For Concordia University Wrestling, the past couple of seasons have been about following the lead of standouts Mario Ybarra and Jacob Telles and building towards a return to conference supremacy. It was another year of growth in 2021-22 as the Bulldogs placed sixth in the conference with a decidedly youthful roster. The senior day celebration in early February featured only two seniors – Ybarra and Issiah Burks.
While there have been growing pains, members of the program are anticipating that some of the struggles will lead to a payoff starting next season. The program’s new head coach (to be announced) will have a more experienced room to work with.
Said Coach Tyree Cox, “We are very excited about the progress these guys have made this year. A lot of guys got better at understanding the sport and being able to celebrate the little victories. Having Mario be a part of this program was huge, especially for the freshmen we had. They got to see how much hard work and dedication it takes to be successful at the national level. We are very excited for the future of this program with the guys we have and the guys we are bringing in. Our guys want to get better, and they are making the changes now.”
As a major highlight of the season, Ybarra and Telles represented the Bulldogs at the national tournament after top-three GPAC place finishes within their respective weight classes. Ybarra claimed 133-pound conference runner-up status at the GPAC Championships on his way to a third national tournament appearance in a row. As a team, Concordia went 6-6 overall in duals (3-5 GPAC) and competed in seven regular season tournaments.
Ybarra may have come up short in his bid to earn All-America honors for the second year in a row (placed seventh at 133 in 2021), he will graduate and depart as one of the most accomplished – and most respected – wrestlers in program history. In his career, Ybarra has been recognized as an NWCA Scholar All-American and a CoSIDA Academic All-District award winner. He also won the 125-pound GPAC title in 2020 and his 76 career wins rank as the fourth most in school history.
In the aftermath of a senior night victory, Ybarra said the following, “Family has been a big driving force for me throughout my wrestling career. They’ve always been there to support me – aunts, uncles and cousins, and obviously my parents. I just love that they’re there for the big moments. Tonight was a big moment for me – awesome that we got a win for the home crowd as well. It was a picture perfect night for my last dual in Friedrich Arena.”
At the close of the national tournament, former Head Wrestling Coach and current Assistant Athletic Director Levi Calhoun tweeted, “An unforgettable four years in this young man’s corner. Sad to see it come to an end, but so thankful for the hard work and dedication you gave every day for your team. One of the greats!” Teammate TJ Huber added, “Such an amazing teammate, wrestler, role model and just all-around amazing person. Love ya, Mario. Thanks for everything!”
The Scottsbluff, Neb., native Ybarra earned a 9-3 victory in the final home match of his career as part of senior night on Feb. 3. That date marked the most thrilling day of the season in terms of overall team success. The Bulldogs dominated York College, 31-9, while winning four matches with bonus points. Isaac Agabin (125) and Hunter Weimer (184) collected pins and Conner Burrus (141) and Burks (165) triumphed via technical fall. All that happened in front of a strong crowd bolstered by the presence of the Seward Wrestling Club.
Telles, who hails from Albuquerque, N.M., has already racked up 54 career victories, including a team high 21 wins in 2021-22. Telles was named Second Team All-GPAC this past season after landing on the first team as a freshman. It was also a solid season for Gretna, Neb., native TJ Huber, one of the team’s hardest workers. He finished with a record of 15-11 and placed fourth in the GPAC at 174 pounds. Below is a summary of the conference place finishes earned by Bulldogs in 2022:
· Mario Ybarra – 2nd (133)
· Jacob Telles – 3rd (285)
· Issiah Burks – 4th (165)
· TJ Huber – 4th (174)
· Jose Sanchez – 5th (165)
· Isaac Agabin – 6th (125)
Throughout the season, Concordia wrestlers combined for 28 tournament place finishes. The following Bulldogs won at least 10 matches: Jacob Telles (21-9), TJ Huber (15-11), Thomas Ivey (14-4), Mario Ybarra (14-5), Tavoris Smith (14-18), Mason Garcia (13-5), Isaac Agabin (12-15), Issiah Burks (12-11), Jose Sanchez (12-13) and Conner Burrus (10-9). Telles led the way with 10 pins.
Work is underway as the Bulldogs attempt to ascend back up the GPAC standings and send larger numbers to the national tournament. The blueprint is already in place for a program that celebrated GPAC championships in five out of six seasons from 2014 through 2020. Concordia just needs the right leader to help bring it back to prominence.