KEARNEY, Neb. – Concordia freshman and Seward native Austin Fehlhafer has made a habit of ending matches early. He continued that trend on Saturday at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open, recording four more wins by fall on the way to a 174-pound amateur title and the open’s Outstanding Wrestler award. As a team, the Bulldogs’ 15 grapplers combined for a record of 23-28 with 11 pins.
In a tournament loaded with top-notch competition, Fehlhafer, a two-time state runner up at Seward High School, grew up quickly in only his second collegiate open.
“Austin had an unreal tournament,” second-year head coach Dana Vote said. “He wrestled tough all day. He had guys who battled him and he stayed strong. Austin took a huge step today. He completely dominated his opponents.
“I thought he could have a good day but I didn’t expect him to dominate like that.”
Fehlhafer (9-2), a two-time state runner up at Seward High School, went 5-0 on the day with only one of his matches lasting longer than 3:33. He picked up pins over Morningside’s Isaac Olson (3:33), Graceland’s Meredith Meador (1:31), South Dakota State’s Brady Ayers (0:40) and, finally, Colby Community College’s Jared Johnson (1:31) in the title match.
Of Fehlhafer’s nine wins on the season, eight have come by fall. He had a total of five pins on the week including his fall of Buena Vista’s Tyler Puls in 1:04 on Wednesday.
Ceron Francisco (5-4) also showed growth in coming up with three wins on Saturday – second behind only Fehlhafer among Bulldogs. After losing his first bout, the Fayettevill, N.C., native won his next three matches in making his way through the heavyweight consolation bracket. Francisco fell one round short of placing when he was pinned to complete his day.
“He is continuing to get better,” Vote said. “He is close to making a big leap with just a couple of improvements in his positioning.”
Twelve of Concordia’s 15 wrestlers at the open registered at least one win on the day. The showing marked a huge improvement over last season’s effort at the Nebraska-Kearney Open, an event Vote calls one of the toughest his team will face. The Bulldogs’ 23 wins were 19 more than their total from the 2012 tournament.
“Overall we wrestled all right,” Vote said. “We faced some adversity and struggled at times. We had some guys win some big matches and we battled in close matches. We need to continue to make progress with the little things.”
Two of Concordia’s nationally-ranked wrestlers did not compete as senior Austin Mogg (No. 8 at 125) and junior Emilio Rivera (No. 12 at 133) did not make the trip to Kearney.
The Bulldogs will break from competition until Thursday, Dec. 5 when they host No. 18 York College for a dual set to begin at 7:30 p.m. Concordia’s match will be preceded by a prep dual featuring Seward and York High Schools at 6 p.m. The Bulldogs opened up the dual schedule by defeating Buena Vista, 39-7, inside Walz Arena on Wednesday.