YORK, Neb. – Concordia junior Nick Sheppard continued his impressive run of late by pinning York’s Joe Massey in 6:18 at Thursday night’s dual in York, Neb. The Bulldogs won four of the seven contested matches over the host Panthers before York ultimately secured a 29-21 victory at the Freeman Center.
“I think we wrestled tough,” Concordia head coach Dana Vote said. “I said going into the dual we weren’t worried about team score. We were worried about winning more matches than them. We wanted to come out with at least four victories and we did that.”
Sheppard, who had wrestled at either 165 or 174 all season, moved up to 184 on Thursday. Massey took a 3-0 lead into the third period after gaining three near fall points in the second period. Sheppard, a native of Engelwood, Colo., then stunned the home crowd with a sudden strike that eliminated Massey with :42 left in the final period.
“I keep my mindset positive and keep going with the punches,” Sheppard said. “I rely on my physical stamina. I’ve got to credit the coaches with that. I feel like I just wear guys out and find openings to capitalize on.”
With the victory, Sheppard picked up his second-consecutive dual win following last week’s 11-10 decision over Northwestern’s Yutaka Rodriguez at 174.
“The biggest thing with him is continued to wrestle,” Vote said. “That’s what I stress to my guys – seven minutes. Just continue to wrestle for seven minutes. We knew coming in these guys were going to get tired. He just had to keep forcing it and he ended up getting the win.”
Senior Brandon Starkey also picked up where he left off from last Thursday’s team dual triumph over Northwestern. He moved back to his customary 157-pound weight class against York and squeaked out a 4-3 decision over Bryan Magno. Starkey (16-10) came back from a modest 2-1 deficit after the first period to nab his seventh win in his last nine matches.
Faced with a 12-0 team deficit, Alex Stepanek (16-15) got the Bulldogs on the board at 141 with an impressive 7-1 decision over Wes Negley. Stepanek controlled the match throughout and tacked on a point for riding time. In doing so, the native of St. Paul, Neb., avenged a loss to York in the Nov. 29 dual when he fell 9-0 to A.J. Jaramillo.
Senior Frank Ayala (16-15) notched Concordia’s last win of the night in the heavyweight bout. Just like the first time around in a dual meet against York’s Raymond Johnson, this match went down to the wire. Ayala just looked to hold position as the third period buzzer sounded, giving the West Covina, Calif., native an 8-7 decision. Ayala, who lost to Johnson in their most recent battle, defeated his York counterpart 5-4 back on Nov. 29.
“Those guys are doing a great job,” Vote said of Ayala, Starkey and Stepanek. “Frank got beat by him the last time they wrestled. Johnson’s been ranked pretty high. That was a big win for confidence for Frank. Him and Brandon have just been huge leaders for the program as far as stepping out in duals and getting wins. Stepanek has been the same way. These guys just keep working each day.”
Sheppard, who is glad to be back on the mat after missing a large portion of this season with an injury, complimented his teammates for their hard work in the wrestling room. That devotion to the “championship lifestyle” has turned into better results despite a roster low in numbers.
“I’ve got to give credit to all my teammates,” Sheppard said. “I see them all in the room. They bust it as hard as they can. They’re a lot of the reason I’m doing so good right now, because they push me. They’re out there fighting win or lose and I’ve just got to give them respect.”
York’s 16th-ranked Nicholas Clarke was a runaway winner by technical fall at 149 over Martin Dobler. The Panthers got pins from Kyle Wichman at 165 and by Bradlee Carls, who clinched the dual win with a fall in 1:34 against Cameron Bruce at 197.
Concordia hits the mats for what Vote believes will be his team’s most difficult challenge all season on at the Grand View Open on Saturday. The field includes host and NAIA No. 1-ranked Grand View as well as individuals from NCAA Division I squads like Iowa, Iowa State and Nebraska. Action in Des Moines will begin at 9 a.m. Live results will be available at TrackWrestling.com.