2014-15 Wrestling Schedule/Results

Dual Record - 9-4 overall; 7-0 GPAC (1st)
Season Stats

Oct. 31 Blue-White Halloween Scrimmage (Walz) Seward, Neb. 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 Harold Nichols Cyclone Open Ames, Iowa Results
Nov. 15 Dakota Wesleyan Open Mitchell, S.D. Results
Nov. 18 * Doane College - Dual Concordia webcast scheduled Crete, Neb. W, 35-12
Nov. 20 Buena Vista University - Dual Concordia webcast scheduled Storm Lake, Iowa W, 24-18
Nov. 22 UNK Holiday Inn Open Kearney, Neb. Results
Nov. 26 (1) Grand View University - Dual Des Moines, Iowa L, 3-39
Dec. 4 * (15) Midland University - Dual Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. W, 32-9
Dec. 6 Buena Vista Open Storm Lake, Iowa Results
Dec. 10 * (25) Northwestern College - Dual Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. W, 23-13
Desert Duals: Dec. 20 (all times Pacific) *Watch LIVE
Dec. 20 (7) Indiana Tech Las Vegas, Nev. L, 12-30
Dec. 20 (11) Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.) Las Vegas, Nev. L, 19-30
Dec. 20 (7) Oklahoma City University Las Vegas, Nev. L, 15-28
Dec. 20 (19) Wayland Baptist University (Texas) Las Vegas, Nev. W, 29-13
Jan. 10 Hastings College Open Hastings, Neb. Results
Jan. 16-17 Missouri Valley Invite Marshall, Mo. 6 of 24
Jan. 22 * Morningside College - Dual Sioux City, Iowa W, 29-12
Jan. 28 * Dakota Wesleyan University - Dual Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. W, 52-4
Feb. 3 * Briar Cliff University - Dual Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb.  W, 29-6
Feb. 7 Briar Cliff Open Sioux City, Iowa Results
Feb. 12 * Hastings College - Dual Concordia webcast scheduled (PE Gym) Seward, Neb. W, 42-3
Feb. 21 North Qualifying Group Tournament York, Neb. 1 of 14
March 6-7 NAIA National Championships Topeka, Kan. 12 of 43

2014-15 Bulldog Wrestling Roster

Wt.. Name Yr. Hometown Previous School
125 Dmitri Smith So. Beaumont, Calif. Beaumont HS
125 Jerry Stepps Fr. St. Louis, Mo. Hazelwood East HS
133 Cooper Bailey Fr. Hailey, Idaho Wood River HS
133 Kodie Cole So. Palmdale, Calif. Highland HS
133 Eric Franklin Jr. Tampa, Fla. Richard Spoto HS / Ellsworth CC
133 Emilio Rivera Sr. Escondido, Calif. San Marcos HS / Palomar College
141 Foster Bunce So. Munith, Mich. Dansville HS
141 Brock Dalton Jr. Springville, Utah Springville HS / Western Wyoming CC
141 Andrew Schulte So. Carona, Calif. Centennial HS / Santa Ana College
141 Jared Woods Fr. Durant, Okla. Durant HS
149 Enrique Barajas Sr. Hayward, Calif. Arroyo HS / Sacramento City CC
149 Clayton Hintz So. Hebron, Neb. Thayer Central HS
149 Kolton Larsen Fr. Lincoln, Neb. Lincoln North Star HS
149 Jr. Lule Jr. Blythe, Calif. Palo Verde HS / Palomar College
149 Robert Mata Jr. Escondido, Calif. Escondido HS / Palomar College
157 Tommy Bailey So. Hailey, Idaho Wood River HS
157 Austin Starkey Jr. St. Paul, Neb.  St. Paul HS
157 Tyler Swartz Jr. Alta Vista, Kan. Council Grove HS / Neosho County CC
165 Nicholas Boes Fr. Lincoln, Neb. Boys Town HS
165 Christopher Moran Fr. Sanger, Calif. Sanger HS
165/174 Caleb Worral Fr. Fargo, N.D. Fargo North HS
174 Jorge Alatorre Jr. Green River, Wyo. Green River HS / Western Wyoming CC
174 Austin Fehlhafer So. Seward, Neb. Seward HS
174 Warren Kropp Fr. Scott City, Kan. Scott City Community HS
174 Zachery Witt Fr. Chapman, Kan. Chapman HS
184 Kale Hintz Sr. Hebron, Neb. Thayer Central HS
184 Noel Richardson Jr. Junction City, Kan. Chapman HS / Merchant Marine Academy
197 Ken Burkhardt Jr. So. Milford, Neb. Milford HS
197 Matthew Casey Fr. Santa Cruz, Calif. Orange Lutheran HS
197 Michael Duffy Fr. Kennesaw, Neb. Kennesaw HS
HWT Tommy Andrews Jr. Dodge City, Kan. Dodge City HS / Neosho County CC
HWT Ceron Francisco Fr. Fayetteville, N.C. Douglas Byrd HS
HWT DJ McIntyre Jr. Marrero, La. John Ehret HS / Ellsworth CC

2014-15 wrestling schedule announced

SEWARD, Neb. – The 2014-15 Concordia University wrestling schedule went live on Wednesday afternoon. The newly released slate includes nine individual duals (seven within the GPAC), five open tournaments as well as a trip to the Desert Duals in Las Vegas for the second-straight year. View the entire schedule HERE.

The season is set to open on Nov. 8 with the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. The dual schedule begins at Doane College on Nov. 18 in a GPAC clash.

Both nonconference duals provide plenty of intrigue. The first one will be held at third-year head coach Dana Vote’s alma mater, Buena Vista University, on Nov. 20. Six days later Concordia will face a particularly stiff test as it hits the road to take on Grand View University, winner of the last three NAIA national titles.

The Bulldogs will also be at home for five duals – all against GPAC foes. The first will take place on Dec. 4 when Midland University comes to town.

This year’s North Qualifying Group Tournament will be staged Feb. 21 in Sioux City, Iowa. The 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will again be held at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. It will run March 6 and 7.

Last season the Bulldogs went 9-8 overall and 5-2 in GPAC duals (tie for second). They proceeded to place second in the North regional and then sent six individuals to the national championships where Concordia placed 22nd with 20 team points. Those facts marked a massive turnaround from the previous season – Vote’s first at the helm of the program.

Wrestling program steps up for Down syndrome in support of team fan

In support of one of its biggest fans, the Concordia University wrestling program participated in the Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk held Oct. 4 at Antelope Park in Lincoln, Neb. Head coach Dana Vote’s Bulldogs arrived prior to the start of the event at 8 a.m. to help run a variety of stations leading up to the walk at 9:30 a.m.

The team eagerly participated after learning about the fundraising event from the Fehlhafer family. Grant Fehlhafer, 11, who has Down syndrome, is the cousin of current Bulldog sophomore Austin Fehlhafer. With the help of the Concordia wrestlers, Grant’s group of walkers (“Grant’s Gang”) had the third most participants of any team at the event.

Grant, who often attends Bulldog wrestling meets and enjoys watching Austin compete, received a Concordia wrestling sweatshirt from the team, leaving him with an unmistakable grin.

“It’s awesome to see how our wrestling program is a special thing for Grant,” Vote said. “He really connects with watching Austin wrestle. I think it was very special to him for us to all be there. You could see the impact it had. You could see it in the picture we took with him in his wrestling shirt. He felt like he was part of the team. He was actually trying to wrestle a few of our guys.”

As his first cousin, it was important for Austin to be there for Grant.

“It was fun being there,” Austin said. “Grant is all about wrestling. Whenever I’m around he’s always trying to wrestle or grab my head. He comes to my meets so he’s always there for me. I was glad to be there for him and I know he was happy to see us. He really looks up to us as wrestlers.”

In turn, the Bulldogs were also rewarded for their community outreach efforts.

“They had a blast,” Vote said. “They love being around the kids, supporting them and being role models for them.”

Concordia wrestlers were active in the event as they served coffee and hot chocolate, ran stations with games, walked with the teams and handed out stickers to the walkers as they crossed the finish line.

This year’s Step Up for Down Syndrome Walk raised $86,913 for Down syndrome and saw more than 1,826 people participate in the walk.

As a program, Concordia wrestling also teamed up with Bulldog men’s basketball to move furniture from one facility to another for the Seward Ridgewood Rehab & Care Center in September.

“I think it’s very important (to get out in the community),” Vote said. “It’s team bonding. It gives them an opportunity to get out and help people and realize how big of an impact they can make on the community. I think the more projects we do the more excited our guys get about it because they see the impact they have on people.”

Bulldog wrestling continues upward trend with arrival of junior college All-Americans

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

It did not take long for head wrestling coach Dana Vote’s rebuilding efforts to come to fruition. In his second season leading the program, the Bulldogs soared all the way from sixth in 2012-13 into a tie for second in the GPAC dual standings in 2013-14. Concordia also vaulted from last in the North Qualifying Group all the way to second and sent six wrestlers to the 2014 NAIA Wrestling National Championships.

While the program graduated All-American Austin Mogg (125), expectations are growing thanks to the return of five national qualifiers and a 19-member recruiting class (see entire class list at bottom) that includes a trio of 2014 junior college All-Americans in Eric Franklin (Tampa, Fla.), Jr Lule (Blythe, Calif.) and Andrew Schulte (Corona, Calif.).

“I am very satisfied with the class that we have brought in,” Vote said. “I feel that the power of our recruiting class is going to be led by the three junior college All-American transfers. We have also brought in a very talented group of wrestlers. I have high expectations once again this season and believe we will do great things with the class that is coming in.”

Lule, a runner up at the California Community College state championships, wrestled at Palomar College alongside current Bulldog and 2013-14 GPAC wrestler of the year Emilio Rivera. That connection paved the way for Lule to land at Concordia.

“I knew about this school because of Emilio,” Lule said. “That got me interested. He told me nothing but good things about Concordia. I wanted to come and at least know someone at the school I went to.”

At 149 pounds, Lule expects to make some noise immediately just as Rivera did last year in his first season wearing the Bulldog singlet.

“My goal is to be an NAIA national champ,” Lule said. “I don’t want to get anything below that. I feel like you have to set your goals as high as you can to achieve big things. I always set them as high as possible. Last year my goal was to be a junior college state champion. I ended up getting second. I didn’t reach my goal but I was happy to be in the finals.”

Schulte also claimed a runner-up finish at the California Community College state championships in his career at Santa Ana College in California. In addition, the 141-pounder qualified for the state tournament three times during a stellar high school run at Centennial.

A confident pitch made by Vote won Schulte over in the recruiting process.

“I asked Coach Vote, ‘why did you recruit me?’” Schulte said. “He said, ‘I just believe in you.’ So to me that was enough.”

Other than experiencing a little soreness, Schulte likes the way the first official week of practice is going.

“It’s always exciting,” Schulte said. “It’s the first week and it’s worn on my body a little bit. That’s all right. Coach Vote has a plan and I’m excited to be part of it.”

Franklin represents yet another junior college All-American in the 2014-15 recruiting class. The Richard Spoto High School product produced a second and a third place state finish as a prep. He then qualified twice for the NJCAA national championships while at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa.

Vote saw Franklin firsthand when the then Panther grappler upended a Concordia opponent at last year’s Buena Vista Open in Storm Lake, Iowa. After qualifying for the 2014 NJCAA championships but not reaching the medal stand, Franklin is determined to end his first season as a Bulldog with some hardware.

“I wasn’t doing the best I could (last year),” Franklin said. “Coach Vote has given me an opportunity to come back and win a title. I’m just hoping to bring it home this year and for the next years to come. I just want to win.”

Franklin, who figures to wrestle at 133, believes he’s found the right atmosphere to foster that winning mindset.

“School is going great,” Franklin said. “I’ve got great teachers. I’ve got great teammates. We’re pushing each other every day to be better. I feel like we all have great chances of winning something and helping the team do well. We’re ready.”

Vote has also welcomed another Ellsworth transfer in the form of DJ McIntyre, a native of Marrero, La., as well as a nice haul of 11 high school standouts. There’s local flavor with Seward High School alum Tanner Oborny, a four-time state championships place finisher, but plenty of states are represented among the recruiting class members. The 19 newcomers hail from a total of 11 different states. There are four apiece from California and Kansas and three from Nebraska.

2014-15 Concordia wrestling recruiting class

Jorge Alatorre | Green River, Wyo. | Green River HS/Western Wyoming CC
-Three-time state championships qualifier
-Sixth-place state championships finish
-2014 NJCAA national championships qualifier (197)

Tommy Andrews | Dodge City, Kan. | Dodge City HS/Neosho County CC
-State championships qualifier
-NuWay High School All-American
-Junior college academic All-American (National Wrestling Coaches’ Association)

Cooper Bailey | Hailey, Idaho | Wood River HS
-Second place state championships finish
-Five-time freestyle state champion
-Three-time conference champion
-All-conference: football and lacrosse

Matthew Casey | Santa Cruz, Calif. | Orange Lutheran HS
-Ranked in top 32 of the state during senior year
-Mater Dei Tournament champion

Brock Dalton | Springville, Utah | Springville HS/Western Wyoming CC
-Sixth-place state championships finish

Michael Duffy | Kennesaw, Neb. | Kennesaw HS
-Three-time Nebraska state championships qualifier
-Two-time state place finisher (second, fifth)

Eric Franklin | Tampa, Fla. | Richard Spoto HS/Ellsworth CC
-Two-time state place finisher (second, third)
-Two-time NJCAA national championships qualifier
-NJCAA All-American (seventh)

Warren Kropp | Scott City, Kan. | Scott City Community HS
-Two-time state place finisher (third, fifth)
-First team Kansas Wrestling Coaches’ Association Senior Academic Team
-Member of 321A state championship team (2012) and academic state championship team (2013)

Kolton Larsen | Lincoln, Neb. | Lincoln North Star HS
-Two-time state championships qualifier
-Lincoln North Star season and career record holder for near falls and takedowns
-Academic all-state two years in a row in football, baseball and wrestling

Ascary “JR” Lule | Blythe, Calif. | Palo Verde HS/Palomar College
-Runner up at California Community College state championships

Dortanyia “DJ” McIntyre | Marrero, La. | John Ehret HS/Ellsworth CC
-Two-time state championships place finisher (second, fifth)
-Louisiana Classic Champion
-NJCAA national qualifier

Christopher Moran | Sanger, Calif. | Sanger HS
-Recorded four pins at state championships in a combined 6:02
-State championships place finisher (sixth)

Tanner Oborny | Seward, Neb. | Seward HS
-Four-time state championships qualifier
-Four-time state championships place finisher (third, fourth, third, second)

Andrew Schulte | Corona, Calif. | Centennial HS/Santa Ana College
-Two-time Southern Section Master’s champion
-Three-time high school state championships qualifier
-Runner up at California Community College State Championships 

Jerry Stepps | St. Louis, Mo. | Hazelwood East HS
-Career 105-24 varsity record
-Two time state championships qualifier 

Tyler Swartz | Alta Vista, Kan. | Council Grove HS/Neosho County CC
-Two-time state championships qualifier
-Two-time NWCA Academic All-American at Neosho CC
-2014 NJCAA Academic All-American – Exemplary Honors 

Zachery Witt | Chapman, Kan. | Chapman HS
-Two-time first team all-league
-State championships qualifier 

Jared Woods | Durant, Okla. | Durant HS
-Two-time conference tournament place finisher (first, third)
-State championships place finisher (fourth)

Caleb Worral | Fargo, N.D. | Fargo North HS
-Three-time academic all-state
-Two-time state championships place finisher (seventh fourth)


Bulldog wrestling garners preseason No. 1 North rating, No. 15 national rank

NAIA national rankings – NAIA group rankings

SEWARD, Neb. – The buzz the Concordia University wrestling program generated last season will carry into 2014-15 as the Bulldogs begin a new campaign with some lofty ratings. In the NAIA group polls released on Tuesday, Concordia appeared at No. 1 among 13 teams in the North. Then on Wednesday, the Bulldogs received a No. 15 preseason national ranking.

“We’re going to approach it the same way as we did before,” head coach Dana Vote said. “We’re going to come in every day ready to work, make gains and get a little bit better every day. You have to believe in the process more than the results.”

On an individual level, nine of Vote’s wrestlers find themselves ranked on the regional level. Another six Bulldogs have been given national preseason ratings. Both senior Enrique Barajas (149) and sophomore Austin Fehlhahfer (174) have received top billing in the North for their respective weight classes.

Concordia’s six nationally-ranked wrestlers:
*2013-14 Record
No. 7 Emilio Rivera (133); 23-8*
No. 8 Eric Franklin (133)
No. 16(t) Foster Bunce (141); 16-10*
No. 7 Enrique Barajas (149); 18-16*
No. 8 Austin Fehlhafer (174); 28-11*
No. 9 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197); 21-18* 

Concordia’s nine North Group-ranked wrestlers:
No. 6 Dmitri Smith (125); 13-13*
No. 2 Emilio Rivera (133); 23-8*
No. 3 Eric Franklin (133)
No. 4 Foster Bunce (141); 16-10*
No. 1 Enrique Barajas (149); 18-16*
No. 4 Austin Starkey (157); 15-19*
No. 1 Austin Fehlhafer (174); 28-11*
No. 2 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197); 21-18*
No. 5 DJ McIntyre (HWT) 

Barajas, Burkhardt Jr., Fehlhahfer, Rivera and Kodie Cole are all returning national qualifiers for Vote. Among those Bulldogs ranked either regionally or nationally, two are new to the program: junior college transfers Eric Franklin and DJ McIntyre. Vote also expects significant contributions from transfers Jr. Lule (149) and Andrew Schulte (141).

Last season Rivera and Fehlhafer burst onto the scene in their first seasons as Bulldogs. Rivera went 23-8 overall, won the 133-pound North Group title, was named GPAC wrestler of the year and qualified for the national championships. Meanwhile, Fehlhafer topped Concordia in both wins (28) and pins (20) while also qualifying for nationals as a freshman.

As a team, the Bulldogs are rated No. 1 among the eight GPAC institutions that sponsor wrestling (according to regional ratings). Defending conference champion Morningside checks in at fifth in the North Group and No. 19 in the national poll. Other nationally-rated teams in the North Group include No. 7 Midland, No. 13 William Penn (Iowa), No. 17 York and Morningside.

At the 2014 national championships, Concordia finished 22nd as a team. The Bulldogs cracked the coaches’ poll once last season, coming in at No. 20 in the final poll leading up to the national championships. The current national ranking of 15th is the highest for the program since it checked in at No. 10 in February 2012.

The Bulldogs will host a Blue-White Halloween Dual at 7:30 p.m. in the PE Gym on Oct. 31. Vote’s squad will officially open the season on Nov. 8 at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open, hosted by Iowa State University.

North Group rankings
1. Concordia – 140 points
2. William Penn (Iowa) – 124
3. York – 113
4. Midland – 92
5. Morningside – 84
6. Northwestern – 74
7. Briar Cliff – 67
8. Doane – 58
9. Jamestown (N.D.) – 51
10. Dakota Wesleyan – 30
11. Waldorf (Iowa) – 29
12. Hastings – 18
13. Graceland (Iowa) – 10

Season preview: 2014-15 wrestling

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

At a glance:
2013-14 Dual Record: 9-8 overall, 5-2 GPAC (T-2nd)
2014 NAIA National Championships finish: 22nd
2014 NAIA North Group finish: 2nd
Head Coach: Dana Vote (11-18 overall, 3rd year)
Key Returners: Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), Enrique Barajas (149), Kodie Cole (133), Austin Fehlhafer (174), Emilio Rivera (133)
Key Losses: Austin Mogg
Key Newcomers: Eric Franklin, Jr Lule, Andrew Schulte
2013-14 GPAC All-Conference: Emilio Rivera (wrestler of the year; first team), Austin Fehlhafer (first team), Enrique Barajas (honorable mention), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (honorable mention), Austin Mogg (honorable mention)
2013-14 NAIA All-American: Austin Mogg (125 – fifth place)
2013-14 NAIA National Qualifiers: Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), Enrique Barajas (149), Kodie Cole (133), Austin Fehlhafer (174), Austin Mogg (125), Emilio Rivera (133)

A palpable momentum permeates the Concordia University wrestling room, where third-year head coach Dana Vote has quickly built a program recognized as one of the best in the GPAC and in the NAIA’s North Group. Last season the Bulldogs jumped to second in both the GPAC and the North and sent six qualifiers to the national championships in what marked an impressive turnaround from the rebuilding campaign in Vote’s first season.

While it was an immensely positive step, the Bulldogs came away from the national championships disappointed. Several close losses on the big stage have kept them motivated throughout an offseason that has nearly drawn to a close.

“It was good for us,” Vote said of last year’s improvement. “I feel like it was a big step in the right direction as far as the program goes. We grew throughout the year. I know there was a lot of disappointment for us as a team at the national tournament. We lost a lot of close matches. We had six matches that were decided by one point or in overtime. That’s a lot of points we left on the table and I think that’s what has us hungry for this upcoming year.”

It did not take long for the Bulldogs to earn respect on the regional level. This preseason Concordia earned the No. 1 ranking in the North and a No. 15 national rating in the NAIA coaches’ poll. With five returning national qualifiers grouped with a collection of 19 newcomers, including three junior college All-Americans, Vote’s 2014-15 team will deal with something new: expectations.

That doesn’t mean the approach inside the room is any different.

“I think we approach it every day the same as we did before,” Vote said. “We come in ready to work and make gains. We want to get a little bit better every day and live that championship lifestyle. I tell these guys this isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. You have to believe in the process more than the results.”

Among the returners, senior Emilio Rivera (23-8) and freshman Austin Fehlhafer (28-11) enjoyed the most success last season. Rivera went 11-0 against conference wrestlers on the way to earning GPAC wrestler of the year honors. He then won the North group’s 133-pound title and qualified for the national championships. Meanwhile, Fehlhafer was a pinning machine in his first collegiate season following a standout career at Seward High School.

Rivera, ranked No. 7 in the NAIA at 133, has worked hard in the offseason and is thinking big after the disappointment of losing twice by a single point at the 2014 national championships.

“Nationals last year didn’t go how I wanted it to,” Rivera said. “I didn’t even place in the tournament and I was (ranked) pretty high up there. I’m trying to work harder this year and win it. I know it’s not going to be easy. I have it set in my mind what I have to do to achieve that.”

A lot will be expected of Fehlhafer, ranked eighth nationally at 174 pounds. A second place finisher at the regional tournament, Fehlhafer burst onto the scene with 20 pins (top-five in the NAIA) in his rookie season that included the Outstanding Wrestling award at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Open.

“I knew Austin was good coming in, I just didn’t know how good he would be, how fast,” Vote said. “He stepped in there right away and took off. He’s a competitor. He and Emilio are a lot alike in the fact that they get out there and they know how to compete. You could see him grow throughout the year. We have big expectations for him this year. I think he’s right in the hunt at 174 pounds. He can wrestle with anyone in the country.”

The Bulldogs possess four more preseason nationally-ranked wrestlers, in addition to Fehlhafer and Rivera. That list includes holdovers in senior Enrique Barajas (No. 7 at 149), sophomores Foster Bunce (No. 16 at 141) and Ken Burkhardt Jr. (No. 9 at 197) and junior Eric Franklin (No. 8 at 133), who joins the program via Ellsworth Community College (Iowa).

On a regional level, sophomore Dmitri Smith checks in at No. 6 at 125 pounds and newcomer DJ McIntyre, also a transfer from Ellsworth, garnered a No. 5 spot in the North at heavyweight.

Two other former junior college All-Americans – Andrew Schulte (141) and Jr. Lule (149) – will also impact the Bulldogs when they become eligible in the second semester. Vote hopes the transfers will make a seamless transition just as Rivera did last season.

“Those guys are tough,” Vote said. “They came in with a little experience and you can see it. They’re scrapping in the practice room and stepping up as leaders. Jr. Lule has been a great leader in the room as far as leading by example and taking charge and running drills and warm ups. Andrew Schulte looks real solid at 141. He’s a competitor. He goes hard every day. Whoever picks him as a partner knows they’re going to have a tough day at practice. And Franklin is as athletic as anyone in the country.”

Rivera says that the increased depth within the program has been a benefit to the entire team. Even as the reigning GPAC wrestler of the year, the Escondido, Calif., native knows he will have to bring it every day to compete with his teammates in the room.

“We do have a big recruiting class. They bring a lot of competition in the room,” Rivera said. “I like that. You get to wrestle different people and you get different styles. It’s not just the same person every time that you’re wrestling.”

As Vote points out, 2014 All-American Austin Mogg is the only Bulldog who scored at the regional meet that has moved on. Virtually all of the key pieces are back for a Concordia team that appears poised to be one of the favorites in the GPAC dual race as well as a serious threat to land inside the nation’s top 10 come March.

It’s been a meteoric rise for a program that had a roster of just 15 that Vote inherited in his first season in 2012-13. Now the biggest challenge facing Vote may be sifting through a deep team and deciding which 12 wrestlers to take to the North Qualifying Group Tournament on Feb. 21, 2015. The plan that was put into action two years ago is beginning to come to fruition.

“I think we’re definitely right there,” Vote said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We have to tie up our boots and come ready to work every day, but we’re there. We’re moving in the direction we need to. Obviously there’s a lot of work to be done between now and March, but I feel we’re moving in the direction we need to, to make that happen.”

The Bulldogs open the season Saturday, Nov. 8 at the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open hosted by Iowa State University. The demanding schedule also includes a return trip to the Desert Duals (Dec. 20) in Las Vegas, a spot in the Missouri Valley Invite (Jan. 16-17) and a dual with three-time defending national champion Grand View (Nov. 26). Says Vote, “As our team got better, we made our schedule a little tougher.”

Seven Bulldogs earn place finishes at Dakota Wesleyan Open

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.

Bulldogs claim seven matches on way to 35-12 win at Doane

CRETE, Neb. – The 15th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team used a workmanlike effort to take care of an improving Doane squad, 35-12, inside Fuhrer Field House in Crete, Neb., on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs got pins at 133 and 197 as part of a performance that included wins in seven of 10 bouts.

The victory opened up the dual season for a Concordia team that tied for second in the GPAC standings in 2013-14. Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s No. 1-ranked North Group outfit has lived up to preseason expectations thus far.

“It feels good to get that first dual win out of the way,” Vote said. “I thought we looked a little bit flat coming off two big tournaments to open the season. But our guys did some good things and were able to put a win on the board.”

Doane trailed just 10-8 following Martin Phillips’ win by technical fall over Brock Dalton at 149. The Bulldogs responded by winning five of the final six bouts, including Kale Hintz’s pin of one of the Tigers’ top wrestlers from a year ago in Kyle Hoffman at 197. Hintz, who normally competes at 184, moved up a weight in place of Ken Burkhardt Jr. Said Vote, “It was a really nice win for Kale.”

At 133, junior eighth-ranked Eric Franklin (6-3) picked up his first win by fall in the Bulldog singlet. The transfer from Ellsworth Community College wiped out Taylon Lienemann in 3:23 to follow up a second-place claim over the weekend at the Dakota Wesleyan Open.

“Franklin wrestled well,” Vote said. “He was tough. He scored points and got the pin. He got us going tonight.”

Noel Richardson continued his impressive early-season run at 184. The junior from Junction City, Kan., came up just short of a major decision by knocking off Austin Borne, 9-2. Richardson (7-4), who won six matches at the Dakota Wesleyan, needs only one more victory to equal his season total as a sophomore.

Sophomore Foster Bunce (ranked No. 16 at 141) and senior Enrique Barajas (ranked No. 7 at 149) both posted major decisions at their respective weights. Bunce (4-4) won by a 14-4 score while Barajas (9-4) came through with a 13-4 triumph at 157.

The Bulldogs also received two wins via forfeit. Junior Austin Starkey (165) and sophomore Ceron Francisco (285) both went unopposed on Tuesday night.

Doane had entered the match with a 2-0 dual mark that included wins over Regina (51-6) and Dakota Wesleyan (38-15). The Tigers have made significant strides since Concordia defeated them 39-6 in last year’s meeting in which Doane managed only three takedowns the entire night.

The Bulldogs close the week on Thursday with another road dual. Concordia will go head-to-head with NCAA Division III Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, at 7 p.m. In last season’s contest between the two teams, the Bulldogs won 39-7 in a match held in Seward. Thursday’s tilt will mark the first dual of the season for the Beavers.

Barajas, Burkhardt Jr. pins carry Bulldogs to win over Beavers

STORM LAKE, Iowa – Pins from Enrique Barajas and Ken Burkhardt Jr. allowed the 10th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team to earn a 24-18 dual win on the road despite splitting the 10 weight classes with host Buena Vista University. The Bulldogs (2-0) got two additional victories by decision and one by forfeit in winning for the second time this week.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad, which cracked the top 10 in the national rankings for the first time since February 2012, also defeated Doane, 35-12, in Tuesday’s GPAC-opening dual.

“Our higher ranked guys looked solid,” Vote said. “Some other guys need to start stepping up. I need to start seeing some more fight out of some of our guys.”

Burkhardt Jr. led 7-0 when he pinned Jacob Lewis in 1:41. The 11th-ranked 197-pounder busted out of the gates with two quick takedowns and then a three-point near fall before finishing off a dominant performance. The Milford native’s sixth win of the season provided a 24-12 Concordia advantage to clinch the team victory.

At 174, No. 6 Austin Fehlhafer bounced back from a loss on Tuesday at Doane to earn his first win of the season. Still rounding into form after missing Concordia’s first two tournaments, Fehlhafer came through with one takedown of Tyler Puls in all three periods for a 7-0 victory that gave the Bulldogs a commanding 18-9 lead with three matches remaining.

It took Eric Franklin a while to get going, but he recorded one takedown apiece in the second and third periods to erase an early 1-0 deficit. The fifth-ranked junior from Tampa, Fla., won by a 5-1 decision over Nashid Barrow to improve to 7-3 on the season. It was Franklin’s first match of the year at 141 after competing at 133 until Thursday night.

Enrique Barajas (competed at 157 on Thursday), ranked No. 6 nationally at 149, came out aggressively against Matthew Goth. Barajas posted three first-period takedowns and then immediately had Goth on his back to begin the second period. With under five seconds left in the match, the native of Heyward, Calif., notched his second pin of the season and became the first Bulldog to reach 10 wins on the year.

Coming off impressive outings at the Dakota Wesleyan Open and the dual at Doane on Tuesday, Noel Richardson fell for just the second time in his last nine matches. Richardson dropped a 10-5 decision to Austin Hayes at 184 pounds.

In a shuffled lineup, Vote inserted 2013-14 GPAC wrestler of the year Emilio Rivera back at the 133-pound slot with Franklin moving up to 141. Unopposed on Thursday, the sixth-ranked Rivera bumped his mark to 8-3.

The Beavers, a member of NCAA Division III’s Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, opened up their dual schedule on Thursday under first-year head coach Jeff Breese.

A select few Bulldogs will compete at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Open on Saturday. Concordia’s next dual will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 26 when it travels to Des Moines, Iowa, to challenge top-ranked Grand View University at 5 p.m. The Vikings have won each of the last three NAIA wrestling national championships.

Tenth-ranked Bulldogs fall at three-time defending national champion Grand View

DES MOINES, Iowa – Three-time defending Grand View University looked the part of the No. 1-ranked NAIA team by taking nine of 10 matches over the 10th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team on Wednesday. The host Vikings won 39-3 in a dual contested in Des Moines, Iowa.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s Bulldogs are now 2-1 overall in dual meets.

“I thought we competed hard. We have a lot to work on and we are just not on Grand View’s level yet,” Vote said. “They had four guys in their lineup tonight that have won national titles.”

Concordia’s lone victory of the night came at 133, where sixth-ranked Emilio Rivera won by decision. He improved to 9-3 overall and 2-0 in dual meets.

For most of the team, Wednesday served as a lesson on what it will take to reach an elite level. There’s a reason why Grand View is again heavily favored to win the national title.

“I think it was an eye opener for the guys on how much work we have to do,” Vote said.

The Bulldogs now break from competition until hosting No. 15 Midland (0-1, 0-1 GPAC) for a dual at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4. The Warriors boast four nationally-ranked individuals: No. 2 Josh Heinzer (125), No. 8 Tyler McMichael (174), No. 12 Sterling Terry (184) and No. 5 Kolton Kersten (197).

Wrestling offers reward for show of team spirit at Thursday home dual

SEWARD, Neb. – The 10th-ranked Concordia University wrestling will play host for the first time this season when No. 15 Midland invades Walz Arena on Thursday for a GPAC dual. The Bulldog wrestling program is offering $250 for the Concordia organization, club, sports team or dorm floor that shows the most team spirit at the match, which is set to begin at 7 p.m.

Participating fans are encouraged to show their team spirit through cheers, costumes and/or choreography. Judges will award the best team at the conclusion of Thursday’s dual – one of five at home this season for head coach Dana Vote’s nationally-ranked squad.

Concordia (2-1, 1-0 GPAC), ranked as the No. 1 team in the NAIA North qualifying group, seeks a second-straight win over Midland after defeating the Warriors 25-13 in Mitchell, S.D., last season. Midland, guided by fifth-year head coach Beau Vest, lost its only dual, 25-18, to Briar Cliff on Nov. 25. The Warriors, who check in at No. 5 in the North rankings, finished 18th at the 2014 NAIA Wrestling National Championships.

The Bulldogs lead all 13 NAIA North Group teams with 12 regionally-ranked wrestlers. Concordia also possesses seven nationally-ranked grapplers, four of whom qualified for the national championships last season. Meanwhile, Midland has four individuals who are ranked both on the regional and national level. No. 2 Josh Heinzer (125) and No. 8 Tyler McMichael (174) earned All-America honors last season. Heinzer finished as the national runner up at 125 pounds.

Concordia regionally-ranked wrestlers (12)
125 – No. 6 Dmitri Smith (1-5)
133 – No. 2 Eric Franklin (7-3)
133 – No. 3 Emilio Rivera (9-3)
141 – No. 3 Foster Bunce (4-5)
149 – No. 1 Enrique Barajas (10-5)
157 – No. 3 Austin Starkey (5-5)
174 – No. 1 Austin Fehlhafer (1-2)
184 – No. 4 Noel Richardson (7-5)
184 – No. 5 Kale Hintz (3-5)
197 – No. 2 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (6-7)
285 – No. 5 Ceron Francisco (9-6)
285 – No. 6 DJ McIntyre (4-6)

Concordia nationally-ranked wrestlers
133 – No. 5 Eric Franklin (7-3)
133 – No. 6 Emilio Rivera (9-3)
141 – No. 11 Foster Bunce (4-5)
149 – No. 6 Enrique Barajas (10-5)
157 – No. 16 Austin Starkey (5-5)
174 – No. 6 Austin Fehlhafer (1-2)
197 – No. 11 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (6-7)

Midland regionally-ranked wrestlers
125 – No. 1 Josh Heinzer
174 – No. 2 Tyler McMichael
184 – No. 3 Sterling Terry
197 – No. 1 Kolton Kersten 

Midland nationally-ranked wrestlers
125 – No. 2 Josh Heinzer
174 – No. 8 Tyler McMichael
184 – No. 12 Sterling Terry
197 – No. 5 Kolton Kersten

Aquinas Catholic’s Reimers set to join Bulldog wrestling program

SEWARD, Neb. – Seward native and Aquinas Catholic High School (David City, Neb.) standout Alexander Reimers will make up part of head coach Dana Vote’s recruiting class of 2015-16, as announced by the Concordia University wrestling program. Heavily recruited throughout the GPAC landscape, Reimers owns a prep record of 87-22 entering his senior season for the Monarchs.

“Anytime you can pick up a local kid that is going to impact your lineup it’s huge,” Vote said. “I feel Alexander has a huge upside and is going to make an impact on our team immediately.”

Reimers has produced impressive results in his first three seasons on the mat at the Nebraska Class C level. As a junior, he placed third in the 195-pound bracket at the state championships following a district runner-up finish. Reimers also claimed a fifth-place state finish (160 pounds) as a sophomore while also winning a district title and finishing runner up at the Centennial Conference tournament. In his freshman season, Reimers won the Centennial Conference 145-pound title on the way to a fourth-place district finish and state championships qualification.

In addition, Reimers has earned high school All-America status twice in his career via runner-up finishes at the Midwest Classics and the Brute Nationals. The Columbus Telegraph chose Reimers as one of this winter’s “Super Seniors.”

A well-rounded student-athlete, Reimers has garnered Academic All-State recognition, as selected by the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA), in each of his first three high school seasons.

Reimers, who is likely to compete at 197 pounds as a Bulldog, will look to add to the success of other recent recruits who did not have to travel far to make their way to the Concordia wrestling room. Both Ken Burkhardt Jr. (Milford, Neb.) and Austin Fehlhafer (Seward) paid immediate dividends by qualifying for the NAIA national championships as freshmen in 2014.

Reimers is coached at Aquinas by Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame member Tony Horacek. Alexander is the son of Jeff and Trish Reimers.

Now in his third season at the helm of Concordia wrestling, Vote has steadily built up the program into one ready to make a splash on the national stage. The Bulldogs are ranked 10th in the NAIA and first in the North Group. They possess seven nationally-ranked individuals and return five of their six national qualifiers from last season.

Reimers at Aquinas Catholic High School
Junior: 26-2 (195 pounds); district runner-up; third-place state championships finish
Sophomore: 37-6 (160 pounds); Centennial Conference runner up; district champion; fifth-place state championships finish
Freshman: 24-14 (145 pounds); Centennial Conference champion; fourth place at districts; state championships qualifier

Barajas, Fehlhafer star in win over No. 15 Midland

SEWARD, Neb. – The 10th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team used a 21-6 takedown advantage and a 15-3 edge in back points to move to 2-0 in GPAC duals. A large Walz crowd saw the Bulldogs take care of No. 15 Midland, 32-9, in Seward on Thursday night.

Head coach Dana Vote’s squad, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA’s North Group, won seven of 10 matches over the Warriors to improve to 3-1 overall in dual meets.

“We definitely did a great job of coming out and pushing the pace and forcing our style on them,” Vote said. “We wrestled with high energy, something we haven’t really done a whole lot in duals yet this year. It was definitely a huge positive for us. We were coming out each match and forcing our style and it paid off.”

Three of Thursday’s matches featured a pair of ranked wrestlers going head-to-head. One of those bouts came at 174 pounds, where sixth-ranked sophomore Austin Fehlhafer earned a 12-3 major decision over No. 8 Tyler McMichael, a 2014 NAIA All-American. Fehlhafer piled up 11 points in the second period by racking up two takedowns and seven total back points. The Seward native’s second win of the season clinched the team victory, putting Concordia up 28-3 at the time.

“It doesn’t matter who it is, I go out there and wrestle the way I wrestle,” Fehlhafer said. “The start was a little rough. I got taken down right away. I was a little sloppy. I should have done a little bit better, but I’m coming around.”

On a night that came without a pin on either side, senior Enrique Barajas (11-5) put forth the most dominant effort. Ranked sixth nationally at 149 pounds, the native of Heyward, Calif., won by technical fall, 21-5, over Midland’s Cooper Self at 157. Barajas went on the offensive immediately and led 13-3 after posting five takedowns and three nearfall points in the opening period en route to his team-leading 11th win. Barajas totaled seven takedowns in the match.

Of the remaining six contested weights, Concordia picked up wins at 125, 165, and 285. Making his first appearance of the season in a dual meet, heavyweight DJ McIntyre (No. 6 in the North Group) came within an eyelash of pinning Aaron Rafalko before settling for a 12-2 major decision. McIntyre notched five back points and then tacked on riding time as he pushed his overall mark to 5-6.

Sophomore Dmitri Smith got Concordia off to a promising start with his 10-4 decision over Anthony Norez at 125 pounds. Smith (2-5) got two takedowns in the first period and then one apiece in the second and third periods to put three team points on the board.

No. 16 Austin Starkey edged his record above .500 (6-5) with a 10-2 major decision over Jonah Hoshino. Starkey got a late takedown and then added a point for riding time for his first win by major decision of the young season.

At 133, Concordia’s fifth-ranked Eric Franklin went toe-to-toe with No. 2 Josh Heinzer, 2014 national runner up at 125 pounds. Franklin led 1-0 after two periods, but relinquished the advantage when Heinzer recorded an escape and a decisive takedown in the final period. In the other matchup of ranked combatants, No. 5 Kolton Kerston of Midland won by a 6-0 decision over Concordia’s Ken Burkhardt Jr. at 197.

Both 141-pounder Emilio Rivera (10-3) and 149-pounder Foster Bunce (5-5) were credited with wins via forfeit.

Vote likes the look of his team after GPAC dual wins over Doane and Midland. Five conference duals remain on the schedule.

“I like where we’re at,” Vote said. “I think we’re putting ourselves in position to accomplish our goal of winning the GPAC championship. Right now we’re wrestling tough. We’re making guys battle. If someone’s going to beat us, they’re going to have to bring their best game.”

The Bulldogs return to tournament action on Saturday when they compete at the Buena University Open in Storm Lake, Iowa. At the same tournament last season, Concordia turned in a total of eight place finishes and 36 combined wins.

Barajas, Franklin second-place finishes highlight Buena Vista Open

SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – A total of 21 Concordia University wrestlers combined on 46 wins and seven place finishes at Saturday’s Buena Vista University Open in Storm Lake, Iowa. Both senior Enrique Barajas (157) and Eric Franklin (133) stormed to title matches before settling for second-place claims in their respective weight brackets.

“Overall it wasn’t a bad day,” third-year head coach Dana Vote said. “We wrestled OK but we left too many points out there. We need to attack more and wrestle with more urgency.”

Sixth-ranked Barajas made a mockery of the 157-pound bracket. He rampaged to the title match, winning his first four bouts without much difficulty. He triumphed by technical fall (16-1), major decision (16-5) and twice by pin on the way to the championship. That’s when Adam Cooling of NCAA Division II Minnesota State-Mankato edged Barajas (15-6) by decision.

“Enrique was solid in his first four matches,” Vote said. “He was wrestling his style, pushing the pace and scoring points. It was a great day for him.”

At 133, No. 5 Franklin (10-5) blazed to the title bout with three-straight wins to begin his day. He pinned Midland’s Sebastian Lara-Avila in 2:09 in his first match prior to concluding the tournament with a 5-1 loss to NCAA Division I grappler Josh Alber of the University of Northern Iowa.

“Eric was solid. I’d like to see him be more offensive,” Vote said. “He’s capable of scoring more, so that’s going to be our focus before Christmas break.”

Sixth-place finishes were turned in by the quartet of senior Emilio Rivera (133) and sophomores Austin Fehlhafer (174), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) and Ceron Francisco (285). In addition, junior Austin Starkey placed eighth at 157 pounds.

Burkhardt Jr. (11-10) topped all Bulldogs with five wins on Saturday. The Milford native’s run included victories over conference opponents in Midland’s Adam Ball (pin, 2:47) and Northwestern’s Derek Jaurigue (D, 5-0). Barajas, Francisco, Rivera and Starkey all recorded four wins apiece on the way to place finishes.

Francisco upset both No. 12 Angel Gomez of Waldorf College (3-2 decision) and 16th-ranked Christopher Bridgeford of Morningside (4-1 decision) in the process of proceeding on to the fifth-place heavyweight match. Among other impressive wins, Fehlhafer defeated Aaron McMurphy of Northern Iowa, Rivera earned a win over No. 16 Ricky Ortiz of Northwestern and several Bulldogs also posted wins over NCAA Division II opponents.

Seventeen of Vote’s 21 wrestlers at the Buena Vista Open notched at least one win. Fifteen individuals collected two or more victories.

The tournament included competitors from 20 different institutions. Participating GPAC teams were Briar Cliff, Concordia, Dakota Wesleyan, Midland, Morningside and Northwestern.

The Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0 GPAC) look to remain unbeaten in GPAC dual action when they host Northwestern (1-2, 1-1 GPAC) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday (Dec. 10). In conference meets, the Red Raiders defeated Dakota Wesleyan, 37-9, on Thursday and fell to Doane, 20-19, on Nov. 25.

Opponents announced for 2014 Desert Duals

SEWARD, Neb. – Opponents for the Concordia University wrestling team’s four duals at the Desert Duals (Saturday, Dec. 20) were announced on Tuesday. The Bulldogs will take on four teams ranked in the NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Top 20 Poll as part of an event set to get started at 8 a.m. PST inside the ballroom of the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino located along the Vegas strip.

Desert Duals schedule (Dec. 20)
*All times Pacific Standard Time

8 a.m. vs. No. 8 Indiana Tech
10 a.m. vs. No. 12 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.)
12 p.m. vs. No. 12 Oklahoma City University
2 p.m. vs. No. 19 Wayland Baptist University (Texas)

This will mark Concordia’s second-straight year at the Desert Duals. Last season the Bulldogs went 2-2 in Vegas, earning wins over then No. 23 Embry-Riddle, 26-16, and Pacific University (Ore.), 26-16.

The 2014 Desert Duals will also include No. 1 Grand View University, Central Florida University and Warner Pacific University.

Live results will be available via TrackWrestling.com.

Sixth-ranked Bulldogs top Northwestern, remain unbeaten in GPAC duals

SEWARD, Neb. – Despite having a pair of starters out of the lineup, the sixth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team remained unbeaten in GPAC duals by taking a 23-13 victory over No. 25 Northwestern (1-3, 1-2 GPAC) inside Walz Arena on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs, who moved up four spots with the release of the latest coaches’ poll on Wednesday, won six of 10 weight classes.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad now sits at 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference.

“I thought it was a good job,” Vote said. “We had to overcome a lot of adversity today. We had four main guys out this week and had three guys had to move up a weight class. We knew we were going to have a tough battle tonight. The kids went out and fought.”

Concordia got its most dominant wins from two of its best performers in the early portion of the season. At 157, fifth-ranked Enrique Barajas needed less than two periods to take care of the Red Raiders’ BJ Groskreutz. Concordia’s wins lead moved to 16-6 by recording three takedowns and a total of 10 back points on the way to a 16-1 win by technical fall.

Eleven of Barajas’ 16 wins have come by major decision, technical fall or pin as part of his breakthrough senior campaign.

“With this being my last year, I want to make a mark,” Barajas said. “I want to make a name for myself and go out with a bang. It’s fun and games now.”

Sophomore Ceron Francisco ensured that the Bulldogs closed the night without any drama. With Concordia leading 19-13, the Concordia heavyweight picked up an 11-3 major decision over Forest Marx. Francisco (14-8) attacked from the get-go, piling up a 7-2 first-period lead after nearly pinning Marx. It was another impressive effort by Francisco, who vaulted into the national rankings at No. 11 on Wednesday.

“Ceron’s getting better each time out,” Vote said. “The improvements he’s made from last year to this year are crazy. I think he’s going to keep improving. We could see some big things coming in the near future.” 

Concordia started fast at the light weights, piling up a 10-0 lead after wins at 125, 133 and 141. In a battle of ranked grapplers at 133, No. 4 Emilio Rivera (15-5) earned an 11-4 decision over No. 14 Ricky Ortiz. That followed a 14-4 major decision at 125 for the Bulldogs’ Dmitri Smith, who improved to 2-1 in GPAC duals. Smith went on the offensive, racking up five takedowns, three back points and a riding time advantage.

Third-ranked Eric Franklin (11-5) answered Vote’s call for a more aggressive offensive approach. Wrestling up a weight at 141, the native of Tampa, Fla., got out of the gates with an emphatic takedown of Michael Frehse. Franklin totaled seven takedowns on the way to a 16-9 victory.

The other Bulldog victory on the night came at 197, where Ken Burkhardt Jr. (12-10) stopped a run of three-straight Northwestern wins. The Milford native wore down Derek Jaurique after a tightly-contested first two periods. Burkhardt Jr. struck for a takedown and three near-fall points in the final period to take a 9-1 major decision.

One additional bout featured two ranked combatants. At 174, Northwestern’s 10th-ranked Tyree Cox scored near-fall points in all three periods and finished with an impressive 18-6 win over No. 13 Austin Fehlhahfer (5-5) of Concordia.

The Bulldogs enjoyed a 28-11 advantage in takedowns and compiled 23 back points compared to 10 for Northwestern.

Sophomore Kodie Cole, a national qualifier last season, made his season debut for Concordia and fell, 8-4, at 149 pounds.

The Bulldogs now look forward to the Desert Duals in Las Vegas, Nev., on Saturday, Dec. 20. Concordia will take on four opponents ranked among the top 20 teams in the NAIA in duals that will begin at 8 a.m. PST inside the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino Ballroom located along the Vegas strip. The complete schedule can be viewed HERE.

Wrestling rises to highest national ranking in program history

SEWARD, Neb. – After being slotted at No. 15 in the NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Preseason Top 20 Poll, the Concordia University wrestling team jumped five spots to No. 10 on Nov. 19 and then leaped four more places to sixth with last week’s poll release. No Bulldog wrestling squad had ever been ranked higher than 10th entering the 2014-15 season.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote has orchestrated Concordia’s rapid rise, quickly transitioning the program from a rebuilding effort in year one to second-place finishes in both the GPAC and NAIA North Qualifying Group last season. Even bigger things may be in store for a 2014-15 Bulldog team with eight nationally-ranked wrestlers and two impact junior college transfers set to compete after the conclusion of the first semester.

“It’s been a lot of hard work in the last two years and we have moved in the direction we want to go,” Vote said. “We’re definitely not where we want to be yet, but we’re being recognized for the work we’ve put in. People are noticing that we’re getting there. We’re definitely on the rise.”

Since the Concordia wrestling’s rebirth in 2009 (program previously existed from 1961-78), the Bulldogs have appeared among the NAIA’s top 20 teams in a total of 13 polls. The 2011-12 Concordia squad garnered top 20 rankings in all nine polls, climbing as high as 10th on Feb. 9.

So far this season, Concordia has tallied 14 individual tournament place finishes and owns an overall mark of 4-1 in dual action. The Bulldogs lead the GPAC with a 3-0 conference mark thanks to wins over Doane (35-12), No. 15 Midland (32-9) and No. 25 Northwestern (23-13). Concordia appears to be a strong contender to unseat Morningside, which has won four-straight GPAC titles and carries an active streak of 28-straight GPAC dual wins.

The Bulldogs delivered a statement with a 32-9 win over No. 15 Midland on Dec. 4. The Bulldogs won seven of 10 matches and held advantages of 21-6 in takedowns and 15-3 in back points against one a perennial top-of-the-GPAC opponent.

“I like where we’re at,” Vote said after the dual. “I think we’re putting ourselves in position to accomplish our goal of winning the GPAC championship. Right now we’re wrestling tough. We’re making guys battle. If someone’s going to beat us, they’re going to have to bring their best game.”

Vote has stacked his roster with nine regionally-ranked grapplers that have the Bulldogs at No. 1 in the NAIA’s North group. Few teams across the nation possess such an abundance of talent up and down the lineup.

“Depth’s very important,” Vote said. “I think that’s one of the battles we’re struggling with. We have great depth as far as a tournament team goes, but on the dual side of things it’s hard to have consistency all the time. We’re finding a way to get through right now and we’re just going to continue to build and get better as the season goes on.”

Concordia will be tested significantly on Saturday at the annual Desert Duals in Las Vegas, Nev., where the Bulldogs will dual four teams ranked inside the NAIA’s top 20. The slate includes No. 7 Indiana Tech (8 a.m. PST), No. 11 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.) (10 a.m. PST), No. 7 Oklahoma City University (12 p.m. PST) and No. 19 Wayland Baptist University (Texas) (2 p.m. PST). This will be the second year in a row that Vote has taken his team to the Desert Duals. Last season the Bulldogs went 2-2 in Vegas with wins over No. 23 Embry-Riddle and Pacific University (Ore.).

Concordia wrestlers ranked nationally
133 – No. 3 Eric Franklin (11-5)
133 – No. 4 Emilio Rivera (15-5)
149 – No. 5 Enrique Barajas (16-6)
157 – No. 13 Austin Starkey (10-7)
174 – No. 13 Austin Fehlhafer (5-5)
184 – No. 16 Noel Richardson (9-8)
197 – No. 11 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (12-10)
285 – No. 11 Ceron Francisco (14-8) 

Remaining GPAC duals
Jan. 22 at Morningside
Jan. 28 vs. Dakota Wesleyan
Feb. 3 vs. Briar Cliff
Feb. 12 vs. Hastings

Bulldogs headed to Desert Duals for second-straight year

SEWARD, Neb. – Head coach Dana Vote’s sixth-ranked Bulldog wrestling team has already embarked on its journey to Las Vegas, Nev., for the second-consecutive December. In Vegas, Concordia will take part in the annual Desert Duals held in the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino located along the Vegas strip. The action gets started at 8 a.m. PST from Sin City on Saturday.

“We’re excited to go out there and compete,” Vote said following last week’s dual victory over Northwestern. “We’ll get a chance to see some other nationally-ranked guys from out west that we don’t normally get to see. We’re just excited to go out there and have a good time and compete.”

Vote and his coaching staff along with 15 Bulldog wrestlers boarded a flight bound for Vegas early Thursday afternoon. That group includes eight nationally-ranked wrestlers for a Concordia squad currently sporting its highest-ever ranking in the NAIA coaches’ poll.

The Bulldogs believe they will be well-equipped to go up against four teams ranked inside the NAIA’s top 20 when Saturday’s grand event occurs on mats laid out in a hotel ballroom.

“It’s fun wrestling in that big ballroom,” Senior Enrique Barajas said. “There’s no pressure. We just go out there and try to do what we know we can do. We want to have a good time with our teammates and get some wins.”

At last year’s Desert Duals, Concordia defeated both No. 23 Embry-Riddle of Arizona (26-16) and NCAA Division III Pacific University of Oregon (26-16) while dropping duals against No. 14 Menlo College of California (30-7) and No. 5 University of Great Falls of Montana (33-9). Individually, then freshman Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) enjoyed a 3-1 day that included a win over Menlo’s 14th-ranked Ian Mac Ineirghe.

This season the Bulldogs have won four of their first five duals with the only loss coming at the hands of top-ranked three-time NAIA defending national champion Grand View University. Concordia is ranked first in the NAIA North Qualifying Group and sits atop the GPAC standings with a 3-0 conference mark.

Vote already feels confident in where his team is headed, but Saturday’s quartet of duals could serve to fortify that belief.

“The biggest thing is we’re just going to go out and battle and wrestle each match,” Vote said. “We’ve got a lot of big key matchups that we’re excited to see individual-wise. There’s a lot of excitement for the Desert Duals.”

Seventh-ranked Indiana Tech, Concordia’s first opponent in Vegas, sports a 10-3 dual record and matches the Bulldogs with eight nationally-ranked grapplers. Among other Saturday opponents, No. 7 Oklahoma City University boasts five ranked individuals, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.) has six and Wayland Baptist University (Texas) has four.

Live results and video for the Desert Duals will be available via TrackWrestling.com.

Desert Duals schedule (all times Pacific)

  • 8 a.m. – Concordia vs. No. 7 Indiana Tech
  • 10 a.m. – Concordia vs. No. 11 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.)
  • 12 p.m. – Concordia vs. No. 7 Oklahoma City University
  • 2 p.m. – Concordia vs. No. 19 Wayland Baptist University (Texas)

(NOTE: The Duals will operate on a rolling schedule, thus, times after 8 a.m. are approximate.)

Concordia Desert Duals roster
125 – Cooper Bailey, Fr. (3-8)
125 – Dmitri Smith, So. (4-7)
133 – No. 3 Eric Franklin, Jr. (11-5)
133 – No. 4 Emilio Rivera, Sr. (15-5)
141 – Kodie Cole, So. (0-1)
149 – Brock Dalton, Jr. (2-9)
157 – No. 5 Enrique Barajas, Sr. (16-6)
157 – No. 13 Austin Starkey, Jr. (10-7)
165 – Tommy Bailey, So. (3-8)
174 – No. 13 Austin Fehlhafer, So. (5-5)
184 – Kale Hintz, Sr. (4-8)
184 – No. 16 Noel Richardson, Jr. (9-8)
197 – No. 11 Ken Burkhardt Jr., So. (12-10)
285 – No. 11 Ceron Francisco, So. (14-8)
285 – DJ McIntyre, Jr. (8-8) 

Desert Duals opponents in the national rankings

No. 7 Indiana Tech (10-3)

  • 125 – No. 15 Kristopher McKinley
  • 133 – No. 2 Mitch Pawlak
  • 133 – No. 7 Brett Yarbrough
  • 141 – No. 11 Matthew Miller
  • 141 – No. 15 Robert Humphrey
  • 149 – No. 9 Thomas Garty
  • 165 – No. 8 Jacob Johnson
  • 184 – No. 8 LJ Grayson

No. 7 Oklahoma City University (4-2)

  • 125 – No. 3 Aaron LaFarge
  • 157 – No. 3 Zach Skates
  • 165 – No. 6 Ricky McCarty
  • 174 – No. 16 Jared Bass
  • 184 – No. 7 Derek Siverstsen

No. 11 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (1-2)

  • 125 – No. 6 Sage Ornelas
  • 133 – No. 6 Nick Oliver
  • 141 – No. 13 Andrew Burr
  • 157 – No. 7 Colin Merkley
  • 165 – No. 9 Luke Riley
  • 174 – No. 5 Jose Cruz III

No. 19 Wayland Baptist University (7-2)

  • 133 – No. 5 Andrew Porras
  • 141 – No. 6 Chris Hart
  • 149 – No. 13 Victor Thomas
  • 184 – No. 12 Michael Naiper

Rivera stars, No. 6 Bulldogs go 1-3 at Desert Duals

LAS VEGAS – Faced with four of the NAIA’s top 20 squads, the Concordia University wrestling team went 1-3 while competing at the annual Desert Duals in Las Vegas, Nev., on Saturday. The sixth-ranked Bulldogs salvaged the day by recording a 29-13 win over No. 19 Wayland Baptist University (Texas) after dropping their first three duals at the event held inside the ballroom of the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino located along the Vegas strip.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad now sits at 5-4 overall. Vote had hoped for better results on Saturday from his GPAC-leading Bulldogs, but the reshuffled lineup again stripped Concordia of consistency and one of its top performers.

The short-handed Bulldogs experienced setbacks versus No. 7 Indiana Tech, 30-12, No. 11 Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (Ariz.), 30-19, and No. 7 Oklahoma City University, 28-15, before downing Wayland Baptist on Saturday.

“We some good individual performances,” Vote said. “Emilio (Rivera) and Eric (Franklin) wrestled well. It’s not fun to lose duals, but there isn’t much we can do about some of the injuries and skin issues. We’re going to get some other guys here for the second semester and now we’ve got some time to heal and get prepared for our conference duals and then regionals.”

Concordia defeated the Pioneers, who began the day with a 7-2 record, by winning seven of 10 weight classes, while losing only two contested bouts. Austin Starkey (11-9) needed only 2:16 to wipe out Brian O’Shaughnessy by pin, putting the Bulldogs up 16-10 after the 165-pound match. Concordia heavyweight DJ McIntyre (9-8) closed the event on a high note with a 7-2 decision over Travis Morgan.

Fourth-ranked 133-pounder Emilio Rivera (18-5) starred for Concordia, going 3-0 on the day. He turned in wins over a pair of ranked wrestlers – Embry-Riddle’s sixth-ranked Nick Oliver (MD, 10-2) and Wayland Baptist’s fifth-ranked Andrew Porras (D, 8-6). Rivera, who hails from Escondido, Calif., has won four-straight matches and six of his last seven. He remains unbeaten (6-0) in dual matches.

“He wrestled tough,” Vote said of Rivera. “He was finishing matches. I hope this was his turning point to get geared up for the most important part of the season. I think he and Franklin will both be in the hunt to compete for a national title at 133.”

Eric Franklin (13-6) captured the day’s signature individual win by toppling Indiana Tech’s second-ranked Mitch Pawlak (D, 10-4), a 2014 All-American, at 141 pounds. Franklin, a junior from Tampa, Fla., also defeated Adrian Gains of Oklahoma City (D, 5-2) and suffered his only loss in Vegas at the hands of Embry-Riddle’s 13th-ranked Andrew Burr by a 7-1 decision.

The dual with Indiana Tech also featured two other bouts between nationally-ranked grapplers. At 157, the Warriors’ ninth-ranked Thomas Garty edged No. 5 Enrique Barajas, 8-7, in an important battle that helped swing the dual in Tech’s favor. No. 8 LJ Grayson then put an exclamation mark on the Warrior win by pinning 11th-ranked Ken Burkhardt Jr. in the 197-pound tussle.

Burkhardt Jr. shook off that loss and dominated the rest of the day. He claimed two pins of his own – seventh and eighth of the season – and a victory by technical fall to improve his overall record to 15-11. The Milford, Neb., native equaled Rivera and heavyweight Ceron Francisco (17-8) for the team lead for wins at the Desert Duals. Francisco was credited with two wins by forfeit and one by major decision (15-6) over Oklahoma City’s Riley Fielder.

Of the 14 wrestlers who traveled to Vegas, 13 saw action. Thirteenth-ranked 174-pounder Austin Fehlhafer (5-5) was held out. Eleven different Bulldogs recorded at least one win in Sin City.

In its three losses, Concordia took three matches from Indiana Tech and four from both Embry-Riddle and Oklahoma City. The Bulldogs went 18-22 overall in individual bouts.

Concordia owns three wins over teams with top 25 rankings: No. 15 Midland, No. 19 Wayland Baptist and No. 25 Northwestern. All four dual losses have come against squads with a national ranking of 11 or higher.

The Bulldogs now have a sizeable break before resuming tournament action on Jan. 10 when they compete at the Hastings College Open. The new year will also bring four more GPAC duals for first-place Concordia. Next up is a showdown at Morningside on Jan. 22. The Mustangs have won 28-consecutive conference duals.

Lule, Schulte impress in Bulldog debuts at Hastings Open

HASTINGS, Neb. – Four individuals turned in place finishes for the 14th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team, which took part in Saturday’s Hastings College Open that awarded the top four wrestlers in each weight bracket. The tournament marked the debuts of transfers Jr Lule and Andrew Schulte and saw 15 Bulldog grapplers combine on a record of 34-26.

Lule, ranked 15th nationally, captured a runner-up claim at 149, while No. 6 Schulte (141) and No. 12 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) both picked up third-place finishes in their respective weight classes. In the heavyweight bracket, junior DJ McIntyre took fourth place.

“We wrestled tough. We just hit a hard training cycle so we were probably more beat up than normal after the Christmas break,” head coach Dana Vote said. “We needed to go through that to get ready for the rest of our season.”

Lule, who arrived at Concordia via Palomar College in California, rolled to the 149-pound title match by winning his first four matches in his first appearance in the Bulldog singlet. The native of Blythe, Calif., began the new chapter in his career with a pin of Bacon College’s Abel Villamoreno. Lule then won two by decision and another by major decision before an 11-3 loss to Skyler Lykins of Colorado School of Mines in the championship bout.

Schulte, who previously competed at Santa Ana College, experienced similar success in the 141-pound bracket. The sophomore from Carona, Calif., won by technical fall in his first career Concordia match, then shook off a 6-5 loss to the University of Nebraska-Kearney’s Andrew Riedy and marched to the third-place tussle. That’s where Schulte won in sudden victory, 6-4, over Grand View University’s Walker Marshall. Schulte tied McIntyre with a team best five wins at Hastings.

“They did a great job,” Vote said of Lule and Schulte. “They both found ways to win. You can see how both are definitely going to make an impact for us. They give us leadership and toughness.”

Now 19-12 overall this season, Burkhardt Jr. won four of his five bouts on Saturday. The Milford, Neb., native avenged a loss at the UNK open by defeating Colorado School of Mines’ Paul Wilson, 4-3, in the third-place match at 197. Burkhardt Jr.’s only loss came at the hands of Benedictine College’s top-ranked Stephen Loosbrock by a 3-0 decision.

Concordia picked up a combined eight wins in the heavyweight bracket from the duo of McIntyre and sophomore Ceron Francisco. McIntyre went 5-2 on the day with a pin of Dickinson State’s Meyer Bohn. The junior from Marrero, La., won five-consecutive matches in between defeats to start and finish his day. Meanwhile, Francisco (20-10) blazed to the semifinals with three-consecutive wins that pushed his season victory count to 20.

Twelve of Concordia’s 15 competitors at Hastings registered at least one win. In addition to solid days for the aforementioned Bulldogs, junior Robert Mata doubled his season win total by going 4-2 at Hastings. He was one of eight Concordia wrestlers with two or more wins at the tournament.

The Hastings Open included wrestlers from 28 different institutions. All GPAC schools with the exceptions of Briar Cliff and Morningside took part.

The GPAC-leading Bulldogs (3-0 GPAC) return to tournament action next week when they take part in the Missouri Valley Invite in Marshall, Mo., next Friday and Saturday (Jan. 16-17).

Unusual path leads Francisco to Concordia wrestling room

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

As a high school sophomore at Douglas Byrd in Fayetteville, N.C., Ceron Francisco stood 5-foot-4. He had never wrestled before, had never been to the state of Nebraska and sometimes felt intimidated by opponents he lined up against on the football field.

Just a couple years later Francisco was noticed by Concordia head wrestling coach Dana Vote at a national wrestling event in Virginia Beach that showcased high school seniors with collegiate wrestling aspirations.

Said Vote, “The first thing I thought was that’s the biggest high school kid I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Like those who have encountered Francisco at Concordia, Vote could see something special in the soft-spoken Tar Heel State native, who possesses a voice with enough depth to rival Barry White. He also appeared to have the physical traits necessary to develop into a solid heavyweight.

“I watched him wrestle a match and just seeing his physical abilities was the first attraction,” Vote said. “Then I got to talking to him a little bit and realized he was just a beginner in wrestling and the potential he had. I thought he would be a great fit here.”

Vote made a big impression upon Francisco, who quickly developed a desire to wear the Bulldog singlet. Although raw in his technical wrestling skills coming out of Douglas Byrd, Francisco has put past an inconsistent freshman season and has morphed into a nationally-ranked performer, now in his sophomore campaign.

With tree trunks for biceps, Francisco’s impressive muscle-bound physique now offers the intimidation. He carries a 20-10 overall record and is perhaps the most improved wrestler on the team.

“The biggest thing in the college transition was having seven-minute matches instead of six,” Francisco said. “You had to get in shape. Vote trains us hard. We have to take care of our bodies so I got in good shape. Riding time was also a big factor for me. In high school you could lay on bottom and you were OK. In college you have to get out and get that point.

“I struggled with that my freshman year. I did all the extra stuff to get those techniques down and explode.”

In some ways, Francisco is still a work-in-progress in the midst of only his fourth year as a wrestler. After growing roughly nine inches between his sophomore and junior years of high school, Francisco’s stock as a collegiate football prospect skyrocketed. His football coaches at Douglas Byrd expected him to carry his talents to the gridiron of a school such as North Carolina A&T or maybe even walk on at an NCAA Division I school like North Carolina State.

But Francisco fell in love with something else. The high school offensive line coach at Douglas Byrd, also the head wrestling coach, asked Francisco to give wrestling a try. The team needed a heavyweight and there was no doubt Francisco had the raw ability to fill the void.

However, he was far from a natural in his first taste of wrestling.

“I really didn’t take it serious,” Francisco said. “I thought it was like TNA (Total Nonstop Action) and all that. I got in the wrestling room and it was so hard. I was in practice crying and didn’t know what was going on. I was just trying to use my size on everybody. I started training with (God brother) Deven (Riles) and we had a lot of sit downs. He mentally prepared me for the sport. My body was changing and I was getting stronger. I wanted more. I’m still getting better to this day.”

An all-conference and all-region football player, Francisco’s appetite for wrestling only grew. He wanted to soak up everything he could about the sport. He won only three matches as a junior, but it hardly deterred Francisco. He was determined. As a senior he went 23-4 and earned All-America status at the 2013 Disney Duals.

Football was then out of the equation.

“I just felt like I wanted to wrestle,” Francisco said. “I fell in love with it. I got into it more and started going to some offseason tournaments. I met Coach Vote in Virginia Beach nationals. I met a lot of other coaches, but Vote really showed a lot of interest in me. I didn’t know much. He just kept telling me that he believed in me and saw something in me. I just chased that and now I’m here.”

Francisco, who was raised in North Carolina throughout his childhood by his mother Cedrika as well as his grandmother, had always been encouraged to participate in sports. Although no one in his family had wrestled, Francisco adapted many of his positive traits and work habits from Cedrika, who helped establish a foundation for her son’s future success.

Mature beyond his years, Ceron understands the crucial role his mother has played in helping him arrive at this point.

“It was just my mom and my two younger brothers,” Ceron said. “We never went without anything. My mom always pushed me no matter what it was. I tried playing basketball. I used to shoot it in the wrong hoop. She was always that mom screaming. She was on me and making sure I did my homework and my chores. My mom played a big part in who I am today. She always pushed me.”

Now he’s also getting pushed by Vote, who has helped Francisco rise to the 11th-ranked wrestler among all NAIA heavyweights. After missing the national tournament as a freshman, the heavyweight with the tireless work ethic has set his sights on extending his sophomore season onto the national stage in March.

“He’s done a great job,” Vote said. “From a coaching standpoint, you’re always wanting more. I think he wants more too. He’s done an outstanding job. I don’t think he’s even close to reaching his potential but he’s definitely moving in the right direction.”

Part of Ceron’s success has also been exemplified in his ability to adapt to an environment much different than what North Carolina provided. The gentle giant has garnered respect for his genuine kindness while endearing himself to his fellow students and teammates – and he’s noted for his prowess for winning ping pong matches in the Janzow Campus Center.

“People are real friendly,” Francisco said. “They treat you like family as soon as they meet you. I was like, ‘wow, these people are real nice.’ They always want to know more about you.”

Francisco signed with Concordia and found his way to Seward in July of 2013 having never visited the campus before. In some ways, both Vote and Francisco were rolling the dice. Francisco, a special education major who simply wants to help others, has come a long way from the undersized high school sophomore who had never donned a singlet.

Said Francisco, “Coach Vote saw something in me. I’m glad I’m here now.”

Six Bulldogs move to quarterfinals of Missouri Valley Invite

MARSHALL, Mo. – The 14th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team blazed through day one at the Missouri Valley Invite by sending six individuals to Saturday’s quarterfinals while going a combined 11-4 as a team in Marshall, Mo., on Friday night. The two-day tournament, hosted by Missouri Valley College, features wrestlers from 24 institutions and tracks team scoring.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s top-ranked NAIA North squad sits in sixth place with 24 team points.

“I feel good about where we sit,” Vote said. “We went through a real challenging stretch of training and you can see us start climbing up. We wrestled solid and were tough today.”

Wrestling at his third different weight of the season, sophomore Kodie Cole (3-3) dominated with a pair of pins as he began his advancement through the 133-pound bracket. The native of Palmdale, Calif., took care of Maryville’s Dakota Bauer (formerly of Iowa State University) in 4:25 prior to wiping out Justin Rodgers of Montana State-Northern in 2:54. Cole will draw Missouri Valley’s Brian Ha in Saturday’s quarterfinal bout.

“It was a great day for Kodie,” Vote said. “It was good to see him get down to a weight that suits him best. He’s been a huge team player for us. He’s made a lot of sacrifices for the team. Now it’s time for him to take care of himself. He was unseeded and now he’s in the quarterfinals.”

Vote also saw perfect days from some of his most highly-ranked grapplers. No. 4 (133) Emilio Rivera (20-5), No. 6 (141) Andrew Schulte (7-1) and No. 15 (149) Jr Lule (6-1) joined Cole in the quarterfinals of their respective weight classes. Lule and Schulte are now a combined 13-2 in their first two tournaments as Bulldogs. Both sat out the first semester schedule after transferring from California junior colleges.

“With Andrew and Jr, you can count on them coming out and competing at a high level,” Vote said. “They go hard for all seven minutes and always put themselves in solid position.”

Rivera, now on a six-match win streak, was particularly dominant as he triumphed by technical fall over both Hannibal LaGrange’s Brady Sloup and Dickinson State’s Cade Coles. Rivera, who hails from Escondido, Calif., moved to 43-13 in his Concordia career.

Later in the day, sophomore Ken Burkhardt Jr., ranked 12th nationally at 197 pounds, and freshman heavyweight DJ McIntyre gave Concordia its fifth and sixth quarterfinalists. McIntyre, now 16-10 on the season, made the biggest splash of the day by edging 10th-ranked Abram Reynolds of Briar Cliff in the second round. After receiving a bye, Burkhardt Jr. got past Truman State’s Helmut Rentschler, 7-5.

Four others donned the Bulldog singlet on Friday. Sophomores Dmitri Smith (125), Austin Fehlhafer (174) and Ceron Francisco (285) and junior Noel Richardson (285) all lost in their only matches on Friday. The quartet will drop to consolation brackets when the action resumes on Saturday.

Both Burkhardt Jr. and Rivera reached the 20-win plateau on Friday. They are tied with Ceron Francisco (20-11) for the most victories on the team. Rivera was last season’s GPAC wrestler of the year.

The two-day event picks up at 9 a.m. on Saturday from Marshall. The GPAC-leading Bulldogs will to add their season total of 18 tournament place finishes. Competing teams are allowed to bring 12 wrestlers and are able to double up at as many as two weights.

“It’s a great tournament. I’m really excited for tomorrow,” Vote said. “We’ll be going up against a lot of top-ranked wrestlers. There will big a lot of big matches that I’m excited to see.”

Saturday’s quarterfinal matches
 – Kodie Cole (Concordia) vs. Brian Ha (Missouri Valley)
133 – No. 4 Emilio Rivera (Concordia) vs. Adrian Gains (Oklahoma City)
141 – No. 6 Andrew Schulte (Concordia) vs. James Krischke (Maryville)
149 – No. 15 Jr Lule (Concordia) vs. Christian Franks (Menlo)
197 – No. 12 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (Concordia) vs. No. 3 Garrett Demers (Montana State-Northern)
285 – DJ McIntyre (Concordia) vs. No. 9 Daniel Mueller (Missouri Valley College)

Team scores after day 1
1. Grand View 42.5
2. Missouri Valley 35.5
3. Montana State-Northern 31.0
4. Maryville 28.5
5. Baker 28.0
6. Concordia 24.0
7. William Penn 22.0
8. Indiana Tech 19.5
9. Briar Cliff 18.5
9. Oklahoma City 18.5
11. Menlo 15.0
12. Dickinson State 13.5
13. Benedictine 13.0
14. Midland 10.5
15. Doane 9.5
16. Lindenwood-Belleville 9.0
17. Missouri Baptist 8.0
18. Truman State 6.0
19. Northwestern 5.0
19. St. Catharine 5.0
21. Bacone 3.0
22. Graceland 0.0
22. Hannibal LaGrange 0.0
22. Ottawa 0.0

Schulte places second to lead sixth-place team finish at MO Valley

MARSHALL, Mo. – A trio of Bulldogs reached the semifinals and six concluded the two-day Missouri Valley College Invite with place finishes as the action came to a close in Marshall, Mo., on Saturday afternoon. The 14th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team totaled 95.5 points to place sixth among the 24 squads at the weekend tournament.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s group, led by Andrew Schulte’s second-place finish at 141 pounds, pushed its season tournament place finish count to 24.

“It was a good weekend. We’re making strides,” Vote said. “I thought this was one of our best performances of the year. We had some guys step up and win big matches. Our guys are feeling good and confident. We’re in great shape and headed in the direction we need to be in come February and March.”

Competing in his second tournament as a Bulldog, sixth-ranked Schulte (9-2) breezed to the 141-pound title match by taking major decisions from both Maryville’s Keygan Foster (12-2) and Grand View’s Walker Marshall (12-4) on Saturday following his two wins Friday night. Vying for the Bulldogs’ first tournament title of the season, Schulte fell, 6-4, to Maryville’s James Krischke in the championship bout.

“Schulte’s been outstanding in the classroom and on the mat,” Vote said. “He’s been dominant. He has yet to lose to an NAIA opponent. He’s solid and you know he is always going to compete hard.”

At 133 pounds, No. 4 Emilio Rivera (22-7), a fourth-place finisher, made his own bid for a tournament championship. He won 10-4 over Oklahoma City’s Adrian Gains in advancing to the semifinals. That’s where the native of Escondido, Calif., had his seven-match win streak snapped by second-ranked Bryce Shoemaker of Baker University in a narrow 1-0 decision. Rivera, now 45-15 in his Concordia career, was later pinned by Grand View’s Jacob Colon in the third-place bout.

While Jr Lule dropped down to the consolation bracket after a 6-0 loss to Menlo’s Christian Franks, he recovered by winning his next two matches by decision and finished his day with a 12-4 major over Dickinson State’s Seth Ehlang to lock up fifth place at 149 pounds. Included in his run was a 9-3 decision over sixth-ranked Thomas Garty of Indiana Tech.

Sophomore Ken Burkhardt Jr. (22-14), ranked 12th nationally, collected his third tournament place finish of the season by going 4-2 in the 197-pound bracket. His Saturday ledger included wins over Montana State-Northern’s Garrett DeMers (D, 3-2) and William Penn’s eighth-ranked Kyle Soderblom (D, 9-4).

Sophomore Kodie Cole, who had a big Friday performance that saw him pin both of his opponents, salvaged a seventh place finish after dropping two of his first three matches on Saturday. The 133-pounder from Palmdale, Calif., pinned Oklahoma City’s Adrian Gains in the seventh-place bout to finish the tournament with a 4-2 record.

In the heavyweight bracket, freshman DJ McIntyre (19-12) completed a strong weekend effort with a fifth-place claim. After upsetting 10th-ranked Abram Reynolds of Briar Cliff on Friday, McIntyre picked up another win over a ranked foe on Saturday. He took out Baker’s 12th-ranked Beau Bennett with a third-period pin. McIntyre’s only loss of the day came at the hands of No. 1 Gabi Musallam of host Missouri Valley.

Four different Bulldogs started the day in the consolation. Among them, sophomores Dmitri Smith (125) and Ceron Francisco (285) both notched a pair of wins on the weekend.

Concordia’s sixth-place team finish put it in front of a quintet of NAIA squads ranked in the top 20 of the most recent coaches’ poll: No. 8 Midland, No. 13 Oklahoma City University, No. 15 Baker University, No. 16 William Penn University and No. 17 Benedictine College. Three-time defending NAIA national champion Grand View won the tournament with 177 team points.

The GPAC-leading Bulldogs (3-0 GPAC) return to dual action on Thursday when they travel to Sioux City, Iowa, to take on perennial conference powerhouse Morningside at 7 p.m. The Mustangs (1-0 GPAC) defeated Hastings, 29-12, on Friday to extend their GPAC dual winning streak to 31. Morningside has not lost a conference dual since the 2008-09 season.

Concordia place finishers
2nd – Andrew Schulte (141)
4th – Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197)
4th – Emilio Rivera (133)
5th – Jr Lule (149)
5th – DJ McIntyre (285)
7th – Kodie Cole (133)

Team Scoring
1. Grand View 177.0
2. Missouri Valley 137.5
3. Maryville 124.5
4. Montana State-Northern 109.5
5. Indiana Tech 107.0
6. Concordia 95.5
7. Menlo 87.0
8. Baker 78.5
9. Dickinson State 74.5
10. Oklahoma City 72.5
11. Northwestern 60.0
12. Midland 55.5
12. William Penn 55.5
14. Briar Cliff 48.5
15. Benedictine 37.0
16. Doane 36.0
17. Missouri Baptist 26.0
18. Lindenwood-Belleville 21.5
19. St. Catharine 20.5
20. Truman State 13.5
21. Ottawa 8.0
22. Graceland 7.0
23. Bacone 6.5
24. Hannibal LaGrange 4.0

No. 14 Bulldogs make statement, end Morningside’s run of 31-straight GPAC dual wins

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – In the process of remaining unbeaten in GPAC duals, the 14th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team ended host Morningside’s run of dominance in Thursday night’s showdown in Sioux City, Iowa. The Bulldogs turned the tables with a 29-12 victory that snapped the Mustangs’ impressive streak of 31-straight GPAC dual wins that dated back to the 2008-09 season.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA North Qualifying Group, pulled even with Briar Cliff atop the league standings. Both teams sport identical 4-0 conference marks.

Concordia has a dual with Briar Cliff coming up on Feb. 3, but Thursday’s match signaled the breaking down of a significant barrier on the road to a potentially special 2014-15 season.

“It’s a huge deal for us,” Vote said after the victory. “It’s a huge emotional lift to know that we can do it. We knew we had enough to beat them, but guys look at that winning streak. Once we got rolling we felt like we had them. Everyone wrestled hard tonight.”

In a dual that began with the 165-pound weight class, No. 19 Morningside jumped out to a 3-0 lead via a win by decision. Concordia sophomore Austin Fehlhafer, ranked 14th nationally, responded with a pin in just 45 seconds, igniting a run of seven Bulldogs wins over the final nine matches.

“That was a big win for us momentum-wise,” Vote said. “Austin has dealt with a lot of injuries this season and he’s finally getting halfway healthy. You could see it in his eyes and he went out and dominated. That pumped up our team and we were ready to go.”

Concordia clinched the team win at 141 pounds when junior college transfer Andrew Schulte picked up his 10th victory in his first 12 bouts as a Bulldog. The sixth-ranked Schulte, a second place finisher at last week’s Missouri Valley Invite, dominated Cody Cline, 13-3, for a major decision, putting Concordia on top, 25-9, with two matches remaining.

Sophomore Kodie Cole (6-5) piggybacked on Fehlhafer with a pin of Alex Schmitz at 133 pounds, right before Schulte took the mat. The Bulldogs also got a key win at 125 in an evenly-matched battle between Concordia’s Dmitri Smith and Morningside’s Brent Curtis. Smith (8-11) won, 4-2.

Additional Bulldog wins were delivered by No. 12 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (D, 1-0) at 197, DJ McIntyre (D, 2-0) at heavyweight and No. 7 Enrique Barajas (MD, 14-5) at 157. In his first time out since the Desert Duals on Dec. 20, Barajas had his way with Nate Taylor and improved to 18-8 on the season. Meanwhile, McIntyre has already reached the 20-win mark in his first season as a Bulldog.

The Mustangs, ranked seventh in the North, got half their points from second-ranked Rulin Pederson, who wiped out Noel Richardson in 6:01 at 184 pounds. Morningisde held a 9-6 advantage before Concordia got on a roll.

No doubt, this was a signature victory for Vote’s program.

“We had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder,” Vote said. “All season long we looked forward to competing with Morningside. We had it marked on our calendar that we wanted to win this dual.

“The biggest thing was that this was a great team effort.”

Morningside has won each of the last three GPAC dual titles with perfect records all three years. In their first conference dual of this season, the Mustangs defeated Hastings, 29-12, on Jan. 16.

The Bulldogs will put their unbeaten GPAC record on the line again when they host Dakota Wesleyan (1-10, 0-4 GPAC) on Wednesday (Jan. 28). The action is set to get started at 7 p.m. from Walz Arena. In last season’s meeting with the Tigers, Concordia came away with a 19-18 victory in Mitchell, S.D.

Wrestling puts unbeaten GPAC mark on the line in Wednesday home dual

SEWARD, Neb. – The 14th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team returns to Walz Arena on Wednesday to play host for the first time since a 23-13 win over No. 25 Northwestern on Dec. 10. The Bulldogs, ranked atop the NAIA’s North Qualifying Group, welcome Dakota Wesleyan for a 7 p.m. dual.

The night will feature a pre-match ceremony to honor Jeramie Schoepf, a former assistant wrestling coach at Seward High School. Jeramie died tragically on March 7, 2014, at the age of 36. Representatives from Seward youth wrestling as well as members of the Seward High School wrestling team will be in attendance. The Bulldogs will warm up wearing T-shirts with Jeramie’s initials on them.

The dual will be shown live via the Concordia Sports Network.

Concordia has won each of its first four GPAC duals by 10 points or more. In last week’s only outing, the Bulldogs snapped No. 19 Morningside’s streak of 31-straight conference dual victories. Sophomores Austin Fehlhafer (174) and Kodie Cole (133) both recorded pins as Concordia won seven of 10 bouts over the host Mustangs in Sioux City, Iowa. Concordia also owns conference wins over Doane (35-12), Midland (32-9) and Northwestern (23-13).

On the other hand, the Tigers are 1-10 overall and 0-4 in GPAC duals. Dakota Wesleyan has suffered conference losses to Doane (38-15), Northwestern (37-9), Briar Cliff (43-3) and Midland (33-22). First-year head coach Boomer Fechko’s biggest standout had been 165-pounder Trever Devestern, who is ranked first in the North region and third nationally. However, Devestern is out with an injury. Kyle Gerlach checks in at No. 5 in the 174-pound North rankings.

In tournament action, Concordia and Dakota Wesleyan wrestlers have faced just once with the Bulldogs’ Austin Starkey claiming a 5-0 decision over Brook Woehl in a 157-pound match at the Dakota Wesleyan Open on Nov. 15. In last season’s tilt between Concordia and the Tigers, Emilio Rivera allowed the Bulldogs to edge Dakota Wesleyan, 19-18, by taking a 5-2 decision over Richard Rios in the dual’s final match at 133 pounds.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s probable lineup features six nationally-ranked wrestlers (see below) who have combined for a record of 88-47. Twelfth-ranked 197-pounder Ken Burkhardt Jr. (23-14) leads Concordia in both wins and pins (8). Sophomore Andrew Schulte, ranked No. 6 at 141, has won 10 of his first 12 career matches in the Bulldog singlet.

Following Wednesday’s action, Concordia will have two remaining GPAC duals – both at home. The Bulldogs have a showdown looming with Briar Cliff, also unbeaten in conference duals, on Feb. 3 prior to finishing their dual slate with Hastings on Feb. 12.

Concordia probable lineup
125 – Dmitri Smith (8-11)
133 – Kodie Cole (6-5)
141 – No. 6 Andrew Schulte (10-2)
149 – No. 7 Enrique Barajas (18-8)
157 – No. 15 Jr Lule (9-4)
165 – Austin Starkey (14-12)
174 – Tommy Bailey (4-11)
184 – No. 14 Austin Fehlhafer (6-7)
197 – No. 12 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (23-14)
285 – No. 11 Ceron Francisco (22-12) 

Dakota Wesleyan probable lineup
125 – Will Seydel or Chad McCannon
133 – Open
141 – Open
149 – Mito Mendivil
157 – Open
165 – Kyle Gerlach
174 – Alex Osborne
184 – Isaac Rangel
197 – Alex Smith
285 – Open

Cole tabbed GPAC wrestler of the week

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – One of the stars of 14th-ranked Concordia’s statement win last week over No. 19 Morningside, sophomore Kodie Cole has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Wrestler of the Week, as announced by the conference on Tuesday. Cole is the first Bulldog to receive the honor this season.

As part of Concordia’s 29-12 victory on Jan. 22 that snapped Morningside’s streak of 31-straight GPAC dual wins, Cole (6-5) pinned the Mustangs’ Alex Schmitz (8-8) in 3:55 in the 133-pound match. The third fall of the season for the native of Palmdale, Calif., put the Bulldogs up 21-9, giving Concordia control of the match. The team win pushed the Bulldogs to 4-0 in conference duals.

A national qualifier last season as a freshman, Cole owns a career record of 24-22. He placed fifth in the 133-pound bracket at the 2014 NAIA North Qualifying Group Tournament to earn a spot at nationals.

Cole and the Bulldogs return to action on Wednesday when they dual Dakota Wesleyan (0-4 GPAC) inside Walz Arena at 7 p.m. For a preview of the dual, click HERE.

2014-15 GPAC wrestlers of the week
Jan. 27 – Kodie Cole, Concordia
Jan. 20 – Sterling Terry, Midland
Jan. 13 – Rulin Pederson, Morningside
Jan. 7 – Sterling Terry, Midland

Fehlhafer, Bulldogs honor Schoepf by dominating Dakota Wesleyan

SEWARD, Neb. – In a dual that lasted just 45 minutes, the 14th-ranked Concordia wrestling team dominated Dakota Wesleyan, 52-4, in front of a strong Walz Arena crowd buoyed by the Seward community on Wednesday evening. On a night when his former assistant wrestling coach at Seward High School was honored, sophomore Austin Fehlhafer ignited the loudest ovation when he ended the night’s final contested match with a pin.

In a pre-match ceremony, the Bulldog wrestling program paid tribute to Jeramie Schoepf, who died tragically last March at the age of 36. Schoepf had an immensely positive impact upon Fehlhafer and many others in the Seward community. Family members of Schoepf were in attendance.

Fehlhafer honored his former coach by turning a 4-2 third-period deficit into a fall that nearly brought the house down.

“It was a lot of fun getting to relive some of the moments,” Fehlhafer said. “It was pretty emotional for me. Going to college wrestling was a big decision that he pushed me towards. He told me he believed in me and that I could do it. I owe a lot of it to him.”

The win means that Fehlhafer and company remain unbeaten in GPAC duals (5-0), pulling even with Briar Cliff on top of the league standings. Concordia has just two conference duals remaining in its bid for the program’s first GPAC dual title.

“You hear talk about (winning the GPAC),” Vote said. “We have high goals. Winning the GPAC would be nice, but as a team I think we want more than that. But that’s something we want to achieve along the way.”

The Bulldogs got out to a 28-0 lead before the visiting Tigers (0-5 GPAC) finally got on the board. Sophomore Dmitri Smith (9-11) got the night started at 125 pounds with a second-period pin of Will Seydel. Reigning GPAC wrestler of the week Kodie Cole (133) then picked up a 10-1 major decision before three-consecutive Dakota Wesleyan open weights provided an insurmountable advantage.

Fehlhafer (7-7) put a capper on the evening in his first career bout at 184 pounds. Ranked 14th nationally at 174, the Seward native wiped out Isaac Rangel in 5:44 for his second-consecutive pin. That effort came on the heels of Tommy Bailey’s first-period fall over Alex Osborne at 174.

Vote felt his team’s showing was appropriate on the special evening.

“It was great for Austin. It was great for the community,” Vote said. “It was nice to see all the people here to honor such a good guy who had such a strong passion for the community of wrestling. He was part of what built this community to where it’s at in wrestling. It was good to see him honored tonight.”

The Bulldogs will host Briar Cliff on Tuesday (Feb. 3) in a battle between two squads with identical 5-0 GPAC dual marks. The action is set to get started at 7 p.m. from Walz Arena. In last year’s meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, Concordia topped the Chargers, 31-14, by winning six of 10 bouts. Emilio Rivera (133) and Enrique Barajas (149) both recorded pins.

Vote says the team’s preparation will not change for what will be the team’s most significant GPAC dual to date.

“Our preparation will be the same as it has all year,” Vote said. “All always tell our guys, ‘we prepare for everybody the same way.’ It’s not about the end result. It’s about preparation.”

Wrestling hosts Briar Cliff Tuesday with GPAC title at stake

SEWARD, Neb. – Now in year six since the rebirth of Concordia University wrestling in 2009, third-year head coach Dana Vote’s program enters Tuesday night (Feb. 3) with a prime opportunity to clinch at least a share of its first-ever GPAC dual title. In their most significant dual to date, the 14th-ranked Bulldogs put their undefeated conference mark up against a Briar Cliff team that sports an identical 5-0 GPAC record. The action is set to get started at 7 p.m. from Walz Arena.

The dual can be seen live via the Concordia Sports Network.

“I think guys are very excited. This is something we’ve prepared for all year,” Vote said. “We talked about winning a conference championship and we’ve put ourselves in a position to do it.

“I think it’s going to be a big crowd and an excited crowd. I know people have heard the buzz around town about how well we’ve been doing the second half of the year.”

Concordia has been dominant in its first five GPAC duals, winning them by an average score of 34.2 – 10. The Bulldogs have won 36 of the 50 individual bouts in conference action. They made their biggest statement with a 29-12 win at No. 19 Morningside on Jan. 22 to snap the Mustangs’ streak of 31-straight GPAC dual wins. Concordia will now have an opportunity to put a halt to Briar Cliff’s run of six-consecutive conference dual wins.

Like the Bulldogs, the Chargers own GPAC dual victories over Midland (25-18), Dakota Wesleyan (43-3), Northwestern (27-21) and Doane (44-6). Briar Cliff’s additional win came against Hastings (29-12). Fourth-year head coach Joe Privitere’s squad has impressively turned things around after finishing in a tie for sixth in the league standings last season with a 2-5 GPAC record. The Chargers boast three nationally-ranked wrestlers: No. 12 Kyle Robison (125), No. 12 Skylar Weber (157) and No. 10 Abram Reynolds (285). In addition, 174-pounder Anthony Pike is a returning All-American.

“It’s definitely a good matchup. It’s going to be a tough dual,” Vote said. “There are a lot of tough matches.”

In 14 matches between Bulldog and Charger wrestlers in this season’s tournament action, Concordia has won 11 times. Those 11 victories are spread out between 11 different Bulldog grapplers. Concordia heavyweight DJ McIntyre (20-12) owns a 2-1 win (Missouri Valley Invite) over 10th-ranked Abram Reynolds of Briar Cliff.

Concordia probable lineup
125 – Dmitri Smith (9-11)
133 – No. 4 Emilio Rivera (22-7)
141 – No. 6 Andrew Schulte (11-2)
149 – No. 7 Enrique Barajas (19-8)
157 – No. 15 Jr Lule (10-4)
165 – Austin Starkey (14-12) / Tommy Bailey (5-11)
174 – No. 14 Austin Fehlhafer (7-7)
184 – Noel Richardson (11-16)
197 – No. 12 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (24-14)
285 – DJ McIntyre (20-12) / No. 11 Ceron Francisco (23-12)

Briar Cliff probable lineup
125 – No. 12 Kyle Robison
133 – Dylan Tornabane
141 – Jacob Caskey
149 – Jacob Spadoni
157 – No. 12 Skylar Weber
165 – Steven Schaffer
174 – Anthony Pike
184 – Thomas Patterson
197 – Jordan Watkins
285 – No. 10 Abram Reynolds / Dalton Presley

Bulldogs flex muscles on way to first-ever GPAC dual title

SEWARD, Neb. – Tuesday turned into a historic night for the Concordia University wrestling program, which flexed its muscles in a battle that matched a pair of teams with unbeaten conference records. The Bulldogs’ most significant dual in the six years since its rebirth in 2009 produced a convincing GPAC title-clinching 29-6 win over visiting Briar Cliff (5-1 GPAC) in front of another boisterous Walz crowd.

The blowout victory gave the program its first-ever GPAC dual championship. Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad carries an unblemished 6-0 league mark with just a single conference dual remaining on the schedule.

Ever since a 1-5 GPAC record during the 2012-13 season, Vote’s program has skyrocketed to the top of the conference and the NAIA’s North Qualifying Group.

“It was great. It was an emotional time,” Vote said of the win. “The guys are excited. We worked for this for the last year-and-a-half. It’s a big win for the seniors. Our two seniors are both transfers but they’re two guys who took a big risk coming here. We didn’t really have that great of a program at the time. I told them what I thought we could do and how they could be part of it. They bought in.”

A particularly strong team in the top half of the lineup, Concordia jumped out to a 14-0 lead on Briar Cliff with wins in each of the first four weight classes. Sophomore 125-pounder Dmitri Smith gave the Bulldogs plenty of early momentum with his 6-4 upset of 12th-ranked Kyle Robison to get the night started. Smith got on top early with a takedown that left Robison wobbly, helping lead to the fifth win over the past six matches for the native of Beaumont, Calif.

Smith’s win signaled the start of a momentous evening. The Bulldogs concluded the post-dual huddle by breaking on “conference champs.”

“It was exciting,” Smith said. “We worked hard for it. This shows how much work we put in.”

Concordia’s highly-ranked grapplers also turned in stellar nights with No. 4 (133) Emilio Rivera (D, 15-8), No. 6 (141) Andrew Schulte (MD, 12-4), No. 7 (149) Enrique Barajas (MD, 16-4), No. 14 (184) Austin Fehlhafer (D, 8-2) and No. 12 (197) Ken Bukhardt Jr. (pin, 2:15) all claiming victories.

In sum, the Bulldogs won eight of the 10 bouts in sending their latest statement to the conference. On Jan. 22 Concordia halted Morningside’s run of 31-straight GPAC dual wins. Briar Cliff entered Tuesday with six-consecutive conference victories. By the 197-pound tilt, the Chargers had already been guaranteed their first loss.

“Briar Cliff’s got a great team,” Vote said. “They were 5-0. Coming in we knew it was going to be a fight. That’s what we were prepared for – to go out and battle for seven minutes. The guys did it. If you look at us wrestling in November and look at us now, we’ve made great gains.”

Austin Starkey drew some of the loudest ovations of the night when he flipped a 4-2 deficit into a 7-4 victory over Steven Schaffer. The 165-pound Starkey rallied back with a reversal and three nearfall points. That led into Fehlhafer’s dual-clinching win at 184, where the Seward native earned an 8-2 decision over Thomas Patterson.

For good measure, Burkhardt Jr. added a pin of Jordan Watkins and 11th-ranked Ceron Francisco edged No. 10 Abram Reynolds, 3-2, in the heavyweight match.

While Concordia came away with only one pin on the night, its dominance was reflected in its 22-4 advantage in takedowns. Barajas’ five takedowns by himself were more than the Chargers’ output as a team.

Just two seasons ago the Bulldogs were on the wrong side of similar statistics.

“It was a rough year, man,” Vote said of the 2012-13 campaign. “But right now things are going good. It’s a great feeling to know that we’re there.”

The Bulldogs can finish off a perfect GPAC dual season by defeating Hastings (1-3 GPAC) on Feb. 12 in a contest set to take place inside the PE Gymnasium on the Concordia campus. Prior to the conference finale, the Bulldogs will take part in the Briar Cliff Open on Saturday. The action will get started at 9 a.m. from Sioux City, Iowa.

Cole claims 133-pound title at Briar Cliff Open

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Fresh off a dominant GPAC title-clinching win over Briar Cliff on Tuesday, the Concordia University wrestling team sent 13 individuals to the Briar Cliff Open in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday. Sophomore Kodie Cole enjoyed one of his best days as a Bulldog as he dominated the 133-pound bracket on the way to his first career tournament title.

While six of Concordia’s seven nationally-ranked wrestlers were rested on Saturday, head coach Dana Vote’s group produced a collective record of 27-23 with a pair of place finishes, including a second place claim by sophomore 184-pounder Austin Fehlhafer.

Cole, now 11-5 this season, has won seven-consecutive matches. Just a couple months ago it appeared he would redshirt the 2014-15 campaign.

“Kodie had a great day,” Vote said. “He dominated in the final and really wrestled solid. We knew he had work to do but there’s a reason why we decided not to redshirt him.”

Cole pinned his way to the 133-pound championship match. He recorded falls over Air Force Prep’s John Twomey (1:02), Northwestern’s Danny Arceo (2:08) and Missouri Baptist’s Aaron Hane (2:40) to run his season pin total to seven. Then in the title bout, the native of Palmdale, Calif., knocked off South Dakota State’s Ben Gillette (D, 11-7), who earlier this season defeated both Eric Franklin and Emilio Rivera.

Fehlhhafer is rounding into form after battling injury throughout the year. Just like Cole, Fehlhafer notched pins in each of his first three matches. A pinning machine as a freshman last season, Fehlhahfer now has five falls over his past seven bouts. The Seward native is 39-19 with 25 pins in his collegiate career.

“He had a great day. He’s getting back to the Austin we saw last year,” Vote said. “He’s getting better every time out and now he’s making the adjustment to a new weight class.”

Saturday marked the start of a promising career for freshman Chris Moran, who went 5-2 in his first taste of collegiate wrestling. After losing by technical fall to Jamestown’s Michael Nord, Moran (Sanger, Calif.) went on a run of four-straight pins at 165 pounds.

“He’s got great potential,” Vote said of Moran. “He’s very explosive and dangerous. He’s a threat to end the match at any time.”

Junior Austin Starkey (157) matched Moran with five wins (two by pin) of his own. Other Bulldogs with multiple wins on the day were Tommy Bailey (3-2), Kolton Larsen (3-2), Robert Mata (2-2) and Jerry Stepps (2-2).

The Bulldogs (6-0 GPAC) will try to complete an undefeated GPAC dual season when they host Hastings (6-9, 3-3 GPAC) at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The contest will take place inside the PE Gymnasium on the Concordia campus. Vote’s squad aims to avenge last season’s 21-12 loss at Hastings. The Bulldogs have won each of their first six GPAC duals by 10 points or more.

Wrestling seeks perfect GPAC record in home finale

SEWARD, Neb. – Having already clinched at least a share of the GPAC title, the sixth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team can wrap up a perfect conference dual season and a spot alone atop the league standings with a win over Hastings. Head coach Dana Vote’s squad welcomes the Broncos (5-9, 3-3 GPAC) at 7 p.m. on Thursday for the final dual of the 2014-15 season. The contest will take place in the PE Gymnasium on the Concordia campus.

A live webcast of the dual will be available via the Concordia Sports Network. (Click on channel two).

Last week the Bulldogs remained unbeaten in conference action by thumping Briar Cliff, 29-6, in a matchup of teams that entered the dual with identical 5-0 GPAC records. The match was a continuation of Concordia’s domination inside the conference. The Bulldogs have won each of their six GPAC duals by 10 points or more and have come out on top in 44 of the 60 individual bouts. Vote’s squad has put a halt to significant GPAC win streaks for both Morningside (31) and Briar Cliff (6).

Since wrestling in his first match of the season on Dec. 10, sophomore Kodie Cole has made a big impact for the Bulldogs. Over the weekend, the native of Palmdale, Calif., claimed the 133-pound title by going 4-0 with a trio of pins. He owns an active seven-match win streak that includes five pins.

The top-ranked team in the NAIA’s North Qualifying Group, Concordia possesses six wrestlers with 20 or more victories: Ken Burkhardt Jr. (25-14), Ceron Francisco (24-12), Emilio Rivera (23-7), Enrique Barajas (20-8), DJ McIntyre (20-12) and Austin Starkey (20-14). Burkhardt Jr. leads the way with nine pins. McIntire has claimed seven wins via fall.

Concordia’s impressive rise in 2014-15 is reflected in the latest NAIA rankings released on Wednesday. Ten Bulldogs are ranked individually and Concordia’s team rating of No. 6 equals the highest national placement in program history. Andrew Schulte, No. 1 in the North at 141, has climbed to No. 3 in the NAIA in his weight class. Complete rankings can be viewed HERE.

Meanwhile, Hastings sports a 3-3 conference mark. The Broncos own wins over Doane (27-15), Dakota Wesleyan (33-19) and Midland (24-21). Their GPAC losses have come at the hands of Morningside (29-12), Briar Cliff (29-12) and Northwestern (28-21). No Hastings grapplers appear in the national rankings.

In last year’s meeting in Hastings, the Broncos won five of nine bouts (125 open for both teams) en route to a 21-12 win over the Bulldogs. Concordia got wins from Cole (D, 7-3), Barajas (D, 5-3), Tommy Bailey (D, 8-6) and Francisco (D, 12-8).

Concordia probable lineup
125 – No. 14 Dmitri Smith (10-11)
133 – No. 4 Emilio Rivera (23-7)
141 – No. 3 Andrew Schulte (12-2)
149 – No. 7 Enrique Barajas (20-8) / No. 10 Jr Lule (10-5)
157 – Austin Starkey (20-14)
165 – Tommy Bailey (8-14)
174 – Open
184 – No. 11 Austin Fehlhafer (11-8)
197 – No. 8 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (25-14)
285 – No. 13 DJ McIntyre (20-12) 

Hastings probable lineup
125 – Devin Ushio (9-16)
133 – Trey Trujillo (7-5) / Aaron Tarin (3-9)
141 – Alec Chanthapatheth (11-9) / Alex Tarin (6-20)
149 – Connor Blanco (15-12)
157 – Open
165 – Caleb Holt (2-20)
174 – Steadman Wang (6-7)
184 – Nate Westerby (1-2) / Coleman Westerby (1-10)
197 – Joel Hernandez (9-7)
285 – Pedro Garcia (6-20)

Domination of Hastings clinches outright GPAC title

SEWARD, Neb. – A 42-3 smack down of visiting Hastings brought a fitting culmination to the dual season for the sixth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team. In a dominant run through the conference, the Bulldogs finished off a perfect 7-0 GPAC mark while locking up the outright league title thanks to Thursday night’s demolition of the Broncos inside the PE Gymnasium in Seward.

Third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad won 53 of 70 individual matches over its seven GPAC duals. In their latest outing, the Bulldogs held advantages of 21-2 in takedowns and 11-0 in nearfalls over Hastings (5-10, 3-4 GPAC). Concordia won nine of 10 bouts, including seven that came with bonus points.

“It was a good night. Guys came out, attacked and looked to score points,” Vote said. “We’ve been talking all year long about building leads and finishing matches. It seems like as the year goes along we’re getting better and better at it.”

On a night when the Bulldogs honored their three seniors, seventh-ranked Enrique Barajas (21-8) earned a dominant 17-1 victory by technical fall over Connor Blanco (15-13) at 149 pounds. Barajas, a native of Hayward, Calif., earned nine total nearfall points in the first-period alone in helping his team wrap up an unblemished GPAC mark.

“It’s huge. I loved it, man,” Barajas said. “Every dual I was hyped up and cheering everybody on. It was great. It was a good year.”

No. 11 Austin Fehlhafer (184) and No. 8 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) ensured that the Bulldogs put an exclamation mark on the night by swiftly pinning their overmatched opponents in 1:15 and 1:21, respectively. Fehlhafer (12-8) has now won seven of his last eight matches – six via pin. Meanwhile, Burkhardt Jr. (26-14) leads the team in wins and pins (10).

At 141 pounds, No. 3 Andrew Schulte, Concordia’s highest-ranked wrestler, attacked with a takedown immediately upon the opening whistle and never let Alex Tarin breathe. Schulte moved to 13-2 overall with his victory by technical fall (19-3) after coming up just short of his first pin as a Bulldog.

Major decisions were claimed by No. 4 133-pounder Emilio Rivera (24-7) and No. 14 125-pounder Dmitri Smith (11-11) and 165-pounder Austin Starkey (21-14). Smith has been on a tear of his own with six wins over his past seven matches. Rivera, also a senior, is 9-2 in his last 11 bouts.

Heavyweight DJ McIntyre, who just entered the national rankings at No. 13, completed the night with a 3-0 win over Hastings’ Pedro Garcia, meaning the Broncos mustered just a single win (174).

Hastings became the latest victim in Concordia’s stampede through the GPAC. The Bulldogs faced few serious threats from their conference brethren – all seven GPAC wins came by margins of 10 points or more.

“It was nice. It’s what we talked about all year since the first day of school,” Vote said. “We felt like we had a chance to win a conference championship and we wanted to do it by going undefeated. It worked out well for us. It feels good.”

In new national ratings released on Wednesday, Concordia vaulted up eight spots to No. 6, equaling the highest-ever ranking for the program. The NAIA North group’s top-ranked squad boasts 10 nationally-ranked individuals.

The most important portions of the season lie ahead as the Bulldogs now look forward to the NAIA North Qualifying Group Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 21. York College will serve as the host for an event in which berths to the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will be on the line. The top four finishers in each weight class plus a select number of at-large wrestlers advance to nationals.

“I think we’re in a good position to win the regional,” Barajas said. “We have tough guys in the room. Everybody’s mindset is set on winning. I believe 100 percent that we can get it done.”

Wrestling rides wave of perfect GPAC season into NAIA North qualifier

SEWARD, Neb. – On the heels of a dominant 42-3 win over Hastings that locked up an outright GPAC title and a perfect 7-0 conference dual record, the sixth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team enters an important week of preparation. Trips to the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will be at stake on Saturday when 12 Bulldogs compete at the North Qualifying Group Tournament hosted by York College. The North includes all eight GPAC wrestling members as well as Dickinson State (N.D.), Graceland (Iowa), Jamestown (N.D.), Waldorf (Iowa), William Penn (Iowa) and York.

The top four finishers in each weight class, plus 15 at-large selections from the North, receive invitations to the national championships.

Ranked as the top team in the region, the Bulldogs find themselves in a much different position than where they sat just two years ago. Head coach Dana Vote inherited a roster of only 15 individuals in his first season, a rebuilding campaign for the program. Now Concordia heads to its regional as the favorite thanks to a well-stocked group outfitted with 10 nationally-ranked grapplers.

Vote and company hope that the GPAC title is just the beginning of a great finish to the 2014-15 season.

“It was great. It was an emotional time,” Vote said following the team’s Feb. 3 win over Briar Cliff in a matchup of teams that sported undefeated conference records. “The guys are excited. We worked for this for the last year-and-a-half. It’s a big win for the seniors. Our two seniors are both transfers but they’re two guys who took a big risk coming here. We didn’t really have that great of a program at the time. I told them what I thought we could do and how they could be part of it. They bought in.”

Most of the dozen Bulldogs set to wrestle on Saturday will enter the tournament on hot streaks. Kodie Cole (133) owns a seven-match win streak, Dmitri Smith (125) has won six of his last seven bouts, Emilio Rivera (133) is 10-2 over his past 12 matches, Andrew Schulte (141) is 13-2 to begin his Bulldog career, Enrique Barajas (149) has won five in a row, Austin Starkey (157/165) has triumphed in five of his last six, Austin Fehlhafer (174) has seven wins and six pins in his last eight matches, Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) is 9-2 in his last 11 bouts and heavyweight DJ McIntyre has come out on top in five of his past six.

“I like where we’re at right now,” Vote said after last week’s thumping of Hastings. “I think we’ve done a great job and put ourselves in a situation to be successful at regionals. That’s what I asked of the guys. Put yourself in position. I think we’re ready to wrestle. I think we’re ready to get to the national tournament.”

Barajas breezed to an 8-0 record against GPAC opponents. He won by technical fall in his latest outing. Barajas and company are teeming with confidence heading into Saturday.

“I think we’re in a good position to win the regional,” Barajas said. “We have tough guys in the room. Everybody’s mindset is set on winning. I believe 100 percent that we can get it done.”

North team rankings
1. Concordia – 190 points
2. Dickinson State – 123
3. Morningside – 81
4. William Penn – 73
5. Briar Cliff – 68
6. York – 62
7. Jamestown – 56
8. Midland – 54
9. Northwestern – 49
10. Doane – 41
11. Hastings – 34
12. Waldorf – 30
13. Dakota Wesleyan – 16
14. Graceland – 13 

North breakdown by class:


Concordia competitors: Dmitri Smith (11-11)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Bo Bettinson (9), Waldorf
2. Kyle Robison (10), Briar Cliff
3. Dmitri Smith (14), Concordia
4. Brent Curtis, Morningside
5. Joseph Murillo, Jamestown
6. Khalil Williams, William Penn 


Concordia competitors: Emilio Rivera (24-7) and Kodie Cole (11-5)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Emilio Rivera (4), Concordia
2. Kodie Cole (10), Concordia
3. Richard Ortiz (15), Northwestern
4. Cartland Allen, Graceland
5. Alexander Schmitz, Morningside
6. Cade Coles, Dickinson State 


Concordia competitors: Andrew Schulte (13-2)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Andrew Schulte (3), Concordia
2. Scottie Bonds (5), William Penn
3. Josh Lopez (13), York
4. Anthony Kifer (15), Jamestown
5. Garret Lambrecht, Morningside
6. Alec Chanthapatheth, Hastings


Concordia competitors: Enrique Barajas (21-9) and Jr Lule (11-5)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Enrique Barajas (7), Concordia
2. Jr Lule (10), Concordia
3. Seth Ehlang (11), Dickinson State
4. Steven Garcia (15), Morningside
5. Connor Blanco, Hastings
6. Martin Phillips, Doane 


Concordia competitors: Austin Starkey (21-14)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Sean Elkins (9), Dickinson State
2. Joseph Weber (11), Briar Cliff
3. Kyle Gerlach (15), Dakota Wesleyan
4. John Hedge, Doane
5. Austin Starkey, Concordia
6. Charlton Benjamin, William Penn 


Concordia competitors: Tommy Bailey (8-15)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Taylor Hodel (6), Dickinson State
2. Michael Nord (8), Jamestown
3. Carlos Arana (16), York
4. Corey Sornson, Morningside
5. Jay Fresh, William Penn
6. Brandon Shuler, Northwestern 


Concordia competitors: None

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Anthony Pike (6), Briar Cliff
2. Kevin Corbett (8), Doane
3. Tyler McMichael (10), Midland
4. Tyree Cox (13), Northwestern
5. Tyler Brown (16), Dickinson State
6. Ishmael Rempson, William Penn 


Concordia competitors: Austin Fehlhafer (12-8)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Sterling Terry (5), Midland
2. Rulin Pederson (7), Morningside
3. Austin Fehlhafer (11), Concordia
4. Jon Solano (16), Dickinson State
5. Lane Oversen, Dickinson State
6. Randall Null, Northwestern 


Concordia competitors: Ken Burkhardt Jr. (26-14)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Hudson Buck (2), Dickinson State
2. Kolton Kersten (3), Midland
3. Ken Burkhardt Jr. (8), Concordia
4. Kyle Soderblom (13), William Penn
5. Joel Hernandez, Hastings
6. Logan Paul Eickhoff, York 


Concordia competitors: Ceron Francisco (24-12) and DJ McIntyre (21-12)

North top six (national rank in parentheses)
1. Saia Lotulelei (3), York
2. DJ McIntyre (13), Concordia
3. Ceron Francisco (15), Concordia
4. Antonio Lopez, Jamestown
5. Abram Reynolds, Briar Cliff
6. Angel Gomez, Waldorf

Barajas earns conference weekly award for GPAC champion Bulldogs

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – Five days after helping the sixth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team to its first-ever GPAC title, senior Enrique Barajas has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Wrestler of the Week, as announced by the league on Tuesday. The 149-pounder received the same honor on Feb. 18 of last year.

In last week’s 42-3 thrashing of Hastings, seventh-ranked Barajas won by technical fall, 17-1, over Connor Blanco, who is the fifth-ranked wrestler in the NAIA North Qualifying Group. The native of Heyward, Calif., recorded three takedowns and nine nearfall points in the process of improving his records to 21-9 overall and 8-0 against GPAC opponents.

Since transferring from Sacramento City Community College, Barajas has compiled a record of 39-24 with nine pins in two years in the Bulldog singlet. Last season Barajas qualified for the national championships after placing fourth in the 149-pound North bracket.

Barajas will attempt to earn a bid to the national championships for a second-straight season when he and 11 other Bulldogs compete at Saturday’s North regional hosted by York College. The top four finishers in each weight class, as well as 15 at-large selections, will advance to nationals on March 6-7 in Topeka, Kan.

2015 GPAC wrestlers of the week
Feb. 17 – Enrique Barajas, Concordia
Feb. 10 – Brent Curtis, Morningside
Feb. 3 – Kevin Corbett, Doane
Jan. 27 – Kodie Cole, Concordia
Jan. 20 – Sterling Terry, Midland
Jan. 13 – Rulin Pederson, Morningside
Jan. 7 – Sterling Terry, Midland

Bulldogs claim three individual North titles, team championship

YORK, Neb. – The top-rated team in the region lived up to its billing on Saturday. Head coach Dana Vote’s sixth-ranked Bulldogs mopped the mats, placing nine individuals in the top four of their respective weight classes at the NAIA North Group Qualifying Tournament hosted by York College. Concordia’s group of 12 dominated by going a combined 44-15 in the process of racking up a 165 team points. Runner up Dickinson State (N.D.) totaled 120.5 points.

Individual titles were captured by Kodie Cole (133), Andrew Schulte (141) and Enrique Barajas (149). Concordia also recorded four third-place finishes and two fourth-place claims as part of a banner day. Third-year head coach Dana Vote has now guided his team to GPAC and NAIA North Group titles in a big year for Bulldog wrestling.

“This is huge,” Vote said. “Before the season we talked about being regional and conference champions and doing it the right way. We want to be dominant in all positions, build leads and get those bonus points. We don’t want to be satisfied with just settling for decisions.

“Top to bottom, our guys wrestled outstanding today.”

Cole, a native of Palmdale, Calif., continued his hot streak by winning a 133-pound title for the second tournament in a row. Cole (15-5) has now won 11-consecutive matches and is headed to the national championships for the second year in a row. In the title match, Cole earned an 8-2 decision over Graceland’s Cartland Allen, the fourth-ranked grappler in the region.

At 141, third-ranked Schulte collected his first career pin as a Bulldog to open his perfect day. The native of Corona, Calif., got a signature win in the title bout by toppling No. 5 Scottie Bonds of William Penn, 6-2. Schulte has run his record to 17-2 in his first season at Concordia.

Schulte has had little trouble adjusting after transferring from Santa Ana College.

“Andrew had a huge day,” Vote said. “He wrestled hard for all seven minutes. In the semifinals he came back and took his guy down five times in a row. Andrew’s doing all the right things. He lives a championship lifestyle. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Barajas (25-9), who entered the day with an 8-0 record against GPAC opponents, defeated the second and third-ranked individuals in the North’s 149-pound bracket. Barajas nipped teammate Jr Lule, 5-4 in the semifinals and then earned another one-point decision in the title bout – 6-5 over Dickinson State’s 11th-ranked Seth Ehlang.

Dmitri Smith (125), Lule (149), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) and DJ McIntyre (285) each took third place on their respective medal stands to lock up bids to the national championships. Emilio Rivera (133) and Austin Fehlhafer (174) both placed fourth. Fehlhafer and Ceron Francisco (285) were both chosen as at-large selections to go to nationals.

McIntyre’s six wins on the day were the most of any Bulldog. Eleven of the 12 wrestlers to represent Concordia piled up three wins or more. Seven of Vote’s competitors notched exactly four victories.

The NAIA North Qualifying Group includes all eight GPAC wrestling programs as well as Dickinson State (N.D.), Graceland (Iowa), Jamestown (N.D.), Waldorf (Iowa), William Penn (Iowa) and York.

Concordia’s 10 national qualifiers will head to the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships on March 6-7. They will take place at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. For more information on the championships, click HERE. Barajas, Burkhardt Jr., Cole, Fehlhafer and Rivera will all be making their second-straight trips to the national championships. Austin Mogg, a 2014 All-American, is the only national qualifier from last season that did not return to this year’s roster.

“We’re right where we want to be,” Vote said. “Having 10 guys puts us in position for great things to happen at the national championships.”

Ten Bulldogs officially named qualifiers for 2015 national championships

NAIA release

SEWARD, Neb. – A 2014-15 Concordia University wrestling season that has already included GPAC and NAIA North Group titles will continue when the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships take place March 6-7. Third-year head coach Dana Vote will travel 10 wrestlers to the 58th annual event, which will be held at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. The first of four sessions is set to start at 10 a.m. CST on Friday, March 6.

Only three NAIA programs nationally will be represented by more individuals than Concordia on the national stage. Five Bulldogs will be making their second-straight trip to Topeka while the other five will get their first tastes of the NAIA national championships (see complete qualifier list below). At last year’s championships, Austin Mogg finished in fifth place at 125 pounds as Concordia’s lone All-American.

The top team in the North, the Bulldogs stand a good chance of improving upon their team finish of 22nd at the 2014 national championships. Concordia has garnered a top-15 national ranking in every coaches’ poll of the season. Its current ranking of sixth equals its highest-ever national placement in program history. All 10 of Concordia’s national qualifiers possess national rankings.

Stretch Internet, the NAIA’s official video streaming company, will be broadcasting the 10 title bouts (Session IV) of the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships on March 7 on www.NAIANetwork.com. Packages can be purchased for $10.

For additional information on the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.

Bulldog national qualifiers
125 – No. 14 Dmitri Smith (15-12)
133 – No. 10 Kodie Cole (15-5)
133 – No. 4 Emilio Rivera (27-9)
141 – No. 3 Andrew Schulte (17-2)
149 – No. 7 Enrique Barajas (25-8)
149 – No. 10 Jr Lule (15-6)
184 – No. 11 Austin Fehlhafer (16-10)
197 – No. 8 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (29-15)
285 – No. 13 DJ McIntyre (27-13)
285 – No. 15 Ceron Francisco (28-14)

Barajas named GPAC wrestler of year; nine Bulldogs collect all-conference laurels

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – For the second-straight season, the Concordia University wrestling program is home to the conference wrestler of the year. On Wednesday the GPAC tabbed senior Enrique Barajas for the league’s highest honor, a year after Emilio Rivera earned the same award. In addition, third-year leader Dana Vote garnered GPAC coach of the year accolades and a total of nine Bulldogs collected some form of all-conference recognition.

Barajas is joined by three other Bulldogs on the all-conference first team: Rivera (133) and sophomores Ceron Francisco (285) and Andrew Schulte (141). Concordia representatives on the second team include juniors Jr Lule (149) and Dmitri Smith (125) and sophomores Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) and DJ McIntyre (285). Fellow sophomore Kodie Cole (133) was placed on honorable mention.

Barajas grabs the title of GPAC wrestler of the year after rolling through all conference opponents placed in front of him. A national qualifier for the second year in a row, the native of Hayward, Calif., will enter the national championships with a mark of 10-0 against GPAC opponents. His overall record of 25-8 includes a mark of 14-3 against NAIA foes. Barajas captured the 149-pound NAIA North Group Qualifying Tournament title at York, where he picked up two of his six pins on the season. He owns an active nine-match winning streak.

“Enrique’s had a great season. He’s been very dominant this year,” Vote said. “We’ve always known that he’s always had the capability of going out and performing at that level. It’s just a matter of getting him to open up there and really believe in himself. When he starts attacking he can wrestle with anybody.”

Rivera (27-9), unbeaten last season against GPAC grapplers, went 9-1 in 2014-15 when facing a conference opponent. He placed fourth at 133 pounds in the North and is headed for the national championships. He owns a two-year record of 50-17. Both Francisco (28-14) and Schulte (17-2) are first-time first teamers. Schulte has taken the NAIA by storm since transferring from Santa Ana College, while Francisco has improved by leaps and bounds over his freshman campaign.

Burkhardt Jr. (29-15) rises to the second team after honorable mention recognition last year. Meanwhile, Cole (15-5), Lule (15-6), McIntyre (27-13) and Smith (15-12) have received their first career honors from the GPAC. Cole has been one of the nation’s hottest wrestlers, winning 133-pound titles at the Briar Cliff Open and NAIA North Qualifier in his last two outings. He owns a win streak of 11. Both Lule and McIntyre are in their first seasons as Bulldogs after transferring in to Concordia.

All nine Bulldogs who received all-conference honors will be headed to next week’s 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships (March 6-7) in Topeka, Kan. They will also be joined by Austin Fehlhafer (184).

Together they helped the Bulldogs win the NAIA North Group Qualifying Tournament as well as the GPAC title with a league dual record of 7-0. Bulldog individuals went a combined 43-14 at the regional and 53-17 in the seven GPAC duals. Vote’s 10th-ranked squad has nine nationally-ranked individuals.

“It’s definitely a huge step in the right direction,” Vote said. “It shows we’ve come a long ways. Even out of this group of 33 guys, we don’t have a single one who was a high school state champ. It really shows that we’ve done a great job in developing guys and getting them to perform at another level.”

Vote tabbed GPAC and regional coach of the year

SEWARD, Neb. – The architect behind the Concordia University wrestling program’s rise to prominence, third-year head coach Dana Vote has been named GPAC and NAIA North Group coach of the year. Under Vote’s guidance, the 2014-15 Bulldogs have captured GPAC and regional titles and are set to send 10 individuals to next week’s NAIA national championships.

In just a few seasons, Vote has helped Concordia transform into one of the top programs in the NAIA. Only three teams in the entire nation have qualified more wrestlers for the 2015 national championships.

Vote inherited a rebuilding job upon arriving at Concordia in 2013 after having spent five seasons as an assistant coach at NCAA Division III Buena Vista University. Following an 11th-place regional finish and no national qualifiers in 2013, Vote pumped energy into the program and led a runner-up North claim and the national qualification of five wrestlers last season. One year later the Bulldogs sit atop both the conference and region and own a No. 10 national ranking.

All 10 of Concordia’s nationally-ranked individuals and each of its nine all-conference performers were recruits brought to Seward by Vote and his staff. That list includes GPAC wrestlers of the year Enrique Barajas (2015) and Emilio Rivera (2014), 2014 All-American Austin Mogg as well as 2014-15 first team all-conference grapplers in sophomores Ceron Francisco (285) and Andrew Schulte and a group of four second teamers.

Together they helped the Bulldogs win the NAIA North Group Qualifying Tournament as well as the GPAC title with a league dual record of 7-0. Bulldog individuals went a combined 43-14 at the regional and 53-17 in the seven GPAC duals.

Vote and the Bulldogs are poised to improve upon their 22nd-place finish at the 2014 NAIA Wrestling National Championships. This year’s national tournament will take place March 6-7 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.

GPAC and NAIA North Group champions set for wrestling national championships

SEWARD, Neb. – The GPAC and NAIA North Qualifying Group champions will take the mats for one final tournament of the 2014-15 season. Conference and regional coach of the year Dana Vote will travel a group of 10 Bulldogs to the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, held Friday and Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.

After 22nd-place national finish a year ago, 10th-ranked Concordia looks to climb the ladder on the grand stage.

“I think we definitely want to crack the top 10, and the goal has always been to try to crack the top five,” Vote said. “For us to get in the top five we’re going to have to have the best tournament we can possibly have and wrestle lights out. It’s not out of the question by any means.”

The Bulldogs carry plenty of positive momentum on the heels of a dominant effort at the NAIA North Group Qualifying Tournament on Feb. 21. Three different Concordia wrestlers won regional titles and a total of nine Bulldogs placed within the top four of their respective weight classes. Nine days earlier Concordia trounced Hastings, 42-3, to finish with a 7-0 GPAC dual record.

The breakthrough campaign has been made possible by the likes of senior Enrique Barajas, who won the 149-pound North title and was named the GPAC wrestler of the year last week. Barajas has won each of his last nine matches. Meanwhile, fellow North champions Kodie Cole (133) and Andrew Schulte (141) hold active win streaks of 11 and eight, respectively.

In other words, the Bulldogs are coming in hot.

“Those guys have done a great job,” Vote said. “They’ve worked hard all season long. They’ve focused on the right things. We said that if you put in the time and you do the right things, it will work out for you in the end. I think that’s what has happened along the way. Hopefully we’ll have one more good tournament.”

Last season Concordia brought six wrestlers to nationals. None had ever experienced the NAIA championships. This time around half of the Bulldogs’ 10 qualifiers are making the trip for the second year in a row. That list includes Barajas and Cole, as well as 133-pound senior Emilio Rivera (2013-14 GPAC wrestler of the year) and sophomores Austin Fehlhafer (184) and Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197).

Vote expects the experience at the 2014 national championships to pay off this weekend.

“I think any time you have experience going into the national tournament it’s a positive and it can help you,” Vote said. “I feel like last year we were a little tight in some matches. We lost a few close matches. I hope we can overcome that this year.”

Schulte is one of five Bulldogs who will get their first tastes of the NAIA championships. Schulte, one of nine Concordia all-conference selections, has burst onto the NAIA scene with 17 wins in his first 19 matches in a Bulldog singlet. Other first-year Bulldogs in No. 10 Jr Lule (149) and No. 13 DJ McIntyre (285) enter the event with national rankings next to their names.

Session one action inside the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan., is scheduled to get underway Friday at 10 a.m. CST. The 58th annual event will consist of four sessions, concluding Saturday with the championship finals starting at 7 p.m. View preliminary brackets HERE.

There will be 211 wrestlers representing 44 institutions taking to the mat, including six defending national champions and 40 returning All-Americans

Stretch Internet, the NAIA’s official video streaming company, will be broadcasting the 10 title bouts (Session IV) of the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships on March 7 on www.NAIANetwork.com. Packages can be purchased for $10.

For additional information on the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, click here.

2015 Bulldog national qualifiers
125 – No. 12 Dmitri Smith (15-12)
133 – No. 7 Kodie Cole (15-5)
133 – No. 15 Emilio Rivera (27-9)
141 – No. 3 Andrew Schulte (17-2)
149 – No. 5 Enrique Barajas (25-8)
149 – No. 10 Jr Lule (15-6)
184 – Austin Fehlhafer (16-10)
197 – No. 9 Ken Burkhardt Jr. (29-15)
285 – No. 13 DJ McIntyre (27-13)
285 – Ceron Francisco (28-14)

Francisco upsets way to semis to highlight impressive day 1 at national championships

TOPEKA, Kan. – A group of 10 Bulldogs produced a combined 40 points and four individuals advanced to Saturday’s All-America rounds as part of day one of the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships. Sophomore Ceron Francisco stole the show for the 10th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team by upsetting the seventh and second-rated heavyweights on his way to a semifinal berth.

Boosted by Francisco’s big day, Concordia enters Saturday in sixth place (one point out of fifth). The lofty standing was also made possible by the likes of Ken Burkhardt Jr., Kodie Cole and Andrew Schulte in a strong Friday performance from third-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad.

“I thought we wrestled hard. Of course you have some close matches that you’d like to have back,” Vote said. “I think overall we had a good day. We went out and battled hard and wrestled tough. Some guys really stepped up. We said all along we want to put ourselves in position to be in the top five. Right now we’re one point out of fifth place. We’re right in the hunt.”

In his first-ever match at the national championships, Francisco (31-14), an at-large qualifier, burst onto the national scene with wins over three ranked wrestlers: Grand View University’s No. 7 Jacob Laden, 3-2, Melo College’s second-ranked Scott Brasil (pin, 8:55) and Life’s No. 14 Tracy Jewett, 3-2. After the long bout with Brasil ended with the Fayetteville, N.C., native’s sixth pin of the season, Francisco leapt into the arms of graduate assistant coach Tyler Kacmarysnki and pounded his chest, announcing his legitimacy at the national championships.

In session 2, Francisco guaranteed an All-America honor with a late takedown that allowed him to edge Jewett. A fan favorite, Francisco’s surprise run to the semifinals produced a loud ovation from a strong group of Bulldog supporters who made the trip. Among those supporters were Francisco’s mother and grandmother, who watched Ceron in person for the first time since he became a collegiate wrestler.

“All my coaches believe in me,” Francisco said. “I’ve got good partners in the room and we have the best facilities. I knew nobody worked harder than me. Even if they did, I just felt like I wanted it more. I wasn’t going to let anybody stop me.

“I didn’t want to let (my mom and grandmother) down.”

Schulte, a dominant performer since becoming eligible after transferring from Santa Ana College, continued his roll. The native of Corona, Calif., won by major decision over both Oklahoma City’s 14th-ranked Parker Bohannan, 13-5, and No. 9 Steele Escobedo, 9-1, of Menlo College. Schulte (19-2) will face top-ranked Brandon Wright of Grand View on Saturday in the semifinals of the 141-pound bracket.

Cole (17-6), a national qualifier at 133 pounds for the second-straight year, extended his personal win streak to 12 with his 4-1 decision over No. 14 Brian Ha of Menlo College in his first match of the day. After a 10-3 loss to fifth-ranked Jacob Colon of Grand View, seventh-ranked Cole (17-6) then topped Graceland’s No. 11 Cartland Allen, 7-0, to lock down his first career All-America claim.

In one of the final bouts of the entire day, Burkhardt Jr. (33-16) snuck past York’s Logan Paul Eickhoff, 6-5, to secure an All-America finish of his own. The Milford native went 4-1 on the day with a trio of victories over nationally-ranked foes. Burkhardt also appeared at the 2014 national tournament.

On the other hand, 149-pound senior Enrique Barajas saw his fortunes fade after he won two matches to push himself into the quarterfinals. That’s where he fell 6-2 to eighth-ranked Ryan Martin of Great Falls. Barajas was then eliminated by Bethany’s Victor Hughes in a 5-4 decision. Barajas, the 2014-15 GPAC wrestler of the year, concluded his season with a record of 27-10.

Senior Emilio Rivera (28-11) also saw his Bulldog career come to an end on Friday. The 2013-14 GPAC wrestler of the year dropped his final two bouts after pinning Missouri Valley’s Ryan Stearns. In two seasons at Concordia, Rivera went a combined 51-19 with two national tournament qualifications.

Both Jr Lule (149) and Austin Fehlhafer (184) were eliminated on Friday after dropping their two bouts during session one. Twelfth-ranked sophomore Dmitri Smith (125) and 13th-ranked junior DJ McIntyre (285) went were bounced from the tournament during the evening session and also went winless.

Day 2 of the national championships pick back up at 10 a.m. CT from the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. All wrestlers who advanced to Saturday’s action have already assured themselves of All-America recognition.

“I feel like we’re good enough to wrestle with anyone in the country,” Vote said. “Ceron has a tough guy, but Ceron’s tough too, and he’s wrestled solid in this tournament. He continues to do that. I think they both (Ceron and Andrew) have a shot at the finals. Kodie and Ken have to keep fighting and keep climbing the stand. They’re on the stand and now we want to work towards that third-place finish.”

View updated brackets HERE. For a national perspective of Friday’s action, click HERE.

Team standings (top 10)


Grand View 



Great Falls 



Lindsey Wilson 



Southern Oregon 



Oklahoma City 









Dickinson State 



Missouri Valley 



Montana State-Northern 


Bulldogs conclude season with four All-Americans, highest-ever national finish

TOPEKA, Kan. – The 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships came to a head in the afternoon on Saturday with four Bulldogs locking up spots on the medal stand as All-Americans. Over the two-day tournament, head coach Dana Vote’s collection of 10 national qualifiers combined for 43 team points, which elevated the Concordia University wrestling team to 12th place – its highest-ever national finish.

While Saturday did not go as Vote would have scripted it, he ended up with All-Americans in Andrew Schulte (141, 5th), Ceron Francisco (285, 6th), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197, 8th) and Kodie Cole (133, 8th). A solid overall tournament followed up GPAC and NAIA North Group titles as part of a breakthrough campaign for the Bulldogs.

“When you look at the big picture we had a good tournament,” said Vote, the GPAC and NAIA North coach of the year. “Coming into the year, four All-Americans would have been a big number for us. I think coming into the weekend we thought we could get at least five, but we wrestled tough. I’m satisfied with that.”

Schulte concluded his season with a pin of Menlo College’s ninth-ranked Steele Escobedo in 2:23 in the 141-pound fifth-place bout. That performance came on the heels of a pair of one-point losses. Paired with defending national champion and top-ranked Brandon Wright, Schulte fell by a 3-2 score in the semifinals. He then dropped a 5-4 bout to Lindsey Wilson’s fifth-rated Daniel Leonard.

A transfer from Santa Ana College, No. 3 Schulte finished his first campaign as a Bulldog with an overall record of 20-4. The NAIA North Group champion nearly punched a ticket to Saturday night’s final.

“I definitely came here believing I could beat that guy,” Schulte said of his matchup with Wright. “I fell a little bit short. The match after that I would say I definitely didn’t wrestle like myself. I was definitely disappointed in that. Then I dropped down to the fifth-place match and decided to make it happen. I pinned him as fast as I could.”

A surprise semifinalist in the heavyweight bracket, unranked sophomore Ceron Francisco (31-17) led 1-0 going into the third period against Missouri Valley’s fourth-ranked Gabi Musallam (third-place finisher in 2014). With the bout tied 1-1 in the final minute, Musallam took Francisco down for the match-deciding two-pointer with a spot in the title match on the line. Francisco, who hails from Fayetteville, N.C., ultimately dropped down to the fifth-place bout and took sixth.

“Andrew and Ceron both had a great tournament,” Vote said. “They were both one point away from being in the national finals. Ceron wrestled tough. I always believed he had the ability to do that. Now it’s just getting the confidence to wrestle to his ability. I think it’s coming.

“And Andrew’s been dominant all year. He took the guy who was probably the second best in the whole tournament – all weights – to the wire.”

Making his second-straight appearance on the national stage, Concordia sophomore 133-pounder Kodie Cole (17-8) settled for eighth place after getting pinned in both of his Saturday matches. Also a North champion, Cole carried an 11-match win streak into the national championships on the strength of two tournament titles.

Likewise, ninth-ranked 197-pound sophomore Ken Burkhardt Jr. (33-18) placed eighth for a spot on the medal stand. The Milford native fell, 6-5, to York’s Logan Paul Eickhoff in his first match on Saturday. He then ended his tournament with a pair of losses via fall.

Concordia’s four All-Americans were the most at a single national tournament in the six-year history since the program’s rebirth in 2009. The 2012 national championships produced three Bulldog All-Americans. Last season 125-pounder Austin Mogg became the fourth All-American in program history.

Of the team’s 10 national qualifiers, only Enrique Barajas and Emilio Rivera (the past two GPAC wrestlers of the year) are seniors. In other words, Vote has high hopes for what the 2015-16 season will bring.