MITCHELL, S.D. – Twenty-one Bulldogs combined for seven place finishes, five semifinal appearances and a total of 48 wins for head coach Dana Vote’s 15th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team at Saturday’s Dakota Wesleyan Open in Mitchell, S.D. Bulldog grapplers doubled up with top-six finishes in both the 133- and 285-pound brackets as part of their second tournament of the 2014-15 season.
“We came out and attacked and wrestled with a sense of urgency,” Vote said. “Us and Augustana pretty much dominated the day. We had five make it to the semifinals, which is pretty impressive for a 360-man tournament. I thought it was an outstanding day.”
Both Eric Franklin (ranked No. 8 nationally) and Emilio Rivera (ranked No. 7) made bids for the 133-pound title. Franklin won three-straight matches on his way to the first-place bout that saw him suffer his only defeat of the day – a 7-5 decision against South Dakota State’s Ben Gillette. Franklin, a transfer from Ellsworth Community College, took second place by stacking wins over Morningside’s Alexander Schmitz (D, 9-2) and Keegan Williams (MD, 15-4) and Grand View’s Jacob Colon (disqualified with Franklin leading 14-5).
Rivera’s only loss also came at the hands of Gillette. Rivera won three-consecutive matches before meeting Gillette in the semifinals. Rivera bounced back from the 12-7 semifinal loss by defeating Southwest Minnesota State’s Jordan Biehn (D, 6-4) and Cody Peters (D, 8-4) for a third-place finish and 5-1 record on the day.
“Both guys wrestled tough,” Vote said of Franklin and Rivera. “They just have to work on maintaining leads. That was one of the stories of the day.”
Ceron Francisco (285) and Noel Richardson (184) won six matches apiece to lead the Bulldogs at the Dakota Wesleyan Open. They both placed fourth in their respective weight classes. Francisco pinned three of his opponents on his way to the third-place heavyweight bout. Richardson won six of his first seven matches before running into second-ranked Rulin Pederson of Morningside (for the second time) in the third-place bout.
“Noel Richardson had a great day,” Vote said. “It was huge for him. He’s definitely improving. He’s really making gains. I see the potential for big things for him.”
At 197, Ken Burkhardt Jr. also claimed fourth place. Ranked No. 9 in his weight class, Burkhardt Jr. twice defeated No. 11 AJ Mott, of top-ranked Grand View, by decision, avenging a loss to Mott at the 2014 national championships. Burkhardt narrowly lost in the third-place match, 2-1, to Northern State University’s Joe Gomez as part of a 3-2 day.
In addition, Foster Bunce (141) and DJ McIntyre (285) earned sixth-place finishes. Bunce won his first three matches before falling in the semifinals and again in the consolation. Meanwhile, McIntyre also reached the semifinals of his bracket before falling for the first time on Saturday. Included in McIntyre’s run was a pin (1:27) of Southwest Minnesota State’s Lucas Damm.
Senior Enrique Barajas (ranked seventh at 149), who turned in an impressive fifth-place finish at last week’s loaded Harold Nichols Open at Iowa State University, just missed a place finish in the 157-pound bracket at Dakota Wesleyan. The native of Hayward, Calif., still managed to add three wins to his season total. One of those victories came over No. 13 Jonathan Blackwell of Bethany College by a 3-2 decision.
Robert Mata (149) and Austin Starkey (157) also collected three wins apiece on Saturday. Starkey’s two losses came to nationally-ranked NAIA opponents.
Of the 21 Bulldogs who competed on Saturday, 19 recorded at least one win. They posted a collective record of 48-40 with 10 wins coming via fall.
The Dakota Wesleyan Open featured representation from 29 institutions, including every GPAC school that sponsors wrestling with the exception of Midland.
The Bulldogs open up the GPAC dual schedule on Tuesday when they travel to Crete to take on Doane at 7 p.m. The Tigers began conference action by defeating Dakota Wesleyan, 38-15, in Mitchell on Thursday. The win marked the first against a conference opponent since Doane’s wrestling program got started last season.