SEWARD, Neb. – The Bulldogs and first-year head coach Dana Vote struggled to a 36-12 defeat in Concordia’s 2012-13 home opening wrestling dual on Thursday. Visiting and 17th-ranked York College (1-0) spoiled the party by racing out to a 21-0 lead to open the match.
“I think we had a good atmosphere. There were fans here and people got excited,” Vote said. “We were out-matched tonight, but the biggest thing I told the guys from the start is that we have to go out and we’ve got to fight for seven minutes. We’ve got to make them earn those wins, and I think we did it.”
On a night with few individual triumphs for the Bulldogs (0-1), freshman Austin Starkey (3-2) continued to look surprisingly comfortable in only the fifth match of his young collegiate career. The rookie looked like anything but as he scored a 6-4 upset of the NAIA’s fourth-ranked grappler at 157 in the Panthers’ Robert Eklund. Starkey’s decision got Concordia on the board and brought life to the Walz Arena crowd.
“I just went in there knowing what I had to do,” Starkey said. “I just kept working. Coach has been on us that we have to fight in every position and that’s what I did.
“I just had to keep on him and try to wear him out. Coach said we were going to be in better shape than they were so I just kept working on him, and I got him there.”
The young Starkey caught the attention of Vote immediately in practice and burst onto the scene with a great performance at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Open on Nov. 17. Starkey built upon his near miss against the second-ranked JUCO in the nation at 157 to pull off Thursday’s stunner.
“It was a huge win for him,” Vote said. “He’s just getting tougher each day. I think he’s going to keep improving. Right now we just have some small adjustments to make and I think he can wrestle with anybody in the country.”
Sophomore Seth Crane recorded the Bulldogs’ only pin of the night when he nailed down York’s Joey Massay at the edge of the mat in 2:36. Crane, a native of North Platte, Neb., who is ranked No. 14 in the NAIA at 184, improved to 5-4 on the season and racked up his second pin.
“Seth is really picking it up in the room,” Vote said. “I think he’s becoming a leader. He’s starting to show his leadership through hard work. It shows on the mat. He’s getting better each day. I think he’s one of the guys that’s really made huge improvements from last year.”
Heavyweight Frank Ayala (5-4) then concluded the night by staving off the Panthers’ Raymond Johnson 5-4, providing Concordia’s final tallies. Ayala, a senior from West Covina, Calif., bounced back admirably after going 0-2 against tough competition at the UNK Open.
Nationally-ranked York, coached by former Concordia assistant Ramon Diaz, brought five ranked wrestlers into Thursday’s competition. Collectively, the Panthers took four of five decisions in those weight classes with pins by sixth-ranked Joshua Lopez at 141 and by 10th-ranked Bradlee Carls at 197.
The lopsided loss leaves the Bulldogs with plenty of things to work on, but Vote is confident his group will get back to the room and get after it.
“I told the guys we have to work on positions – winning the small battles and not giving up easy points,” Vote said. “We have to make guys earn every point they get so we have to make small adjustments, fight the positions. We have to earn the points and we have to win by out-toughing guys.”
Concordia now faces a quick turnaround as it prepares for the Simpson College Invite on Saturday. The action from Indianola, Iowa, will pick up at 9 a.m. Live video of mats 1 and 2 can be seen HERE. Live results will be provided by Track Wrestling.