “He got taken down with literally one second left in that final match. He had a great tournament. I was just really excited to see him get to wrestle at nationals. He showed he’s able to compete with the best kids in the country. I’m really proud of his effort.”
Junior Zack Moistner was one of four Bulldogs to appear at nationals for the first time. He fell by technical fall and by pin at 133 pounds.
Garcia is still in the running for a national title. Andrew Schulte is the only Bulldog to ever win a national championship. He did so at 141 pounds in 2016. In order to get to the final, Garcia will have to get through top-seeded Shiquan Hall of Grand View University (Iowa). That match will likely begin at roughly 10:15 a.m. CST on Saturday. The winner will take on either Gresh Jones of Dickinson State or Erique Early of Indiana Tech.
Concordia All-Time All-Americans
Ken Burkhardt Jr. (2015, 2016, 2017)
Giovanni Castillo (2018)
Kodie Cole (2015, 2016)
Ceron Francisco (2015, 2017)
Alberto Garcia (2019)
Adam Joseph (2012)
Austin Mogg (2014)
Andrew Schulte (2015, *2016)
Julian Silva (2012)
Jacob Williams (2012)
*NAIA National Champion