Nationals preview: eight Bulldogs set to convene in Wichita

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 2, 2020 in Wrestling

NAIA Wrestling Website

SEWARD, Neb. – Eight Concordia University wrestling national qualifiers will test out a new venue as the national tournament shifts to Park City, Kan. Hartman Arena will be the location for the 2020 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, which will unfold Friday and Saturday (March 6-7). The first session on Friday is slated to get underway at 10 a.m. CT. The 63rd annual event will include a total of 240 wrestlers from the 68 programs that make up NAIA men’s wrestling.

The eight qualifiers for head coach Levi Calhoun’s squad is increase from the five competitors that ventured to the 2019 national championships. A year ago, Alberto Garcia placed fourth nationally at 133 pounds and earned All-America honors. As a team, the Bulldogs placed 26th in the NAIA. The current Concordia team is coming off a GPAC tournament title in its most recent outing.

Garcia is one of three Concordia national qualifiers with previous experience at the NAIA tournament. At 174 pounds, senior Deandre Chery will make his third trip to nationals. Meanwhile, senior Chris Kimball (141) is back at nationals after qualifying in 2018. Five Bulldogs will be new to the national scene: junior Gabe Crawford (157), senior Tanner Farmer (285), senior Darrin Miller (184), senior Blake Sang (Castillo) (174) and sophomore Mario Ybarra (125). Crawford, Farmer and Ybarra each won GPAC titles in their respective weight classes.

The NAIA attaches seed rankings to the top 12 qualifiers in each weight class. Farmer (22-0) is seeded second at heavyweight and Garcia is seeded 10th at 133 pounds. The other six Concordia wrestlers will play underdog roles as unseeded competitors. Collectively, they will attempt to extend the program’s string of six-straight years with at least one All-American. In the history of the program, 10 different individuals have combined for a total of 15 All-America awards. Ken Burkhardt Jr. is the only Bulldog to achieve All-America status three times while Andrew Schulte (2016) is the program’s first and only national champion.

Concordia’s eight 2020 national qualifiers is two off the school record for a single year. From 2014 through 2018, the Bulldogs placed in the top 25 at the NAIA National Championships each year: 22nd in 2014, 12th in 2015, eighth in 2016, 15th in 2017 and 22nd in 2018. The eighth-place claim in 2016 remains the program’s highest ever finish at nationals. That particular team put three individuals on the podium.

The brackets are subject to change and are not considered official until ratified by the NAIA-Wrestling Coaches’ Association Bracketing Committee. Official brackets are planned for release on Thursday, March 5. The championship matches of each class will be viewable via

2020 Concordia National Qualifiers

Deandre Chery, Sr. | 174 | Miami Gardens, Fla.
*Third nationals appearance (2-4 record at nationals)
2019-20 Record: 18-9 (11 pins)
NAIA National Seed: Unseeded
First match: vs. (6) Levi Perry, Corban (Ore.)

Gabe Crawford,  Jr. | 157 | Virginia Beach, Va.
*First nationals appearance
2019-20 Record: 17-11 (2 pins)
NAIA National Seed: Unseeded
First match: vs. (4) Dalton Jensen, Grand View (Iowa)

Tanner Farmer, Sr. | 285 | Highland, Ill.
*First nationals appearance
2019-20 Record: 22-0 (9 pins)
NAIA National Seed: 2nd
First match: vs. Noel Orozco, Eastern Oregon

Alberto Garcia, Sr. | 133 | Escondido, Calif.
*Second nationals appearance (2019 All-American; 3-2 record at nationals)
2019-20 Record: 4-2
NAIA National Seed: 10th
First match: vs. Brent Newcomer, Midway (Ky.)

Chris Kimball, Sr. | 141 | San Marcos, Calif.
*Second nationals appearance (3-2 record at nationals)
2019-20 Record: 16-8 (3 pins)
NAIA National Seed: Unseeded
First match: Zachary Durbin, Missouri Valley

Darrin Miller, Sr. | 184 | Othello, Wash.
*First nationals appearance
2019-20 Record: 16-6 (2 pins)
NAIA National Seed: Unseeded
First match: First-round bye; will face (3) Trevor Lawson of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) in second round

Blake Sang (Castillo), Sr. | 174 | Spring Hill, Fla.
*First nationals appearance
2019-20 Record: 21-16 (5 pins)
NAIA National Seed: Unseeded
First match: vs. (8) Tyler Blagg, Cleary (Mich.)

Mario Ybarra, So. | 125 | Scottsbluff, Neb.
*First nationals appearance
2019-20 Record: 20-7 (1 pin)
NAIA National Seed: Unseeded
First match: vs. (3) Kolby Milner, Reinhardt (Ga.)

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