2015-16 Wrestling

Dual Record - 13-4; 7-0 GPAC (1st) | Season Stats

SEASON PREVIEW: 2015-16 Concordia wrestling

At a glance:
2014-15 Dual Record:
 9-4 overall, 7-0 GPAC (1st)
2015 NAIA National Championships finish: 12th
Head Coach: Dana Vote (20-22 overall, 4th year)
Key Returners: Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), Kodie Cole (133), Ceron Francisco (285), Jr Lule (149), DJ McIntyre (285), Andrew Schulte (141), Dmitri Smith (125)
Key Losses: Enrique Barajas (149), Austin Fehlhafer (174), Emilio Rivera (133)
Key Newcomers: Matthew Atwood (141), Travian Cooke (174), Ignace Hakizimana (125), Daniel Melcher (149), Joshua Nelson (174), Alexander Reimers (197)
2014-15 GPAC All-Conference: Enrique Barajas (wrestler of the year; first team), Ceron Francisco (first team), Emilio Rivera (first team), Andrew Schulte (first team), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (second team), Jr Lule (second team), DJ McIntyre (second team), Dmitri Smith (second team), Kodie Cole (honorable mention)
2015 NAIA All-Americans: Andrew Schulte (141, 5th), Ceron Francisco (285, 6th), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197, 8th), Kodie Cole (133, 8th)
2015 NAIA National Qualifiers: Enrique Barajas (149), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), Kodie Cole (133), Austin Fehlhafer (184), Ceron Francisco (285), Jr Lule (149), DJ McIntyre (285), Emilio Rivera (133), Andrew Schulte (141), Dmitri Smith (125)

Season Outlook
By just about any measure, the 2014-15 season marked the most successful in the history of Concordia University wrestling. In head coach Dana Vote’s third season, the Bulldogs went a perfect 7-0 in GPAC duals, outscoring their conference rivals by a combined total of 242-59. Concordia then won the NAIA North Group tournament and placed 12th at the national championships (highest finish in school history).

Yet in some ways, Vote and his accomplished squad feel like they have some unfinished business to settle. The Bulldogs completed the final day of the 2015 national championships in a way that left them unsatisfied entering the offseason. It still eats at Vote as he looks ahead to the 2015-16 campaign.

Says Vote, “We had a bad day. We went 1-9. I think we lost six matches by one point or in overtime. That’s kind of what stuck in the back of our mind. We had great offseason training. I think we’re ready to go. Same thing this year. We want that conference championship and regional championship.”

The Bulldogs appear to have the necessary firepower to piggyback off of last season’s success. Concordia returns seven of its 10 national qualifiers and all four All-Americans from this past March. Plus Vote brings in a recruiting class that he believes is as good as any that he’s had since rising to the helm of the program.

Chief among the returnees is junior 141-pounder Andrew Schulte, who reached the national semifinals last season and earned All-America status with a fifth-place finish. Known for his aggressive style, Schulte went 20-4 overall last season after beginning his Concordia career with the second semester. Schulte is joined on this year’s roster by other 2015 All-Americans in juniors Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), Kodie Cole (133) and Ceron Francisco (285).

One of the team’s most improved wrestlers last year, Francisco caught plenty of attention at the national tournament due to his immense physical stature and with his surprising run to the semifinals as a wild card selection. Francisco reached the semis with wins over three-straight highly-rated opponents. All four returning All-Americans are ranked No. 1 in the region for their respective weight classes and Vote has lofty aspirations for all of them.

“If you’re a returning All-American there’s no reason you shouldn’t have your vision on a national championship,” Vote said. “I think those guys do. They’re all taking great steps, moving forward and working hard.”

Vote says this year’s squad will have improved leadership and Schulte points out that the latest Bulldog wrestling squad possesses outstanding chemistry. Those ingredients spice up a roster laden with talent and depth. Concordia believes it has the makings to come through on a top-five national finish that it fell short of last season.

“I think we’re capable of doing big things,” Schulte said. “I think it’s important we don’t coast off old accomplishments but still appreciate where we came from. I know we’re going to do big things this year. Guys are working really hard and they’re working really smart, too. I know we’re going to be successful.”

Other returning national qualifiers include juniors Jr Lule (157) and Dmitri Smith (125) and senior DJ McIntyre (285). Lule and Smith are two of the nine Bulldogs to garner preseason national rankings. Four individuals begin the season ranked amongst the top five NAIA wrestlers at their respective weights. In addition, 11 are ranked on the regional level.

Of them, two are new to the program – junior Ignace Hakizimana (125), ranked No. 16 in the NAIA, and freshman Josh Nelson (174), ranked fifth in the region. The list of potential impact first-year Bulldogs hardly ends there. Others such as senior 184-pounder Matt Atwood (transfer from Bethany College), freshman 174-pounder Travian Cooke (Holly Springs, N.C.), junior 149-pounder Daniel Melcher (transfer from Pratt Community College) and freshman 197-pounder Alexander Reimers (David City Aquinas High School) could crack the rankings at some point.

It all points to a strong dual lineup and could mean Vote has a difficult time deciding on which dozen grapplers to enter into the regional tournament that will be hosted by Concordia this coming spring. The 12 that are chosen will be expected to perform at a high level.

“As a team we’re getting better each year,” Vote said. “We’re adding depth. We expect that the 12 guys we put in the regional tournament to be tough enough to get to the national tournament. Our goal is to send all 12 guys to the national tournament. I think we have the depth to do it. I tell our guys that if you’re good enough to get in our top 12 you should be good enough to go to the national tournament. That’s where we’re building towards.”

Vote has continued to preach a championship lifestyle that places no limitations upon any individuals. Vote has mixed and matched former high school standouts with junior college transfers in pushing the program to unprecedented heights. The Bulldogs have garnered the last two GPAC wrestler of the year awards (Emilio Rivera, 2014, and Enrique Barajas, 2015) and have risen from the bottom of the GPAC and the region to the top.

The former Buena Vista University top assistant has maximized the talent of his recruits and made them all believers in themselves.

“I want to be a national champion. That’s the goal I have,” Schulte said. “An undefeated season would be pretty sweet. Sometimes I watch my interview from last year after nationals. When I see my face and how sad I looked, I want to be better than that guy.”

Based on the preseason rankings, Concordia is the favorite to capture a second-straight GPAC championship. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 8 in the NAIA, meaning they are already knocking on the door of the program’s highest-ever national ranking (No. 6 in two different polls last season). Roles have reversed and now teams will be looking to knock the Bulldogs off their perch.

“We should be right there in the hunt for (the GPAC title),” Vote said. “I’d say we’re the favorites right now, but that’s not how we look at it. We take it one match at a time and hopefully we can win the conference.”

Concordia will open up the 2015-16 season on Saturday (Nov. 7) when they compete at the loaded Grand View University Open in Pleasant Hill, Iowa. The nationally-ranked Bulldogs will make their home debut on Nov. 10 when No. 11 York College visits Walz Arena for a nonconference dual.

Seven Bulldogs place in season-opening tournament

PLEASANT Hill, Iowa – The defending GPAC and NAIA North champions opened up their 2015-16 season at the Grand View University Open with a combined 41 wins in Pleasant Hill, Iowa, on Saturday. Junior Ken Burkhardt Jr. and freshman Alexander Reimers both turned in third-place finishes in their respective brackets to highlight the efforts of the eighth-ranked Bulldogs, who had seven individuals earn top-six placements.

“It was a tough tournament and really let us know where we are at,” said fourth-year head coach Dana Vote. “I saw a lot of good things out of the freshmen. Tommy Bailey showed a lot of improvement from last year. The biggest thing I saw is we just need to be a little tougher. Overall with the level of competition it wasn’t a bad day for us having seven placers. Where we are as a program, we just expect more.”

Burkhardt Jr., a returning NAIA All-American, capped his day by pinning 10th-ranked Derrick Hawkins of Grand View University in 1:03. The native of Milford, Neb., recorded four wins via fall and triumphed in his final four bouts after dropping a 16-9 decision to Grand View’s Johnathen Dennis in the 197-pound quarterfinal match. Burkhardt Jr. improved to 60-37 overall in three seasons as a collegiate wrestler.

Reimers, a Seward native and product of Aquinas Catholic High School, won five of six matches at the Grand View Open. The former Nebraska state champion won his 197-pound battle by major decision, 8-0, over Jones Kendrick of Iowa Central Community College. Reimers also recorded three pins, including one of Grand View’s Ethan Leighton to advance to the final of the consolation bracket.

Four Bulldogs collected exactly three wins apiece: junior Tommy Bailey (165), freshman Travian Cooke (174), junior Jr Lule (157) and freshman Josh Nelson (174). Cooke placed third, taking a 2-1 win over Nelson (fourth place) in a matchup of teammates at 174 pounds. Another freshman, Demitrius Miller, finished fourth at 184 pounds. Meanwhile, Bailey and heavyweight Ceron Francisco both posted sixth-place claims.

Vote traveled 24 grapplers to Pleasant Hill. Thirteen of them made their Bulldog debuts on Saturday. Of the 24, 18 notched at least one win amidst a field of wrestlers that included representatives from NCAA Division I programs. Concordia was one of four GPAC members to send wrestlers to the Grand View Open.

The Bulldogs will host a dual for the first time in 2015-16 when No. 11 York College visits Walz Arena on Tuesday. Action will get underway at 7 p.m. The dual has been designated as Military Appreciation Night. Military personnel who present an ID will be admitted free of charge.

Bulldogs topple York in in-state top 15 matchup

SEWARD, Neb. – The eighth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team made its 2015-16 home debut on Tuesday and flexed its muscles in a battle with neighboring and 11th-ranked York College. The Bulldogs won six of eight contested matches and routed the visiting Panthers, 38-8.

Fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad turned in wins over three nationally-ranked individuals from York and another that was coming off a tournament title over the weekend. Vote put eight NAIA-ranked grapplers on the mat in an impressive showing in front of a strong Walz crowd.

“It was a good start for us. We came out and wrestled strong,” Vote said. “Dmitri (Smith) came out of the gate and set the tone for the team. We wrestled hard and we wrestled with an attitude. We were a little bit tougher than we were last weekend and that’s what we were looking for. I think overall we took a step forward.”

The Bulldogs got pins from both senior Matt Atwood (184) and junior Jr Lule (157) as well as a major decision from junior heavyweight Ceron Francisco in a dominant conclusion to Tuesday night. The second half of the lineup took its cues from Smith (125) and junior Kodie Cole (133) at the top.

Smith, ranked 14th nationally at 125, drew Robert Ozuna, who had just captured the 125-pound title over the weekend at the Bethany College Open. Smith got out to an early advantage with a first-period takedown and edged Ozuna, 3-2, thanks to a late escape.

“Wrestling is different when I get in front of my fans and get to wrestle in front of them,” Smith said. “I think (the early takedown) is what decided the match. Our coach emphasizes us to try to go hard and attack anybody we wrestle.”

Some of the night’s best drama came at 133, where two NAIA All-Americans went toe-to-toe. The fourth-ranked Cole blitzed Oscar Marin (No. 4 at 125 pounds) with a takedown and two nearfall points in the third period to overcome a 3-1 deficit. Cole grinned and the flexed after winning a 6-4 decision.

At 157, No. 12 Lule overwhelmed No. 7 Chrystian Banuelos with a takedown and four nearfall points in the opening period. Just 1:47 had elapsed wen Lule wiped out Banuelos by fall. Atwood was every bit as merciless, jumping out to an 8-0 advantage before pinning Noah Manly in a swift 184-pound bout.

Francisco, who made a surprise run to the national semifinals at this past March’s national championships, ended the dual in style. He recorded four takedowns and eight total nearfall points in dismantling 12th-ranked Jeff Albers. Francisco won by a 18-3 technical fall decision, surrendering all three points by escape.

“You look up and down our lineup we’re pretty solid all the way through,” Vote said. “You look at a lot of teams and they have weights where they’re a little weak, but I feel confident with all 10 guys going in that we put ourselves in position to win every match.”

Other winners for Concordia on Tuesday were 165-pounder Tommy Bailey (4-2 decision over Austin Coy), Foster Bunce (141; forfeit) and Travian Cooke (174, forfeit). Returning All-American Andrew Schulte got pinned in 4:20 by York’s sixth-ranked Willie Fox at 149 pounds. In addition, Bulldog 197-pounder Ken Burkhardt Jr. was clipped, 4-3, in a hotly-contested match that was decided in a second tiebreaker.

Concordia had been 0-4 in duals with York since the Bulldog wrestling program resurrected in 2009.

The Bulldogs return to action on Saturday at the Dakota Wesleyan University Open in Mitchell, S.D. The tournament will begin at 9 a.m. Last week seven Bulldogs earned place finishes at the Grand View University Open.

Concordia places five wrestlers at Dakota Wesleyan Open

MITCHELL, S.D. – The No. 8 Concordia wrestling team competed at the Dakota Wesleyan Open on Saturday, Nov. 14. Jr. Lule finished first for the Bulldogs in the 157-pound bracket while four other grapplers placed for the team.

Said head coach Dana Vote, “Jr. Lule had an outstanding day. He wrestled solid in every position and really showed his leadership. As a team, we wrestled better than last weekend, but we still need to be more consistent. Matt Atwood also had a great day and I really like the offense I saw from him.”

Taking first place in the 157-pound class was Concordia’s Lule. In the first round, Lule won by a tech fall over Jake Slocum from Southwest Minnesota State, 19-0. After two more victories by decision, the junior faced Blake Perryman in the title match and won by a major decision of 14-6.

Andrew Schulte competed in the 149 weight class and took fourth place. Schulte lost by a 7-9 decision in the quarterfinal bout to Bailey Neises from Augustana. The sophomore battled back through the consolation bracket and took third place with an 8-6 decision over Colin Ayers also from Augustana.

Senior Matt Atwood finished in third place at 184. Atwood pinned his first opponent in 3:39 before dropping his quarterfinal match by a 2-10 decision. In the consolation bracket, the senior won by a disqualification, a 5-4 decision and a 10-2 major decision to advance to the third place match. Atwood won by injury default over Nicholas Mech and took third place.

Seward native, Alexander Reimers took fourth place in the 197 bracket. Reimers made it to the semifinal match by a 4-0 and 5-4 decision and a 17-1 tech fall. In the semifinal bout, Reimers fell to Grant Harrill of Grand View, 9-2. After winning his semifinal consolation round, the freshman defeated his opponent in a major 8-0 decision.

Ceron Francisco took second place in the 285 weight class after winning two decisions, 8-1 and 3-1. In the semifinal match, the junior won by a fall over Troy Beaman of St. Olaf in 1:01. Then in the final match, Francisco could not finish due to injury, forcing him to take second place.

The No. 8 Concordia Bulldogs will be back in action on Tuesday, Nov. 17. The team will travel to Fremont, Neb. to face No. 12 Midland University and (RV) Dakota Wesleyan University in two duals.

Bulldogs win ninth-straight GPAC dual

FREMONT, Neb. – The No. 8 Concordia wrestling team defeated both No. 12 Midland, 33-10 and (RV) Dakota Wesleyan, 49-0 in a GPAC triangular on Tuesday, Nov. 17. Sophomore Andrew Schulte won both of his matches by pins.

Head coach Dana Vote said, “The guys wrestled well tonight. I am really happy with the way Trey (Travian) Cooke wrestled, he took the number one guy in the nation down to the wire. We are not where we want to be yet but I feel like we are on track.”

The Bulldogs own a dual record of 3-0, 2-0 GPAC this season and are off to a similar start of last season’s perfect conference record of 7-0. (RV) Dakota Wesleyan falls to 0-4, 0-3 GPAC. After defeating Dakota Wesleyan and losing to Concordia, Midland moves to 1-3, 1-1 GPAC.

In the dual against Dakota Wesleyan, four Bulldogs won by a pin, all in the first period. Against Midland, second-ranked team in the GPAC, two more matches were decided by a pin.

Schulte pinned Brandon Scharmer of Dakota Wesleyan 1:52 into the first and Luis Sifuentes of Midland 1:46 into the first period to help the Bulldogs to a 2-0 finish in Fremont. Cooke, a freshman for Concordia, battled with the first-ranked wrestler in the country at the 174 weight class, Tyler McMichael of Midland. Cooke took McMichael to the end of the match but was defeated, 2-3.

Tommy Bailey, Ken Burkhardt Jr. and Ceron Francisco also pinned their opponents from Dakota Wesleyan while Matt Atwood pinned his foe from Midland.

The Concordia wrestling team will return to action on Saturday, Nov. 21. Vote’s squad will Kearney, Neb. for the UNK Holiday Inn Open, starting at 9 a.m.

Francisco wins title, named Most Outstanding Wrestler at UNK Open

KEARNEY, Neb. – A group of 23 Concordia University wrestlers combined for 44 victories and four place finishes at the annual University of Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open held in Kearney, Neb., on Saturday. For the second time in three years, the Bulldogs produced the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler. Junior Ceron Francisco took the honor by winning heavyweight bracket.

Francisco continues to make massive strides as a Bulldog. Inexperienced as a wrestler coming out of high school, the product of Fayetteville, N.C., earned All-America honors last season and is ranked No. 4 nationally in his weight class. “Ceron wrestled really well. He was very dominant. He didn’t give up an offensive score the whole day,” said fourth-year head coach Dana Vote.

Francisco won each of his three matches on the day, all against NCAA Division II opponents. He worked Mick Dougharity of Western State Colorado University by major decision (12-2), then got past Adams State’s Amer Tipura, 11-6, before a 7-4 win over Central Missouri’s Nick Lovejoy in the title bout. The performance marked Francisco’s first career tournament championship and his fifth place finish as a Bulldog.

Additional place finishes were turned in by junior Tommy Bailey (fifth at 165), freshman Travian Cooke (fourth at 174) and junior Daniel Melcher (fifth at 149). Bailey and Melcher both claimed six victories while Cooke went 4-2.

Of the 23 Bulldogs that competed on Saturday, 18 recorded at least one win with 12 posting multiple triumphs. Standouts such as 2015 All-Americans Ken Burkhardt Jr., Kodie Cole and Andrew Schulte did not wrestle at UNK.

The Bulldogs will break for Thanksgiving week before returning to action the weekend of Dec. 4-5 with a trip to Great Falls, Mont., for dual action on day one. They will shift to a tournament format on the second day. Concordia will next appear at home on Jan. 21 when Doane visits Seward for a GPAC dual.

Schulte goes 3-0, Bulldogs cap Battle of Rockies with win over No. 8 Great Falls

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Up against three NAIA squads ranked in the top eight nationally, the No. 9 Concordia University wrestling team ended the day in positive fashion, edging No. 8 University of Great Falls, 19-16, on Friday evening. The victory concluded day one of two in Great Falls, Mont. The Battle of the Rockies included 11 total duals on Friday. The Bulldogs went 1-2.

Fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad, now 4-2 overall in duals, dropped its first two matches on Friday. Concordia fell at the hands of No. 5 Montana State University-Northern, 25-16, and No. 4 Oklahoma City University, 20-17.

“Overall we had guys wrestle well,” Vote said. “It was a good trip out here for us. We got a chance to see some top-level guys from different parts of the country. We saw what we need to work on and what is working for us.”

Concordia’s victory over the host Argos came down to the heavyweight bout with the two sides deadlocked at 16-16. Fourth-ranked heavyweight Ceron Francisco ensured that the Bulldogs didn’t come away empty on Friday. Francisco got on top of Andreas Geranios early and picked up a 13-6 decision to improve to 13-5. After dropping the first three matches versus Great Falls, Concordia won five of the last seven to rally for the team win.

Junior Andrew Schulte (12-5), ranked seventh at 149 pounds, enjoyed the best day of any Bulldog. He won each of his three matches, all against nationally-ranked opponents: No. 16 Brandon Weber of Montana State-Northern, No. 13 Eric Ambriz of Oklahoma City and No. 15 Kyle Leir of Great Falls. Five Bulldogs claimed two wins on the day: Matt Atwood, Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), Travian Cooke (174), Francisco and Jr Lule (157).

Vote’s group went a respectable 14-16 collectively on a day that featured 13 individual matches between ranked opponents. Atwood (10-2), ranked 13th at 184 pounds, pulled off one of the day’s biggest surprises when he upset No. 4 Derek Sivertsen of Oklahoma City (16-8 major decision) and kept alive Concordia’s chances of knocking off the Stars. Atwood’s win was part of a run of four-straight Bulldog victories to end the dual. After trailing 20-4, Concordia came up three points short.

“He’s doing the right things in and outside the room,” Vote said of Atwood. “He keeps his composure. He keeps working on getting better all the time and he’s growing confidence. He showed today that he can wrestle with anyone in the country. He brings leadership to the room.”

Cooke recovered nicely from a loss by technical fall in his first battle of the day. The freshman from Holly Springs, N.C., upended Oklahoma City’s seventh-ranked Jamie Shawver, 6-5. Cooke also recorded the lone Bulldog pin of the day, wiping out Great Falls’ Francisco Rueda in 4:54.

It was a tough day for the top-three weights (125, 133 and 141) in the Bulldog lineup. Those spots went a combined 0-9. Concordia was unable to dig out of a 13-0 hole versus Montana State-Northern though it did briefly tie the team score after three-straight triumphs by Schulte, Lule and Tommy Bailey.

The loss to Montana State-Northern snapped an overall dual win streak of eight. The Bulldogs still possess an active GPAC dual win streak of nine. Concordia now owns wins over three top-15 teams: No. 8 Great Falls, No. 11 York College and No. 12 Midland.

The Battle of the Rockies continues on Saturday at 9 a.m. MST with an open tournament inside McLaughlin Center Gymnasium. Fifteen Bulldogs will be amongst the loaded field at the University of Great Falls.

No. 9 Bulldogs place four at Battle of the Rockies

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The ninth-ranked Concordia wrestling team competed in two different meets on Saturday, Dec. 5. The Battle of the Rockies tournament saw four Bulldogs place among a stiff competition. Thirteen additional Bulldogs competed in the Buena Vista Open in Storm Lake, Iowa.

On the meet head coach Dana Vote said, “Overall we wrestled pretty well. Ken Burkhardt had a great day he took the No. 1 guy in the nation down to the wire. Andrew Schulte is starting to put things together well and I am excited to see what he can do second semester.”

Burkhardt Jr. placed second in the 197 bracket going 3-1 on the day. In the first two matches, the junior won by fall over each of his opponents. In his final match, Burkhardt wrestled the first-ranked wrestler in the nation, Garrett DeMers of MSU—Northern. DeMers took the close 1-0 decision to give Burkhardt second place.

In the 149 class, Schulte placed third. Schulte won by a 5-2 decision in the third place match. The sophomore won his consolation match in over time, 3-1 to advance to the third place match.

Jr. Lule took fourth place in the 157 bracket. Lule went 3-2 during the tournament, defeating his first two opponents by fall and by a tech fall. In the consolation match, the California native won by a major 11-1 decision to go onto the third place match.

Concordia’s heavyweight, Ceron Francisco placed fourth. Francisco lost in overtime in his semifinal match and then defeated his opponent by a major decision (12-4) to wrestle in the third place match.

Closer to home in Storm Lake, Iowa, 13 grapplers competed for Concordia. In the 133 weight class, Kyle Carey went 3-2 during the tournament. Carey pinned two of his opponents and won by a 4-2 decision in his three victories. Daniel Melcher wrestled through the consolation bracket and came up just shy of placing. Melcher owned a 5-2 record for the day, pinning three opponents in a row.

The No. 9 Bulldogs will be back on the mat in nearly a month on Jan. 2 as the team travels to Fremont, Neb. for the Viking Warrior Open.

Atwood, Schulte claim titles at Viking-Warrior Open

FREMONT, Neb. – A layoff of 27 days failed to prevent a pair of Bulldogs from seizing individual titles at Saturday’s Viking-Warrior Open in Fremont, Neb. Senior 184-pounder Matt Atwood and junior 141-pounder Andrew Schulte went a combined 9-0 in representing the eighth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team with first-place finishes. Thirteen Bulldogs combined for a total of 20 wins at the tournament that included all eight GPAC squads.

Fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s team had last competed at the Battle of the Rockies Open hosted by the University of Great Falls on Dec. 5.

“It was a tough tournament coming back from Christmas break,” Vote said. “We’re training more towards National Duals (Jan. 8-9). We trained pretty hard this week. We still wrestled well for the most part. Some of our leaders wrestled real well. Andrew Schulte won the tournament and looked solid doing it. Atwood looked great. He was pretty dominant in three of his four wins.”

Competing at 141 for the first time this season, Schulte ran his 2015-16 record to 21-6 with a five-pack of victories. The native of Corona, Calif., manhandled his first two opponents and capped his day by edging the University of Nebraska Kearney’s Bryce Shoemaker, who won the 133-pound NAIA national title in 2014. Eighth-ranked Schulte also earned a 3-1 decision over No. 16 Tyler Dickman of Baker University in the semifinals.

A key addition to Vote’s roster in 2015-16, Atwood (14-2) toppled a trio of foes from St. Cloud State University before pinning Dickinson State University’s Lane Oversen in the 184-pound title bout. Atwood also seized third place earlier this season at the Dakota Wesleyan University Open.

Fifth-ranked heavyweight Ceron Francisco joined Atwood and Schulte on the medal stand with a fourth-place finish. Francisco went 3-2 on his day on the way to his fifth tournament placement of the 2015-16 season. Francisco knocked off the University of Nebraska’s David Jensen to begin his Saturday.

Ten of the 13 Bulldogs notched at least one win. Junior Ken Burkhardt Jr. recorded two wins – both over NCAA Division II opponents.

Thanks to a 12th-place national championships finish in 2015, the Bulldogs earned an invite to next week’s National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals in Fort Wayne, Ind. The prestigious event will take place Friday and Saturday (Jan. 8-9) inside the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. For more information on the National Duals, click HERE.

Schulte earns GPAC weekly recognition

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time in his career, junior Andrew Schulte has earned the distinction of GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Wrestler of the Week, as announced by the league on Tuesday. The honor adds to Schulte’s growing list of achievements. The native of Corona, Calif., earned All-America status in 2015 and owns a combined record of 41-10 as a Bulldog.

Schulte garnered this week’s distinction thanks to his stellar performance at the Viking-Warrior Open held in Fremont, Neb., on Jan. 2. He won all five matches on his way to the 141-pound title. His day included wins over No. 16 Tyler Dickman (3-1 decision) of Baker University in the semifinals and Bryce Shoemaker (1-0 decision) of the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the championship bout. Shoemaker won the 2014 133-pound NAIA national title at Baker.

Schulte leads head coach Dana Vote’s squad with an overall record of 21-6. The 2015 NAIA North Group 141-pound champion is ranked eighth nationally in his respective weight class.

The eighth-ranked Bulldogs return to the mat on Friday and Saturday for the Nationals Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals in Fort Wayne, Ind. Select wrestlers will also compete at the Hastings College Open on Saturday.

Bulldogs advance to second day of NWCA National Duals

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – In heavy competition, the No. 8 Concordia wrestling team went 2-1 at the NWCA National Duals on Friday. The squad will be guaranteed a place in the tournament, a feat which has never been accomplished in school history.

The Bulldogs came up just short against No. 14 Lindsey Wilson by losing by a tie breaker and then went on to defeat Ottawa University (41-3) and the University of Great Falls, who is tied for 10th place in the nation (28-19).

Head coach Dana Vote said, “I thought we wrestled well as a team and fought hard. We knew what our roles were coming in as individuals. Guys stepped up. It’s a national tournament and great competition…It’s huge to come to this tournament and place because it shows that you have the depth of an overall great team. It takes a team and a full effort from every individual to place at this tournament.”

Andrew Schulte went 3-0 on the day, defeated two returning All-Americans and avenging a loss he suffered at the National Tournament last season. The California native won by a 3-1 decision over Daniel Leonard of Lindsey Wilson, a major decision of 15-4 over Tyler Hinton of Ottawa and a tech fall over Clinton Garvin of Great Falls, 24-6.

On Schulte, Vote said, “Andrew Schulte was very dominate today. He beat two returning All-Americans and never gave up any offensive scoring against them either.”

Also recording a perfect day was Jr Lule who won by two tech falls and a forfeit. Dmitri Smith also put up some impressive performances, defeating another All-American from the 2014-15 season, James Flint, in a 7-2 decision. Smith owned a 2-1 mark on the day.

First up on Concordia’s slate was Lindsey Wilson (Ky.). The dual was a tight race with the largest lead being four in favor of the Blue Raiders. The contest was so even that it ended in an 18-18 tie. Going to the first tie breaker, most individual wins, the squads were still tied with five apiece. The next criteria was number of wins by a pin which Lindsey Wilson had the advantage in.

The Bulldogs then went on to face Ottawa who had fallen to No. 3 Missouri Valley previously today. The dominate Bulldog wrestling team showed its strengths in this dual, taking a 41-3 victory. The matchup saw two pins and three major decisions from Concordia. Perhaps the most impressive match of the day went to Matthew Atwood who stuck his opponent, Brandon Ott in just 16 seconds.

The final test of the day was Great Falls. Starting off with a slight advantage in the first two matches, the Argos saw their lead quickly disappear. With Schulte’s monstrous 24-6 tech. fall and a pin from Foster Bunce, the Bulldogs gained the lead. Another tech. fall and two more pins gave Concordia the victory as well as a locked in placing for the tournament.

“We beat Great Falls and lost to Lindsey Wilson on a tie breaker who were both teams that were in the top four in the nation last year,” Vote said. “It shows we’re right there and getting close. We still have some ground to make up, but we’re on the way.”

The Concordia wrestling team will first face No. 6 Life University at 8 a.m. on Saturday. With either a win or a loss, the Bulldogs will wrestle again at Noon. For a full bracket, click HERE. Live updates will be available via Track Wrestling HERE.

Concordia wrestling places first time in program history at NWCA National Duals

FORT WAYNE, Ind. – On the second day of the NWCA National Duals the eighth-ranked Concordia wrestling team finished in seventh place, giving the program its first placing in the tournament. The Bulldogs were first defeated by No. 6 Life University, 27-15 and then went on to get revenge over No. 14 Lindsey Wilson in a 19-15 triumph to finish in seventh place.

Head coach Dana Vote said, “It was great to finish strong and beat Lindsey Wilson who knocked us off in the first round. I think overall we just had a great team effort for the whole weekend. It’s a tough tournament and the guys are pretty beat up, it’s the toughest tournament we’ve wrestled in all year and we wrestled well.”

The Bulldogs are now 7-3 in duals this year.

Andrew Schulte went undefeated during the tourney, putting together 12 consecutive wins. On day two, Schulte toppled his first opponent by a 15-2 technical fall and then again found victory over an opponent who had beat him in the national tournament last season.

Coming in as a freshman, Kyle Carey impressed coach Vote under national tournament competition.

“Kyle stepped in a filled a whole for us. He did his job and won a couple matches. He had some kids that were top ranked guys and he went out and battled hard and put us in a position to win as a team,” Vote said.

Competing against another top-10 team, the Bulldogs saw some stiff competition in Life University. Concordia led by as much as four throughout the dual when Austin Starkey won by a 5-4 decision in overtime. The Running Eagles then recorded two consecutive pins to take a 21-15 lead into the last match. A close 3-2 decision loss handed to Ceron Francisco gave Life the victory.

The next dual was to determine which team received seventh place. Concordia again had to face Lindsey Wilson, who had knocked off the Bulldogs in a tie breaker in the first round. Looking for some payback, the ‘Dogs started out with a 3-0 lead with Dmitri Smith defeating the eighth ranked wrestler in the 125 weight class. After the Blue Raiders came back twice to tie the score, Jr Lule found victory by the way of a technical fall to give the Bulldogs a five point lead. After that, Concordia never trailed to go on to finish seventh.

“Missouri Valley is a tough tournament,” said Vote. “It’s an invite and has about 32 teams in it. There are a lot of the top NAIA school is in the country competing in it, too. We’re going to see some more national competition so it’ll be a great opportunity for us.”

The Concordia wrestling team will return to the mat next weekend as it travels to Marshall, Mo. For the Missouri Valley Invite on Jan. 16-15. Friday action will begin at 5 p.m. while Saturday’s start time is slated for 1 p.m.

Schulte grabs GPAC honors for second-straight week

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – Riding a 12-match winning streak, junior Andrew Schulte has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Wrestler of the Week for the second-straight time. The 2015 All-American has not lost since the Battle of the Rockies Open on Dec. 5. He owns a record of 46-10 as a Bulldog.

Performing under the spotlight of the prestigious National Duals (Jan. 8-9), the 141-pound Schulte went a perfect 5-0 while twice defeating Lindsey Wilson College’s (Ky.) sixth-ranked Daniel Leonard. He also dismantled fifth-ranked Tyler Hinton of Ottawa University (Kan.) by major decision. Three of Schulte’s five wins at the National Duals came by either major decision or technical fall. The Corona, Calif., native’s dominant effort fueled a seventh-place finish at the National Duals, marking the first-ever placement at the event in program history.

Schulte placed fifth in the 141-pound bracket at the 2015 NAIA National Championships. Since a loss in Concordia’s dual victory over York College on Nov. 10, Schulte has won 10-straight matches in dual meets. Ranked eighth nationally in his weight class, Schulte is 26-6 overall this season.

Schulte and the Bulldogs return to action Friday and Saturday at the Missouri Valley Invite, which will take place in Marshall, Mo.

Schulte rides perfect National Duals performance to national honors

Schulte rides perfect National Duals performance to national honors

By Jake Knabel on Jan. 13, 2016 in Wrestling


NAIA release

SEWARD, Neb. – Winner of the voting for NAIA National Wrestler of the Week honors on Wednesday, junior Andrew Schulte is not ready to celebrate. He’s triumphed in 12-straight matches, has received two-straight GPAC wrestler of the week awards and is now 26-6 overall this season.

At last week’s NWCA National Duals in Fort Wayne, Ind., the native of Corona, Calif., went a perfect 5-0 while recording three wins over ranked opponents. He twice defeated Lindsey Wilson College’s (Ky.) sixth-ranked Daniel Leonard and then authored a major decision over Ottawa University’s (Kan.) Tyler Hinton. Schulte is on a tear that head coach Dana Vote calls the most dominant that he’s seen from anyone he has ever coached.

But the real prize comes at the national championships in March. Schulte reacted modestly to Wednesday’s announcement.

Said Schulte, “To be honest, I find it kind of distracting, only because I don’t feel the need to celebrate anything yet.”

A 2015 NAIA All-American at 141 pounds, Schulte got his taste of the big stage at last year’s national championships, where he finished in fifth place in his respective weight class. He owns a 46-10 career record as a Bulldog since transferring from Santa Ana College. Only one time out of eight tries as a Concordia grappler has he missed placing at a tournament. Naturally, Schulte believes he can beat anyone.

“The key to that was believing in myself. That’s all that mattered,” Schulte said. “Rankings didn’t really make a difference to me.”

Neither Schulte nor his head coach have shied away from high expectations. With a new level of experience and comfort in his first full season wrestling at Concordia, Schulte is gunning for the ultimate accomplishment that an individual wrestler can achieve.

“I see myself at the top of the podium,” Schulte said. “I have the courage to say that because I know that these weeks right now are the most important. They’re more important than the weeks of March and the weeks of February. It’s right now.”

On return to 141 pounds
I feel strong at that weight class.

On standing compared to this time last year
Improved. I’m definitely a lot more aware of myself. Last year (at this time) I just got going so I was just seeing where it took me.

Lule, Smith go 2-0 on day one at Missouri Valley Invite

MARSHALL, Mo. – A week after his squad earned seventh place at the National Duals, fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s Bulldogs combined for seven victories on day one of two at the annual Missouri Valley Invite held in Marshall, Mo. Eighth-ranked Concordia’s Jr Lule and Dmitri Smith both went 2-0 on Friday to advance to the quarterfinals of their respective brackets.

Five of the 10 Bulldogs who competed notched at least one win. As a team, Concordia (14 points) sits in a tie for 15th place among the field of 28 teams. No wrestlers were eliminated on the event’s first day.

“We were all right. It’s a tough tournament,” Vote said. “We had some tough matches. This is the grind of the season. Jr and Dmitri looked solid. Some of our young guys wrestled some tough kids. We just have to find ways to win more matches.”

Smith, a junior 125-pounder, racked up the most team points – five – by collecting victories by pin over John Altieri of William Penn University (Iowa) and by decision (6-3) over Cumberland University’s (Tenn.) Sean Nguyen. At 157 pounds, Lule posted three team points thanks to decisions over Benedictine College’s (Kan.) Alek Mitchell (5-4) and over Truman State University’s (Mo.) Roark Whittington (7-4).

Two team points were earned by three Bulldogs, who each recorded a victory by decision: Cooper Bailey (141), Foster Bunce (149) and Josh Nelson (174).

NAIA National Wrestler of the Week Andrew Schulte, ranked eighth nationally at 141 pounds, is taking the weekend off along with other standouts such as Matt Atwood (184), Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) and Ceron Francisco (285). All will rest up in preparation for Thursday’s (Jan. 21) GPAC home dual with Doane.

Day two from the Missouri Valley Invite will pick up at 9 a.m. CT on Saturday. Live results will be available via TrackWrestling.com.

Team scores after day one
1. Indiana Tech  42.0
1. Montana State University Northern 42.0
3. Life University 40.0
4. Williams Baptist College 37.5
5. Grand View University 33.5
6. Cumberland University 33.0
7. Missouri Valley College 30.5
8. Baker University 27.5
9. Oklahoma City University 21.5
10. Dickinson State University 20.5
11. Briar Cliff University  19.5
12. Menlo College 17.5
13. Northwestern College 17.0
13. Truman State University 17.0
15. Concordia University (Neb) 14.0
15. Midland Lutheran University 14.0
15. William Penn University 14.0
18. Graceland University 13.0
18. Hannibal LaGrange University 13.0
18. Maryville University 13.0
18. St Catherine College 13.0
22. Ottowa University 11.0
23. Bacone College 10.0
24. Missouri Baptist University 9.0
25. Benedictine College 5.0
26. Waldorf College 4.0
27. University Central Missouri 3.0
28. Lindenwood University Belleville 0.0

Concordia drops Doane, extends GPAC streak to 10

SEWARD, Neb. – The eighth-ranked Concordia wrestling team, unbeaten in GPAC duals this year, welcomed Doane College to Walz Arena for a conference dual. The Tigers, who are tied for the 20th spot in the nation, were also unbeaten in the conference coming into the dual. The Bulldogs came out with the victory, claiming a 24-15 score.

Concordia is now 8-4 overall in duals and 3-0 in the GPAC. Doane falls to 11-4, 2-1 GPAC. With the victory, the Bulldogs stand at the top of the GPAC and extend their conference dual winning streak to 10.

Head coach Dana Vote said, “We were a little flat, probably wasn’t our best performance of the year but we found a way to win. They’re (Doane) a good, solid team…they’re tough. We have some things to work on but we found a way to win late in the year.”

Tenth ranked Dmitri Smith started things out for Concordia with a major decision of 12-4 over John Fletcher of Doane thanks to four takedowns and a reversal.

With his new first place ranking, Andrew Schulte extended his win streak to 13 matches. Schulte won by a 9-4 decision over Preston Jurgens and gave his team a 7-3 lead over Doane.

Jr Lule, ranked eighth nationally, took on 12th-ranked Martin Phillips in the 157 weight class. With a technical fall, Lule defeated Phillips 19-2 in the second period. The win gave Concordia a 15-3 lead. Lule said, “I think the tilt has been working for me all year. Ever since they changed the rule to getting four point near falls instead of three I just started working on my top game and taking advantage of those extra points.”

The Tigers cut the Bulldogs’ lead to just three points after victories in the 165 and 174 matches. Matt Atwood, ranked sixth, regained the lead with a third period pin over Kyle Hoffman.

Ken Burkhardt Jr. was up next and was defeated in a 7-3 decision by fourth-ranked Cody Linton. Concordia’s lead was again threatened with Doane pulling in within six.

The last match featured Ceron Francisco who is ranked seventh nationally. On being last in the lineup Francisco said, “I always pray before my matches. I felt good about how I prayed and I just had faith in my team…I know my teammates have faith in me. The fact that they trust in me enough to know that if it is on the line, I can do my job is a good feeling. We’re a brotherhood, everything we do comes together.”

The pressure did not get to the junior as he defeated Chandler Knight by the way of an 8-1 decision. The victory gave Concordia the 24-15 win.

The Concordia wrestling team will be back on the mat this Saturday as it heads to Northwestern College for more GPAC action. The dual will begin at 5 p.m. in Orange City, Iowa.

Concordia posts win over Northwestern

ORANGE CITY, Iowa – The eighth-ranked Concordia wrestling team had a quick turnaround after its dual with Doane and traveled to Northwestern on Saturday. The Bulldogs extended their GPAC win streak to 11 after defeating the Red Raiders, 30-16.

Concordia now holds a 9-4 overall record and an unblemished 4-0 mark in the conference. Northwestern sits even at 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the GPAC.

Head coach Dana Vote said, “I thought the guys did well today, we wrestled better than we did against Doane on Thursday. Andrew Schulte had a great performance and came out ready to work. Foster Bunce really dominated in his match and won over a solid wrestler in the region. Ken Burkhardt Jr. knocked off a guy ranked above him. Overall, I think we did really well. We won seven of 10 and had some bonus points in a lot of those wins.”

Extending his winning streak to 14, Andrew Schulte defeated Jake Clifton with a 20-2 technical fall in the 141 match. Schulte’s dual record has improved to 12-1 this season. The win gave Concordia an 8-6 lead in the dual.

Jr Lule continues to dominate in the 157 weight class, winning by his eighth technical fall this season over Carter Behler, 17-6.

Ranked 15th in the nation at 197, Ken Burkhardt Jr defeated the 14th-ranked Nicholas Null of Northwestern by a major decision of 11-2.

Also posting wins over the Red Raiders were Kodie Cole (133) by a 4-0 decision, Foster Bunce (149) by a major decision of 19-8, Tommy Bailey (165) by a 7-2 decision and Ceron Francisco (HWT) by a pin at 2:29.

The Bulldogs will face Briar Cliff this upcoming Tuesday. The dual will take place in Sioux City, Iowa and is set to begin at 7 p.m.

Lule captures GPAC Wrestler of the Week award

GPAC Release

SEWARD, Neb. – For the third time this season, a Concordia wrestler has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Wrestler of the Week. Jr. Lule grabbed the honor for the first time in his career.

Eighth-ranked Lule wrestles in the 157 lb. weight class for the Bulldogs and owns a 29-7 overall record and an 11-2 dual record. In the past week, the California native posted two wins by technical fall over Doane and Northwestern. Martin Phillips, Lule’s opponent in the Doane dual, is ranked 12th in the nation. 

This is Lule’s first GPAC weekly honor and the Bulldogs’ third of the season. Previously, Andrew Schulte was recognized as the wrestler of the week two different times. Concordia’s wrestling team tops the GPAC with a 4-0 conference record and an overall dual record of 9-4.

The Bulldog wrestlers will be back in action tonight as they travel to Briar Cliff University for a GPAC dual. Start time is set for 7 p.m.

No. 8 Concordia takes eight matches in 33-6 rout at Briar Cliff

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The run of GPAC dominance continues for the eighth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team. On Tuesday night the Bulldogs outgunned host Briar Cliff (3-6, 2-3 GPAC) in eight of 10 bouts and rolled to a 33-6 win, their 12th-straight in conference duals. Fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad moved to 10-4 overall and 5-0 in the GPAC.

It’s been 711 days since Concordia last suffered a loss to a GPAC opponent. During the streak the Bulldogs have outscored opponents by a combined total of 411-106 while winning 91 of 120 of the individual matches. Tuesday was just the latest in a long line of impressive victories.

“I thought we wrestled well. It was a grind having three weigh-ins in six days but the guys wrestled well,” Vote said. “Overall it was a great team performance. I think we’re starting to come together at the end of the year. Guys wrestled hard for seven minutes. I think we easily could have won all 10 matches. It was a good win for us.”

Ranked as the NAIA’s top 141-pounder, Andrew Schulte proved human in allowing two reversal points that tied the bout at 2-2 in the second period. The 2015 All-American pulled through with a late third-period takedown, providing enough breathing room for Schulte (29-6) to win his 15th-consecutive match. He held off 13th-ranked Sonny Gulesian by a 6-2 decision. Schulte now owns five wins over grapplers currently ranked nationally by the NAIA in the 141-pound class.

The Bulldogs got their biggest team points from the likes of juniors Foster Bunce (149) and Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), who were responsible for the two pins on the night. Burkhardt Jr. wiped out Jordan Watkins in 3:30 to push his team-leading fall count to 10. Meanwhile, Bunce won for the third-straight time in GPAC dual action thanks to his victory over Jacob Caskey, the second-ranked 149-pound competitor in the North region.

Named GPAC wrestler of the week on Tuesday, Jr Lule (27-7) still has yet to face a serious challenge from a conference foe. He took a 9-0 major decision over Leland Slawson. Lule, a native of Blythe, Calif., has three wins by technical fall and two via major decision in Concordia’s five GPAC duals. Lule is on a roll of his own having won five-straight matches and nine of his last 10.

Dmitri Smith (15-15) got Concordia off to a solid start by taking down his 125-pound counterpart Isiah Lysius five times during a 12-5 victory. Other Bulldog victories by decision went to Travian Cooke, 7-2, at 174 pounds and Ceron Francisco, 6-4, at 285 pounds. Francisco is also 5-0 in GPAC duals after edging the Chargers’ 14th-ranked Dalton Presley.

Junior Tommy Bailey, ranked 14th in his respective weight class, led 8-2 at end of first period in what turned into a dismantling of Alex Melton at 165. Ultimately, Bailey (24-18) notched his fifth victory of the season by technical fall, winning 20-5.

It’s been nearly two full years since Concordia dropped a GPAC match. They’ve done so by focusing on improvement.

“We honestly haven’t talked about it,” Vote said of the streak. “We continue to talk about preparation, the process and putting it together at the end of the year.”

The Bulldogs will be back at home next Wednesday (Feb. 3) to host Bethany College (1-7) in a dual slated to begin at 6 p.m. CT.  Vote’s program will use the night to honor former 11-year Seward High School assistant wrestling coach Jeramie Schoepf, who died tragically in March of 2014. Jeramie’s brother Josh will join the Concordia coaching staff as an honorary coach for the dual.

Francisco named GPAC wrestler of the week

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – For the fourth time in 2016, a Concordia University wrestler has earned the distinction of GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports GPAC Wrestler of the Week. On Tuesday junior Ceron Francisco became the latest to be honored by the GPAC. It’s the first career weekly award for Francisco, a 2015 NAIA All-American.

In last week’s action, Francisco, ranked seventh in the NAIA at 285 pounds, edged No. 14 Dalton Presley of Briar Cliff, 6-4. In the process, the native of Fayetteville, N.C., improved to 5-0 in GPAC dual action while helping the eighth-ranked Bulldogs extend their conference win streak to 12. Concordia dominated the Chargers, 33-6, and tops the GPAC with a 5-0 mark on the season.

Francisco, who earned sixth place in the heavyweight bracket of the 2015 NAIA national championships, owns an overall record of 22-13 on the season and a mark of 66-48 in his career as a Bulldog. A key member of the 2015 GPAC and NAIA North Group championship team, Francisco garnered first team all-conference recognition as a sophomore.

Concordia (10-4, 5-0 GPAC) returns to action on Wednesday when it hosts Bethany College (1-7) in a dual slated to begin at 6 p.m. CT. Head coach Dana Vote’s program will use the night to honor former 11-year Seward High School assistant wrestling coach Jeramie Schoepf, who died tragically in March of 2014. Jeramie’s brother Josh will join the Concordia coaching staff as an honorary coach for the dual.

2016 Concordia GPAC wrestlers of the week
Feb. 2 – Ceron Francisco
Jan. 26 – Jr Lule
Jan. 12 – *Andrew Schulte
Jan. 5 – Andrew Schulte
*NAIA national wrestler of the week

Bulldogs break wins record as Fisher dominates dual debut

SEWARD, Neb. – By way of a nonconference beating, the eighth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team made history on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs bullied Bethany College, 44-3, on their way to breaking the program single-season record for dual wins set by the 1970-71 Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame team. That squad finished at 10-3 overall.

Fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad has now won five-straight duals and stands at 11-4 on the season after Wednesday’s win. The latest domination included 18 Bulldog takedowns to just two by the Swedes. Concordia also racked up a total of 26 near fall points and triumphed in all but one bout.

“Our guys were aggressive, they were scoring points and building leads,” Vote said. “They did a great job.

“(The record) is a big deal for the program. We’re moving in the right direction. It’s something in school history that’s never been done for the wrestling program. We want to continue to do those things.”

Two of the NAIA’s hottest performers – 141-pounder Andrew Schulte (30-6) and 157-pounder Jr Lule (28-7) – experienced little struggle up against the Swedes. Schulte recorded six first-period takedowns and four near fall points in building a commanding 16-5 lead over James Lohman. The NAIA’s top-ranked 141-pound wrestler ended things in the second period with his sixth win of the season by technical fall. Lule was similarly dominant, winning by a score of 18-1 over Trent Robb.

Schulte and Lule combined for 11 takedowns and 20 near fall points. They are a collective 27-3 in dual meets.

“They’re tough kids,” Vote said. “They work hard every day in the room. They push the pace. They don’t just go out and win matches, they dominate matches. They go hard for seven minutes. They’re consistent, which is something we talk about every day.”

Freshman Walker Fisher (165), a native of Ashland, Neb., took advantage of his first opportunity to grapple in a varsity dual. Fisher got on top of CJ Garcia immediately with a takedown and then wiped him out after only 1:47 had elapsed. Performing in front of several family members, Fisher more than did his part.

“It was an honor. I was really happy to get out there in front of the fans,” Fisher said. “It was a great way to open up my career.

“The key for me was I just wanted to be on the attack right away. I didn’t want to waste any time – get those pre-match jitters out of the way and get attacking.”

Other contested victories on the night came from Dmitri Smith (125; major decision), Foster Bunce (149; decision) and Ceron Francisco (285, decision). Smith pummeled Quinton Harrison with four takedowns and six near fall points in moving his season record above .500 (16-15). Meanwhile, Bunce (10-7) and Francisco (23-13) have both won four-consecutive matches. Three additional weights (133, 174 and 197) went to Concordia via forfeit.

The Swedes (1-8) got a victory from 184-pounder Trevor Whittaker, ranked No. 15 nationally in his respective weight class. Whittaker took a 6-3 decision from Noel Richardson to allow Bethany to avoid being blanked.

Prior to the dual, the Bulldogs honored former 11-year Seward High School assistant wrestling coach Jeramie Schoepf, who died tragically in March of 2014. Jeramie’s brother Josh served as an honorary coach.

The Bulldogs complete the week on Saturday with a return to GPAC action. They will put their 12-match GPAC win streak on the line when Saturday’s dual at Hastings (2-9, 1-5 GPAC) gets started at 2 p.m. The Broncos lone conference win came over Dakota Wesleyan (25-23).

Lule, Schulte continue dominance in GPAC title-clinching win

HASTINGS, Neb. – The eighth-ranked Concordia University wrestling team has clinched at least a share of the GPAC dual title for the second-straight season thanks to a sterling performance on Saturday. Red-hot Andrew Schulte and Jr Lule continued to make a mockery of conference opponents in helping fuel the 39-10 win at Hastings. The Bulldogs won eight of 10 bouts over the host Broncos (2-10, 1-6 GPAC).

In the process of pushing its GPAC dual win streak to 13, fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad improved to 12-4 overall and 6-0 in conference action this season. The 12 victories are a program single-season record. During its active conference win streak, Concordia has outscored opponents 450-116 and has triumphed in 99 of 130 individual matches.

“It was a dominating performance,” Vote said. “Our guys looked really good. They’re coming on strong at the right time of the year. We’re really showing that we have a strong lineup from top to bottom.

“We haven’t talked about the GPAC title much yet. We knew coming in that we could clinch at least a share, but we want to win it outright. All our preparation now goes into getting ready for Thursday (versus Morningside).”

Lule (29-7) and Schulte (31-6) both notched victories by technical fall. Eighth-ranked Lule, who now has 10 wins via technical fall this season, has dismantled GPAC opponents. In his latest outing, the 157-pounder from Blythe, Calif., pulverized Austin Moyer, 17-0. Similarly, Schulte, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA at 141 pounds, cruised past Taylor Rich, 17-2, for his 16th-straight victory.

The only Bulldog to go up against a nationally-ranked foe was Kodie Cole at 133 pounds. Trying to round into form down the stretch, Cole (10-9) blanked No. 16 Trey Trujillo, 4-0, as part of a run of three-straight Concordia wins to begin the dual.

The Bulldogs also dominated the latter weights with pins at 184 by senior Matt Atwood (ranked sixth) and at 197 by freshman Alexander Reimers. Wrestling in his first career GPAC dual, Reimers needed only 15 seconds to finish off Jose Rodriquez. That came right on the heels of Atwood’s (19-5) seventh pin of the season.

At 125, No. 10 Dmitri Smith has gotten on a roll with wins in five of his last six matches. Smith (17-15), one of four California natives in Saturday’s lineup, took a major decision (13-2) over Kyle James. Tommy Bailey (25-18) also won by major decision, 20-7, over Alejandro Tarin at 165. The dual concluded with Ceron Francisco (24-13) receiving a win by forfeit at heavyweight.

The Bulldogs can finish off a second-straight unbeaten GPAC season with a win over Morningside (6-3, 5-1 GPAC) on Thursday. The action will get started at 7 p.m. CT from Walz Arena. The Mustangs have a shot to claim a share of the GPAC championship with an upset of Concordia.

Schulte collects third GPAC weekly honor of 2016

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – Fittingly for a team that has dominated the GPAC, Concordia has owned the conference’s weekly wrestling award. For the fifth time since the calendar turned over to 2016, a Bulldog has taken the honor. On Tuesday junior Andrew Schulte earned his third GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Wrestler of the Week accolade of the season.

Ranked No. 1 in the NAIA at 141 pounds, Schulte stormed to wins by technical fall over both Bethany College’s James Lohman and Hastings’ Taylor Rich (ranked fourth in the NAIA North group) in last week’s action. Schulte (31-6) is the third different wrestler under head coach Dana Vote to reach the 30-win mark in a season. The native of Corona, Calif., a 2015 NAIA All-American, is 51-10 overall in his two seasons as a Bulldog.

Schulte and company can claim the GPAC dual title outright with a victory over Morningside (6-3, 5-1 GPAC) on Thursday (7 p.m. inside Walz Arena). Eighth-ranked Concordia has won 13-straight conference duals. Schulte will try to extend his personal 17-match win streak.

2016 Concordia GPAC wrestlers of the week
Feb. 9 – Andrew Schulte
Feb. 2 – Ceron Francisco
Jan. 26 – Jr Lule
Jan. 12 – *Andrew Schulte
Jan. 5 – Andrew Schulte
*NAIA national wrestler of the week

Bulldogs seize second-straight outright GPAC title

SEWARD, Neb. – The de facto GPAC championship match proved no contest. The seventh-ranked Concordia University wrestling team bludgeoned visiting Morningside, ruler of the GPAC from 2011-14, by a final count of 32-7 inside Walz Arena on Thursday night. The Bulldogs (13-4, 7-0 GPAC) won eight bouts on the way to celebrating a second-straight undefeated run through conference dual action.

The latest accomplishment is another feather in the cap of fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s program, which finished 12th at last year’s NAIA national championships. From the bottom up, Vote built a program that has now won 14-straight GPAC duals.

“It was about getting kids to buy in,” Vote said. “I came in with a vision for the program with where we wanted to go. I went out and found kids and told them what our plan is. I told them if you buy in this is what’s going to happen. It’s a process. I don’t think we’re where I want to be yet, but we’re building in that direction.”

The stars didn’t disappoint for the Bulldogs on Thursday. Senior Jr Lule and junior Andrew Schulte continued their ruination of conference opponents, both claiming wins by technical fall. Schulte tore apart Lane Nicholas with five first-period takedowns before breaking his opponent in the second period. The NAIA’s No. 1-ranked 141-pounder breezed to his 18th-straight win by a 22-5 score. Schulte, like Lule, finished 7-0 in conference duals.

Schulte (32-6) has yet to be part of a Concordia team that suffers a defeat to a conference rival.

“It means a lot, honestly,” Schulte said of the second GPAC dual title in a row. “To be a part of something like this, I’m grateful, period. That’s it. I’m just grateful.”

Lule (30-7) has not taken a backseat to his top-ranked teammate. Lule, ranked seventh at 157, came within an eyelash of a pin of the Mustangs’ Dakota Drenth in amassing 14 total near fall points. Drenth couldn’t last a full two periods against the red-hot Lule, who joined Schulte in the 30-win club in his final collegiate dual.

Four Bulldogs registered major decisions on the night, including Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) and Ceron Francisco (285). Both did big work late in the third period. Francisco (25-13) nearly brought the roof off with a takedown in the closing seconds that secured a major decision over Erick Carrillo. The match prior, Burkhardt Jr. (24-11) held a slim 6-4 lead before exploding with a takedown and a four-point near fall to claim the major.

The evening began at 184 pounds, where No. 11 Matt Atwood got Concordia started right with a victory by major decision, 12-2. Atwood also produced clutch third-period takedowns to run away with four team points. The other Bulldog major decision was delivered by 174-pounder Travian Cooke.

Triumphs by decision were recorded by Concordia’s Kodie Cole (133) and Tommy Bailey (165). They were part of an impressive team performance that nearly accomplished Vote’s aim – send a message by winning all 10.

“It was a good performance by the guys,” Vote said. “Honestly I think we could have won all 10. That’s just our expectation as a team, but I saw a lot out of guys. We’re building leads and putting matches away. Morningside’s a good team and we took it to them.”

The Mustangs (6-4, 5-2 GPAC) entered the night hopeful of a win and a share of the GPAC dual title. Morningside won three-straight conference championships before being dethroned by the Bulldogs last season. The Mustangs, whose only other conference loss this season came at Northwestern, settled for a tie for second place in the league standings.

The dual season is over the Bulldogs, whose most significant outings are yet to come. They will now prepare to host the NAIA North Group Qualifying Tournament (which includes all eight GPAC wrestling institutions) on Saturday, Feb. 20. National tournament berths will be on the line at the regional event.

Lule tabbed GPAC wrestler of the week

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – The GPAC wrestler of the week award has lived at Concordia in 2016. On Tuesday senior Jr Lule was named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Wrestler of the Week, marking the sixth time over the past seven weeks that a Bulldog has garnered the honor. It’s the second time this season that Lule has received the accolade.

In his only outing last week, Lule again dominated a GPAC opponent. The nation’s seventh-ranked 157-pounder breezed to a 21-2 win by technical fall over Morningside’s Dakota Drenth in helping No. 7 Concordia to its second-straight outright GPAC title. Lule (30-7) has recorded five victories by technical fall and has outscored opponents by a combined 112-10 during conference duals. The Bulldogs have won 14-straight GPAC duals.

Lule and company now host the 2016 NAIA North National Qualifier on Saturday. Action inside Walz Arena is set to begin at 9 a.m. CT.

2016 Concordia GPAC wrestlers of the week
Feb. 16 – Jr Lule
Feb. 9 – Andrew Schulte
Feb. 2 – Ceron Francisco
Jan. 26 – Jr Lule
Jan. 12 – *Andrew Schulte
Jan. 5 – Andrew Schulte
*NAIA national wrestler of the week

It's a process: the making of a GPAC power

“Don’t dwell on the results. Stay focused on the process.” That’s the company line continually regurgitated by members of the Concordia University wrestling program.

Case in point: upon learning he was chosen as the national wrestler of the week on Jan. 13, NAIA top-ranked 141-pounder Andrew Schulte essentially yawned. Said Schulte, “To be honest, I find it kind of distracting, only because I don’t feel the need to celebrate anything yet.”

It’s that sort of attitude that has provided a foundation for the Bulldogs’ reversal of fortunes in a short time under head coach Dana Vote. Last week Concordia celebrated its second-straight outright GPAC dual title with yet another dominant performance – a 32-7 win over Morningside, the program that used to rule the conference. The changing of the guard occurred on Jan. 22, 2015, when the Bulldogs ended the Mustangs’ run of 31-straight conference dual wins.

Now Concordia is the one streaking. It’s been 733 days since the Bulldogs last dropped a GPAC dual. During its active 14-match conference win streak, Concordia has outscored opponents by a combined total of 482-123 while triumphing in 107 of 140 individual bouts. Stars like Schulte and Jr Lule have made a habit of mocking their conference rivals.

Three years ago Concordia was fortunate just to claim a single GPAC dual victory.

“Coach told me when he first recruited me that everyone here had potential,” said junior heavyweight Ceron Francisco. “It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. We have a lot of juniors on the team who were in Coach Vote’s first recruiting class. We just love seeing how much we’ve evolved. Everything he told us is coming true.”

The Bulldogs have become a conference and regional powerhouse, as well as a player on the national scene, thanks to stalwarts like the aforementioned Francisco, Lule and Schulte in addition to others such as Ken Burkhardt Jr. and Kodie Cole. The recruiting class that arrived for the fall of 2013 has formed the backbone of a program that is now collecting rent inside the NAIA’s top 10 national rankings.

Then came the massively impactful junior college transfers in Lule and Schulte. An All-American in 2015, Schulte says he decided to come to Seward via Corona, Calif., because Vote believed in him. In his first opportunity as a head coach, Vote has excelled at galvanizing his team in acceptance of a blue-collar approach.

“It was about getting kids to buy in,” Vote said following last week’s win over Morningside. “I came in with a vision for the program with where we wanted to go. I went out and found kids and told them what our plan was. I told them if you buy in this is what’s going to happen. It’s a process. I don’t think we’re where I want to be yet, but we’re building in that direction. It’s good to see them buying in.”

Where they’re at is unprecedented for the program. Coming off the highest-ever national finish of 12th at last year’s national championships, Concordia currently sits at No. 7 in the national coaches’ poll – one spot away from another program best. Even the hard-to-satisfy Schulte can appreciate what it means to be part of the uphill climb to the top of the conference.

“It means a lot honestly,” Schulte said. “To be a part of something like this, I’m grateful, period. That’s it. I’m just grateful. I can’t say enough. I’m really happy to be a part of this program.”

GPAC dual titles are to be celebrated, but they are not the ultimate prize. Concordia will host the 2016 NAIA North National Qualifier on Saturday, and it plans to put on a good show.

“We’re going to try to get this conference title tournament wise and we’re looking forward to March,” Francisco said. “We want to get all 12 guys to go and make some noise in Kansas (at the national championships).”

Added Vote, “I’m excited to have the tournament here. I think we’re going to have a great crowd and a great atmosphere. We want to make it the best tournament we possibly can and send these seniors out on a high note. Jr Lule has been unbelievable in the conference this year – just dominating everybody. I want to see those guys have a good tournament and enjoy the process.”

There’s that word again – process. There’s nothing exciting or flashy about it, but an intense focus upon it has Vote’s program soaring.

In the immediate aftermath of a second-straight GPAC title, Schulte was ready to look forward. Cue the company line. “It’s been fun,” Schulte said. “I’m not going to think about the wins and losses right now. It’s all about the process.”

Four Bulldogs win titles to fuel second-straight NAIA North championship

SEWARD, Neb. – The 2016 NAIA North National Qualifier served as another avenue for the seventh-ranked Concordia University wrestling team to flex its muscles. Nine days after locking up their second-straight GPAC dual title, the Bulldogs polished off a second-consecutive NAIA North championship with their 169 team points easily outdistancing runner-up Morningside’s 115.5 points on Saturday.

Matt Atwood (184), Ceron Francisco (285), Jr Lule (157) and Andrew Schulte (141) each claimed individual North titles and a total of eight Bulldogs earned automatic national tournament bids thanks to top-three finishes in their respective weight classes. It all added up to a stellar showcase as Concordia University played host to a well-orchestrated event.

“Overall we wrestled well. We started off hot,” said head coach Dana Vote, named the North’s 2015-16 coach of the year. “There were a couple other guys on the verge of getting through that I thought we had a really good chance at. We hit a couple stretches where we had some tough matches, but I think overall we wrestled pretty well.”

The Bulldogs won their first 13 matches of the day and finished 32-12 overall. Not surprisingly, Lule and Schulte continued to tear apart their GPAC foes. The incredible Lule breezed to a NAIA North title by winning all four of his bouts by technical fall. Even the region’s second-ranked grappler, Martin Phillips, provided little resistance for Lule (ranked seventh nationally at 157), who has triumphed in 12-consecutive matches.

It was the final time that Lule will appear at Walz. The former California junior college transfer has made a huge impact in his two seasons as a Bulldog.

“It feels so good. Wrestling in this arena and in front of these fans has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life,” Lule said. “I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to come here and wrestle the way that I do.”

At 184, Atwood has blazed to a 25-5 record in his only season at Concordia. Atwood did not face a serious challenge until the finals that pitted him against Northwestern’s 10th-ranked Tyree Cox. Atwood avenged a Jan. 23 loss to Cox by eking out an 8-6 decision in Saturday’s championship bout. Said Atwood, “I’m blessed to be here. I couldn’t be happier with where God’s put me.”

Not known for a penchant for pinning, Schulte won his first two matches by fall in making his way to the finals where Briar Cliff’s Sonny Gulesian hung in with the NAIA’s top-ranked 141-pounder for the first period. Schulte ultimately won by major decision, 11-3, for his 21st-consectuive win.

Concordia ended the tournament in style with Francisco’s crowd-pleasing performance in the heavyweight battle. The sixth-ranked Francisco carried out several thunderous takedowns on his way to a 14-3 major decision over Briar Cliff’s Dalton Presley. An All-American in 2015 as a wild card selection, Francisco made sure he sewed up his national tournament placement.

He and Atwood are first time regional champs.

“Those guys have done a great job,” Vote said. “Matt Atwood came in as a transfer. He’s always been a tough wrestler, but this year has been his breakthrough year. He avenged a loss from a kid earlier in the year and wrestled a great match.

 “Ceron dominated the heavyweight division. He wrestled great.”

Kodie Cole (133) and Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) also made their way to the finals by seizing their first two matches of the day. Both will have the opportunity to reach the stand again after having earned All-America honors in 2015. Meanwhile, Dmitri Smith (125) and Foster Bunce (149) punched their tickets to Topeka, Kan., with third-place claims. Smith will make his second-straight national tournament appearance while Bunce will make the first of his career.

Junior Austin Starkey came up just shy of an automatic berth. He fell in the 157-pound third-place match to Morningside’s Dakota Drenth. Starkey was one of three Bulldogs that placed either fourth or fifth.

The 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will be contested March 4-5 at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. At last season’s grand event, the Bulldogs recorded their highest finish in program history, placing 12th nationally. Four Bulldogs earned All-America plaques: Burkhardt Jr., Francisco, Cole and Schulte.

Concordia automatic national qualifiers
125 – Dmitri Smith (3rd place)
133 – Kodie Cole (2nd place)
141 – Andrew Schulte (1st place)
149 – Foster Bunce (3rd place)
157 – Jr Lule (1st place)
184 – Matt Atwood (1st place)
197 – Ken Burkhardt Jr. (2nd place)
285 – Ceron Francisco (1st place) 

Final Team Scoring
1. Concordia 169.0
2. Morningside 115.5
3. Northwestern 110.0
4. Doane 102.5
5. Briar Cliff 95.5
6. Midland 90.0
7. Dakota Wesleyan 63.5
8. Hastings 43.0

Bailey and Cooke added to list of national qualifiers

NAIA release

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University wrestling team’s list of NAIA national qualifiers grew to 10 on Monday. The NAIA national office officially announced the field of 240 qualifiers for the 2016 national championships set for March 4-5. That group includes eight Bulldogs who earned automatic bids as well as Tommy Bailey (165) and Travian Cooke (174), who were both added to the national field as at-large qualifiers.

The top-three place finishers in each weight class at the NAIA North National Qualifier hosted by Concordia on Feb. 20 received automatic berths to nationals. Four Bulldogs won NAIA North titles, two were runner-up finishers and two placed third to secure spots at the national championships. The 10 national qualifiers ties a program record set by head coach Dana Vote’s 2014-15 squad. All four Bulldogs who collected 2015 All-America plaques (Ken Burkhardt Jr., Kodie Cole, Ceron Francisco and Andrew Schulte) will make return trips to nationals next week.

Vote is essentially taking his entire starting dual lineup to the national tournament with a Bulldog represented at every weight class. Burkhardt Jr. is now a three-time NAIA national qualifier. Four Bulldogs will make their first-ever NAIA national championships appearances: Matt Atwood (184), Bailey, Foster Bunce (149) and Cooke.

For the third-straight year, the NAIA Wrestling National Championships will be held at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. For more information on the championships, click HERE.

2016 Concordia national qualifiers
125 – Dmitri Smith
133 – Kodie Cole
141 – Andrew Schulte
149 – Foster Bunce
157 – Jr Lule
165 – Tommy Bailey
174 – Travian Cooke
184 – Matt Atwood
197 – Ken Burkhardt Jr.
285 – Ceron Francisco

Schulte claims GPAC Wrestler of the Year title; Vote named Coach of the Year

GPAC Release

SEWARD, Neb. – The GPAC office announced the All-GPAC wrestling team on Wednesday. Eight Bulldog wrestlers received an all-conference honor, including Andrew Schulte who was named the Hauff Mid-America Sports/GPAC Wrestler of the Year. Head coach Dana Vote was also honored, claiming the Hauff Mid-America Sports/GPAC Wrestling Coach of the Year title.

Head Coach Vote said, “Getting the conference wrestler of the year three years now just shows the commitment that these guys have to elevate themselves to the next level. All three of them have earned the title and have done a good job throughout their years here. Getting the coach of the year award goes to the kids. They’re the ones that put in the work and commitment to work towards that next level.”

Coach Vote was named the GPAC Coach of the Year after leading his team to a 13-4 overall dual record and a perfect 7-0 GPAC mark. Six of the 10 GPAC weekly honors went to one of Vote’s wrestlers this season. Vote has transformed a program that posted a 2-10 dual record and sent no wrestlers to the national tournament in his first year at the helm of Bulldog wrestling. Fast forward to his fourth season and Vote is leading 10 wrestlers to the NAIA Tournament, has won 14 straight GPAC duals and coaches a team ranked seventh in the nation.

This marks the third year in a row that a Concordia grappler has been named the GPAC Wrestler of the Year. Schulte, who is tied for first in the nation in his weight class, received the honor after an outstanding regular season, recording a 30-6 overall record and was placed on the all-conference first team. The junior is riding a 21 match win streak which started in December. Most recently, Schulte won the NAIA North national Qualifier 141 title after pinning two of his opponents and winning by a major decision in the championship round. Schulte has been named the GPAC Wrestler of the Week three times and the National Wrestler of the Week once this season. This is the junior’s second first team selection.

Also named to the All-GPAC First Team were Jr Lule (157), Matthew Atwood (184) and Ceron Francisco (285). Receiving second team accolades were Foster Bunce (149), Tommy Bailey (165) and Ken Burkhardt Jr (197). Dmitri Smith (125) claimed all-conference honorable mention recognition.

Lule, ranked seventh in the nation, has a record of 34-7 this season. The senior has made the technical fall his usual way of victory. Fourteen of his 34 triumphs have come from technical falls. Lule has won 12 straight matches including four in the NAIA North National Qualifier where the California native took the 157 pound title. At the Dakota Wesleyan open, Lule also took first place. Twice this season Lule was named the GPAC Wrestler of the Week. Last season, the senior was named to the All-GPAC Second Team.

In his first season as a Bulldog wrestler, Atwood has posted an overall record of 24-5 in the 184 weight class and is ranked 11th in the country. In the NAIA North National Qualifier, the senior won four matches after sticking two opponents, recording his eighth and ninth pins of the year to claim the 184 title. One other win in the qualifier was over a rival who had previously beaten him at the National Duals. Atwood has placed either third or first at all tournaments that he has competed in this year.

Francisco has been named to the all-conference first team for the second time in his career. The junior, ranked sixth in the nation in the 285 weight class, has registered a 28-13 record this season. Francisco has claimed first place at two tournaments this year including the NAIA North National Qualifier and the Nebraska-Kearney Open where he received the Most Outstanding Wrestler Award. The junior had a tough go at the National Duals but regrouped to go on a nine match win streak through the national qualifier. Francisco received the GPAC Wrestler of the Week award once this year.

For the first time in his career, Bunce was named to the All-GPAC Second Team. The junior has compiled a 14-9 record this year after claiming third place at the NAIA North National Qualifier. Bunce is tied for 15th in the country in the 149 weigh class. Five of Bunce’s victories came by the way of pins.

Bailey received all-conference recognition for the first time in his career after being named to the second team this year. The junior, tied for 11th in the nation, placed fifth at the NAIA North National Qualifier last weekend. Bailey was added to the national qualifier list as an at-large bid. After placing fifth at the national qualifier, the junior finished the regular season winning six of his last eight matches.

Burkhardt Jr has now been given All-GPAC recognition all three years of his career. The junior, ranked 14th in the country, owns an overall record of 27-11. Burkhardt most recently placed second at the NAIA North National Qualifier and has placed second at the Battle of the Rockies and third at the Grand View Open. During the national qualifier, Burkhardt recorded his 11th pin of the season.

Smith was named to the honorable mention team after posting a 20-17 record. This is the junior’s second All-GPAC honor in his career. Smith, ranked 12th in the country in the 125 weight class, placed third at the NAIA North National Qualifier. The junior placed fifth at the Missouri Valley Invite earlier this season.

The Concordia wrestling team will be heading to the NAIA Tournament March 4-5. The tournament will take place at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.

Lule follows Palomar teammate's success at Concordia

Jr Lule didn’t need a campus visit to convince himself Concordia was right for him. He had never even been farther east than Nevada. He simply followed the migration to Seward, a place where California junior college transfers like himself have thrived.

“I knew that Emilio (Rivera) liked this school,” Lule said. “He said nothing but good things about it so I started looking into Concordia. I didn’t even have a visit here. I just trusted everything Emilio and Coach (Dana) Vote told me. I was like, ‘all right, that’s where I’m going to go.’ I just trusted them.”

That trust paid off. Lule has tech-falled his way to a NAIA North 157-pound title and a second-straight berth to the national championships. So dominant is Lule that he has won 12-straight matches, eight by technical fall. Included in that stretch was a 9-0 major decision that actually made the Blythe, Calif., native upset to the point that he struggled to sleep that night.

Lule doesn’t just beat his opponents, he owns them.

“I want to go out there and break the person,” Lule said. “I don’t know how that sounds to you, but for wrestlers that’s one of the best ways to win by just going out there and mentally and physically breaking the guy. You want to let him know that he can’t compete with you. I love getting those tech falls. When you get a tech fall all the confidence of your opponent goes out the window. They can’t step off the mat saying I’m going to get him next time or that he barely won.”

Head coach Dana Vote has made a habit of taking hidden gems from The Golden State and turning them into dominating performers. Andrew Schulte (Santa Ana College), Enrique Barajas (Sacramento CC) and Rivera (Palomar College), each transfers from California JUCOs, are the last three winners of the GPAC wrestler of the year award. If Schulte had not won the award this year, Lule would have.

There really is no huge secret to Lule’s success. He does not lose matches because the opponent has him out conditioned. After competing at 149 a year ago, the former JUCO All-American is at a more comfortable 157 and has learned how to better manage his body without wearing down for the stretch run.

“Jr has taken it to a new level with his drive to be the best,” Vote said. “He has a clear-cut vision of what he wants to accomplish and is very driven to achieve it. I love the passion and consistency he brings to the room every single day.”

Some of that passion and drive can be traced back to Lule’s roots. Lule, full name Ascary Lule Jr., took it to heart when his father, Ascary Lule Sr., spoke about what wrestling meant to him. Said Jr, “My dad wrestled all through high school and he told me and my older brother Ricky about how it changed his life, how it made him a better person and made him tough. It just made him a hard worker. We really bought into that.”

Jr and Ricky, now an assistant coach at Palomar College, talk as often as they can, discussing what Jr could have possibly done better in his most recent match. Meanwhile, younger brother Robert is a high school wrestler in the state of California. Jr says that when he returns home, he and Robert go through drills with each other in the yard. Now Robert is hooked.

Robert has a great role model in Jr, a lead-by-example type who’s crushing it in his final collegiate season on the mat. Jr has checked off many of the things he hoped to accomplish this season. He’s now 34-7 overall and a regional champion who went undefeated against the GPAC.

He’s dismantling opponents just the way he aspires to. Jr attributes his work routine as a main factor.

“Last year I had to get in so many extra workouts just to get down to weight,” Lule said. “It took a big toll on my body. It accumulated throughout the season. By the time the national tournament came my body was pretty beat up. It was hard to perform at a high level. This year I’m training a lot smarter. I get in my extra workouts, but I’m smarter about it. My body feels great. This is as good as I’ve ever felt going into any postseason from high school to junior college to now. This is the best I’ve felt physically, spiritually and mentally. I feel like it’s all coming together.”

There’s just one more thing to check off the list. Currently ranked fifth nationally in his weight class, Lule expects to make good on the business he left unfinished in 2015 when he fell short of reaching the medal stand. To hear his name recognized as an All-American would be the perfect capper for the one known as Jr.

“That would end my wrestling career in the perfect way, especially with not medaling last year at the national tournament,” Lule said. “It makes this so much better because it’s something that I don’t have and we don’t have in my family. I get a lot of motivation from my family. I like to show them that I’m working hard. My coaches have been talking about that all year. It sticks with you your whole life. It’s one of the best feelings you can have. I’m a junior college All-American but I hardly ever think of that. I think being an All-American in the NAIA would show the hard work I’ve been putting in the last few years.”

The journey that saw Jr follow former Palomar teammate Emilio Rivera to Seward will make a stop in Topeka, Kan., as the 2016 NAIA National Wrestling Championships commence on March 4. This is what Jr has worked for.

Atwood enjoying first trip to national tournament

The college career of Matt Atwood hasn’t exactly happened the way he would have dreamed. At first the two-time transfer struggled to adapt to college life and then found himself relegated to the role of bystander at the national championships in each of the last three years.

The tables have turned for the senior from Smith Center, Kan. During Friday’s first session of the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, a prideful Atwood again watched. This time he was happy to be a member of the audience, looking on as brother Kyler earned a 2-1 victory. That decision came not long after Matt polished off his first-ever national tournament win with a pin of Missouri Valley College’s Brett Bader.

“A little bit,” Atwood said when asked if he was nervous for his first taste of nationals. “I’ve wrestled here since I was four every year. It’s been good to be home. There were some first-match nerves. I really haven’t had that this year. It’s good to get that out of the way.”

The win moved Atwood, ranked seventh in the 184-pound weight class, to 25-5 overall. The former Bethany College and Fort Hays State University grappler has broken out as a Bulldog. By way of capturing a NAIA North Qualifier title on Feb. 20, Atwood clinched the bid to the national tournament. Said Atwood at the time, “I’m blessed to be here. I couldn’t be happier with where God’s put me.”

In his only season in the Concordia navy and white singlet, Atwood has far surpassed the expectations head coach Dana Vote had for him. In a last-chance opportunity, Atwood has put together a season that could ultimately land him on the medal stand.

“I think it’s awesome,” Vote said prior to the start of the national championships. “Matt’s really embraced what we’ve talked about here. He had a new opportunity and he took full advantage of it. He’s excited to compete and I’m excited for him.”

Atwood began his meandering college career at in Hays, Kan., a more party-happy place that he admits got the best of him. He soon left for Bethany, where Cody Garcia took over as head coach for a brand new program. Atwood spent four years there, including a redshirt season. Garcia had left for Baker University this past June, which spurred Atwood to put himself back on the market for one final year of eligibility.

Atwood spent the summer training in Omaha, still unsure of his next move. That’s where a link to Vote got the wheels turning on a potential landing spot in Seward.

“I just took a leap and went. It’s been good for me,” Atwood said. “It didn’t take a lot to sell me to Concordia. I didn’t know (Mark) Fiala was going to be here, but I knew (former assistant Ryan) Pankoke from my coaches that had wrestled with him at UNO (University of Nebraska-Omaha). I had long talk with Garcia. He said (Ken) Burkhardt Jr. would be a good training partner for me. That’s what I was looking for.”

Working in the room with Burkhardt Jr., a 2015 NAIA All-American, has helped push Atwood to new levels while erasing some of past years frustrations. Atwood also points to his training sessions in Omaha as another reason for his success as a Bulldog.

Having been a fifth-place regional finisher at Bethany, Atwood wanted to leave no doubt about his qualification for nationals this time around. He went ahead and won the North Qualifier to save himself the suspense.

“I had a lot of bad luck,” Atwood said. “I watched a lot of people All-American while I sat in the stands and watched nationals every year. We were in a tough region and I kind of froze up every year. The year before I went to 174 I was winning 8-2 in the first-round match over the guy who won the region. I broke my ankle, taped it up and wrestled all the way through. I ended up fifth and I didn’t get the bid (to nationals).”

Atwood says he had something to prove after those disappointments. He now possesses a tough mental edge that Vote helped him develop. Look where he is now, wrestling alongside his brother, and in front of several family members, at the national championships.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Atwood said. “He lost his first match which was tough to see, but I’m really proud to be here with him.”

Burkhardt Jr., Cole, Schulte repeat as All-Americans

TOPEKA, Kan. – Familiar faces locked up positions on the medal stand as day one of the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships unfolded Friday inside the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. Six Bulldogs made return trips while four individuals in the navy and white singlets made their first-ever appearances at the national tournament. At the conclusion of day one, Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197), Kodie Cole (133) and Andrew Schulte (141) are the three Bulldogs left standing.

The three repeat All-Americans helped fourth-year head coach Dana Vote’s squad wrap up Friday with a ninth-place team standing. With 34 team points, Concordia still has a shot of achieving its goal of a top-five national finish, which would surpass last year’s program record national placement of 12th.

“I think it’s still possible,” Vote said. “If you look at the points, we’re not that far out. I told the guys we still have work to do. We have three guys in it. I think Schulte has a shot at winning the whole thing. I know Ken and Kodie have been on the stand before. We want to move as high up on the podium as we can.”

All Burkhardt Jr. does is find ways to win matches. The junior from Milford, Neb., has won 85 in his college career to date, including four on Friday. The 14th-ranked Burkhardt Jr. (31-12) suffered a rough 7-6 second-round loss in which he gave up a late lead in the final seconds to No. 7 Hudson Buck of Dickinson State University (N.D.). The 197-pounder recovered by winning his next three bouts, including the blood-round 5-2 decision over Morningside’s Jared McCoy.

Burkhardt Jr. seems to do his best work with his back against the wall.

“I can’t even talk. It’s just so awesome,” Burkhardt Jr. said. “That’s all I have to say. I have no words. I just thank Jesus and I think Coach for the opportunity. I believe in the system and it was all about the process.”

Schulte, ranked second in the 141-pound weight class, surrendered a total of just four points in his three victories on Friday. He’s headed back to the semifinals for the second-straight year. Along the way, Schulte beat the seventh and 10th-rated wrestlers in his weight class in the process of extending his winning streak to 24. Schulte (38-6) will take on No. 3 Tyler Fraley of Williams Baptist on Saturday with a berth in the 141-pound title match on the line.

Said Vote, “Schulte was dominant as usual. He probably had the toughest draw coming in, three tough guys right in a row. The guy he had first round was an All-American and the last guy he beat (Lindsey Wilson’s Daniel Leonard) got him at the national tournament last year.”

Cole drew the biggest rise of the day out of the Concordia faithful when he pinned Lindenwood-Belleville’s 13th-ranked Jesse Martinelli to sew up All-America accolades for the second year in a row. It’s been an up and down year for Cole, who shook off some early-season struggles. Like Burkhardt Jr., Cole is making his third appearance at the national championships.

Those were the highs. Then there were the lows and the heartache of having three wrestlers fall one win short of reaching All-America rounds. Matt Atwood (184), Ceron Francisco (285) and Jr Lule (157) each fell short in matches that would have advanced them to Saturday. A year after making a surprise appearance in the national semifinals of the heavyweight bracket, fifth-ranked Francisco fell victim to an upset in his opening match of the tournament.

Francisco, a junior from Fayetteville, N.C., will get another shot next year, but the collegiate careers of Atwood and Lule are now over. Lule saw his 13-match win streak come to a halt with an 8-4 loss to Baker University’s Colby Crank.

“I’m proud of all 10 guys who have wrestled at the national tournament,” Vote said. “We wrestled hard in every match and had some tough matchups. We learned a lot from it.”

Three Bulldogs were eliminated during Friday’s opening session. Though his season ended early in the afternoon, junior Dmitri Smith (125) recorded his first career national tournament victory with a 5-4 decision over Dickinson State University’s (N.D.) Deshaun Haynes. In their first career national championships appearances, junior Foster Bunce (149) and freshman Travian Cooke (174) went 0-2. In his first experience on the national stage, junior Tommy Bailey (165) won a pair of matches before being eliminated. He went 30-22 for the year.

Three different Bulldogs collected their 50th career win on Friday: Bailey, Cole and Lule. A NAIA North Qualifier champion, Lule finished his Concordia career at 50-17.

Day two of the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships will begin at 10 a.m. CT in Topeka. TrackWrestling.com will provide live video and results. The finals matches will be aired by ESPN3.com.

Schulte seizes wrestling program's first-ever national title

TOPEKA, Kan. – In his typical dominant fashion, junior Andrew Schulte made history on Saturday. Not only the first to reach the national finals, Schulte became the first Bulldog ever to win an individual wrestling national title. The 141-pounder took care of Ottawa University’s 12th-ranked Tyler Hinton in 4:19 and then leapt into the waiting arms of head coach Dana Vote.

It was unchartered territory for Concordia wrestling. Standing atop the podium, an emotional Schulte fought back tears while he heard his name uttered in the same sentence as the words ‘NAIA national champion.’

“It means everything to me,” Schulte said. “It’s been my life sacrifices. It all paid off. If I could relive the moment I would. I could just live in that moment forever.”

Schulte’s perfect 5-0 run through the 141-pound bracket boosted the Bulldogs to an eighth-place team finish, marking the highest in program history. Schulte was joined on the medal stand by fellow teammates and repeat All-Americans Ken Burkhardt Jr. (197) and Kodie Cole (133). Ten total Concordia national qualifiers combined for 54.5 team points at the 2016 championships.

Those accomplishments came on top of GPAC dual and tournament titles for the second-straight year under Vote, who has pumped life into Bulldog wrestling. Vote helped make a believer out of Schulte. Thus, the emotional embrace after Schulte’s crowning achievement.

“It was an amazing feeling. I was so happy and so proud for him,” Vote said. “He works so hard. He does all the right things. He put it together and it was unbelievable. It was a great experience as a coach and you just feel it for the kid.”

Schulte’s championship bout was a rematch of a tussle that occurred on Jan. 8. In that instance, Schulte toppled Hinton by major decision, 15-4, at the National Duals. Following an early review in Saturday’s final, Schulte went on attack and built a 6-1 lead before wrangling Hinton’s back to the mat. It was just the fifth pin of the season for Schulte, who extended his winning streak to 26.

Earlier in the day, Schulte battled third-ranked Tyler Fraley of Williams Baptist (Ark.) for nearly 10 minutes before ending the semifinal bout with a takedown. Schulte then jumped into the arms of Vote and pumped his right fist in salute to the Concordia cheering section. It was only the start of one monumental day.

Building upon last year’s eighth-place finish, Cole put together a strong Saturday with wins in two of three bouts. The Palmdale, Calif., native’s tournament concluded with an 11-3 win over eighth-ranked Vicente Hernandez of Simpson University (Calif.). Though there were struggles early in the season, Cole again found his groove at the national tournament.

“It means a lot to me,” Cole said of reaching the podium for a second-straight year. “I put in a lot of work and a lot of hours in the wrestling room and in my academics as well. So it means a lot to me.”

Burkhardt Jr., a three-time national qualifier just like Cole, also improved his position from the previous year. He claimed seventh place by winning his only match on Saturday with a pin of Doane’s Chandler Knight. The native of Milford, Neb., brushed aside an early 2-0 deficit and took the lead before wiping away Knight in 4:38. In the process, Burkhardt Jr. recorded his 86th career win and 12th pin of the season.

The work of the three Bulldogs helped ease the disappointment of last year’s final day at the national championships.

“We talked a lot about having a better day on Saturday this year,” Vote said. “All three of our All-Americans won their last match. If you win your last match of the year you’re probably putting yourself in a good situation. (Ken and Kodie) both did a great job.”

But what the 2016 national championships will be best remembered for is Schulte’s pin underneath the bright lights of the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan.

“There really are no words,” Schulte said. “It’s honestly an unspeakable amount of joy and glory.”

Bunce, Starkey named Scholar-Athletes

NAIA release

SEWARD, Neb. – A pair of athletes represented Concordia University wrestling on the NAIA’s list of Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes released on March 4. Bulldogs Foster Bunce and Austin Starkey are both first-time scholar-athletes. Bunce, a junior from Munith, Mich., is a business major. Starkey, a junior from St. Paul, Neb., is pursuing degrees in biology and chemistry.

In order to be nominated by an institution’s head coach or sports information director, a student-athlete must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale and must have achieved a junior academic status. A total of 59 wrestling student-athletes across the nation were named 2015-16 scholar-athletes by the NAIA.

Concordia University ranks as the NAIA’s all-time leader in number of Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes with 1,255 and counting (39 for the fall of 2015). The 2014-15 season culminated with GPAC-leading totals of 94 Bulldog scholar-athletes and 17 NAIA Scholar-Teams. During the 2013-14 academic year, Concordia garnered 101 Scholar-Athlete honorees (most in the NAIA) and 17 NAIA Scholar-Teams (tied for fourth nationally).

Concordia University, Nebraska, founded in 1894, is a fully accredited, coeducational university located in Seward, Nebraska, that currently serves more than 2,600 students. Concordia offers more than 70 undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in an excellent academic and Christ-centered community that equips men and women for lives of learning, service and leadership in the church and world. For more information, visit cune.edu.

2015-16 Concordia wrestling scholar-athletes
Foster Bunce | Jr. | Munith, Mich. | Business
Austin Starkey | Jr. | St. Paul, Neb. | Biology & Chemistry

Schulte recounts national title

On March 5 junior Andrew Schulte became the first national champion in the history of Concordia University wrestling. Schulte blazed to the 141-pound title without giving up a single offensive score in his five matches at the national tournament. He ultimately pinned Ottawa University’s Tyler Hinton in the championship bout, then leapt into the waiting arms of head coach Dana Vote.

Even before the championship match, Schulte would have had a compelling case for having put together the best season for any Concordia wrestler ever. He finished 2015-16 with an overall record of 40-6, breaking the school record for wins in a single season. Along the way, Schulte also won the NAIA North Qualifier 141-pound title and was honored as the GPAC wrestler of the year. He will carry a 26-match win streak into 2016-17.

Schulte has been the biggest standout for a program that has captured two-straight GPAC dual titles and two-consecutive NAIA North championships. The Bulldogs placed eighth nationally at the 2016 championships and now own a GPAC dual win streak of 14.

Below is a transcript of Schulte’s interview with Matt Harab for the Bulldog Coaches Show that aired on March 17 on KOOL 103.5 FM. In it, Schulte discussed in detail what it’s like to win a national title.

Matt Harab: Describe the feeling of winning a national title.

Andrew Schulte: I remember I closed my eyes. I saw both of his shoulders press the mat. To be honest, I noticed it happened and I closed my eyes. I just listened. I heard the whistle and I heard his hand slap the mat. It was over just like that. For me it was a moment of pure understanding. It made sense to me why I sacrificed and trained so many hours of hard work for a moment of being No. 1. That was special to me. I feel it’s been a long time coming for someone like myself. I got emotional. It was an unspeakable amount of joy. I would say it again. I can’t put into words how much joy I felt. Coach Vote is someone who knows me very well and he understands how important this was to me. He’s very goal-oriented too. It was an exciting moment for us.

MH: You had to win five matches to become a national champion. I would imagine there might have been a point during one of those matches where either physically or mentally you felt beaten or you had to come from behind. Was there ever a point like that? How did you overcome it?

AS: There was no point when I felt beaten. There were matches that were close. My semifinal match went into double overtime, but at no point did I engage in any kind of negative thought process or energy for that matter. The first whistle to the last whistle I just wrestled my match. I wrestled how I do in practice. I never stopped believing in myself. I believed in myself before I got to the tournament. I believe in myself now.

MH: It’s cliché to say at the beginning of the year you want to be a national champion. You strike me as someone that just has a ton of confidence in himself. I would imagine this was your goal in the very beginning to be a national champion.

AS: Absolutely. It’s been my goal for a while.

MH: As a team you guys finished in eighth place, highest in program history. What does that say about the program and the depth you have moving forward?

AS: We’re growing a little bit each year. We’re improving a little bit each year. We’re finding our niche as a team. I think it starts to mean more for the older guys for myself. Next year is my last year. I don’t want to be the only guy on my team on the stage next year. As long as we keep growing it’s going to be more and more important to each other. As long as we share that same value there’s no way they can stop us.

MH: When you accomplish the be-all, end-all goal that you did this year, how do you approach things in terms of your mindset and get back to the top?

AS: I think my approach to next year will be even better than last year. I left the national tournament last year with a bad taste. I got fifth. I won my last match, but I lost matches I shouldn’t have lost. It happens, but I think that fueled me. It was hard to have negative energy and also try to come out on top. Knowing that all the work at the end of the day is going to be worth it, makes it easier. I’m going to be fueled by happiness and that same joy that I felt in the finals. Personally I have a lot of intrinsic motivation. I love wrestling. It’s awesome and I’m grateful for it.

Wrestling maintains GPAC dominance while pushing program limits

As Andrew Schulte battled for a national championship under the bright lights of the Kansas Expocentre, ESPN3 commentator Jason Bryant sang the praises of the Concordia University wrestling program. Said Bryant, “(Head coach Dana Vote) has done an absolutely amazing job building the community with this school and the wrestling program. He’s got the president and everybody involved in this wrestling program. He’s doing a phenomenal job building fan support.”

Just minutes later Bryant called the first individual national title in Bulldog wrestling history. It was a historic moment in time for a program that continued its ascent during the 2015-16 campaign. Vote’s fourth year as head coach brought GPAC dual and tournament championships and an eighth-place national finish, the highest in program annals.

“I think overall it was a successful season,” Vote said. “As we look at it as coaches and individuals on this team, we had higher expectations than how we finished. I wouldn’t say we had a great national tournament. We had some good performances, but it left us hungry and wanting more. We turned over a stone this year and opened the door to bigger things. We got a taste of what we want. Guys are excited about next season.”

The apex of the 2015-16 season, without a doubt, was Schulte’s performance that led him to the top of the podium. Schulte enjoyed the best finishing run ever by a Concordia wrestler. He won each of his final 26 matches, including five at the national championships, and did not relinquish a single takedown after shifting back to his customary weight of 141 pounds. Along the way, he broke the program record for wins in a season with 40.

Schulte had already been an All-American and was named the GPAC wrestler of the year prior to the 2016 national tournament. But none of those things will can rival the significance of what occurred on March 5.

“For me it was a moment of pure understanding,” Schulte said. “It made sense to me why I sacrificed and trained so many hours of hard work for a moment of being No. 1. That was special to me. I feel it’s been a long time coming for someone like myself. I got emotional. It was an unspeakable amount of joy. I would say it again. I can’t put into words how much joy I felt.”

From a team perspective, the Bulldogs again flexed their muscles inside the conference. They breezed through conference dual action while extending their GPAC win streak to 14. During that stretch, Concordia has outscored opponents by a combined total of 482-123 while triumphing in 107 of 140 individual bouts. At this year’s NAIA North Qualifier, made up solely of GPAC teams, the Bulldogs piled up 169 team points to runner-up Morningside’s 115.5.

Schulte and three others – Matt Atwood (184), Ceron Francisco (285) and Jr Lule (149) – captured individual North titles and two others reached the finals. Concordia is the clear top dog in the GPAC.

“It’s huge. That’s one thing that’s big to the wrestling program and I think it’s big to the university,” Vote said. “Being dominant in the conference means a lot to us. It’s right up there with performing high at a national level. To be able to go into the conference tournament and win by 50-60 points the last couple years has meant a lot to the kids, coaches and administration as well. We want to continue to build upon that. We can separate ourselves even more.”

While Atwood, Francisco and Lule fell short of their hopes of reaching the stand at the national tournament, juniors Ken Burkhardt Jr. and Kodie Cole joined Schulte as repeat All-Americans. Burkhardt Jr. moved up from eighth in 2015 to seventh in 2016 at 197 pounds. Meanwhile, Cole jumped from eighth in 2015 to fifth in 2016 at 133 pounds. Burkhardt Jr. has quietly piled up 86 victories over three seasons as a Bulldog.

Cole’s performance was a feel-good story following an up-and-down season. Cole owned a record of 11-9 before going a combined 6-3 at the regional and national tournaments.

“I love the kid to death. He’s a great kid,” Vote said of Cole. “He had some struggles this year with weight cutting and some different things. We butted heads at times, but things came together and he worked hard. He started believing in the coaches and the system. We got down to the end of the year and he wanted it bad. He had a goal and he fought with every ounce he had. He did a great job. He performed at a high level at the national tournament.”

Lule dominated in much the same way that Schulte did for the majority of the season. Lule won 13-straight matches until consecutive losses ended his season at the national championships. During the win streak, Lule wiped out eight opponents by technical fall. He finished 35-9 overall with 14 victories via technical fall.

Arguably the team’s biggest breakout performer, Atwood, a senior who transferred from Bethany College, posted an overall record of 25-7 and picked up a national tournament victory with a pin. Atwood was one of eight Bulldogs to reach the 20-win mark.

Atwood and Lule will depart after exhausting their eligibility, but Vote has positioned his program to take another step up as it has every year under the Buena Vista University graduate. Vote says that everyone inside the room is already well aware of what the next step means.

“I think it’s pretty clear cut what the next step is,” Vote said. “We want hardware at the national tournament. We want to bring a team trophy home and put as many guys in the national finals as we can. It’s out in the open now. The guys know what the expectations are. Next year is our year we want a trophy at the national tournament.”