KEARNEY, Neb. – Concordia freshman Austin Starkey, wrestling collegiately for the first time, held his own against top-notch competition at Saturday’s University of Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open. While no Bulldogs made it to the medal stand, Starkey went 2-2 at 157 and took Labette Community College’s Jeromy Davenport (ranked as the No. 2 JUCO at 157) to overtime before falling 6-4.
“Austin was the main highlight for us today,” Concordia head coach Dana Vote said. “He wrestled some real good matches against great competition. His ability to scramble in certain situations really impressed me. If we can get him to turn the corner a little bit more he can make a big impact right away.”
The UNK Open included representatives from 43 different schools, including several quality NAIA programs as well as stout NCAA Division I and II squads. No team scores were kept at the event hosted by Nebraska Kearney, the top-ranked team at the NCAA Division II level. The open tournament featured both elite (mostly juniors and seniors) and amateur (mostly freshmen and sophomores) divisions.
Sophomore Seth Crane (184) took down an NCAA Division I foe in Air Force’s Vance Hawk by an 8-4 score. Crane, who placed fourth at 184 in last week’s Swede Open, completed the day at 1-2.
Freshman Chandler Brandert also picked up a win by topping New Mexico Highlands’ Dan Gaylor 6-2 at 141. Brandert also went 1-2 at the event.
After leading Concordia with a third-place individual finish at last week’s Swede Open, junior Alex Stepanek (133) went 0-2 with losses against University of Wyoming’s Kasey Garnhart by pin and versus Central Oklahoma’s Trison Graham by a 9-2 decision.
While Vote hoped for a little better results, he knew his Bulldogs were up against some of the nation’s top wrestlers.
“We wrestled against tough competition,” Vote said. “It was good to get out early and see what that kind of competition is all about. It shows us where we need to get.
“I expected a little more than we got today. We’re going to have to get back to the room and build upon this. We need to improve our scrambling and cut back on some of the mistakes we continue to make.”
Concordia, listed in the “others receiving votes” category in the preseason coaches’ poll, are off until Nov. 29 when the Bulldogs host 19th-ranked York for their first dual meet of the season. Action will get started at 7 p.m. The Panthers won last year’s meeting 37-15.