NCWA Conference Championships Recap
By Scott Farrell
Grand Canyon led the field among the nine NCWA conference champions, but based on the nationwide results from last weekend, will have to prepare for tough competition in numbers and quality from Liberty and Shorter and others in order to win the national title.
The Antelopes swept all but one weight class in dominating the NCWA’s West Coast Conference on Saturday. GCU racked up 222 points with championships earned by AJ Salazar (125), Lino Estrada (133), Zach Zehner (141), Mike Hamel (149), Bryant Wood (157), Juan Maynes (165), Martin Fabbian (174), Austin Gaun (184), Marcus Haughian (197) and Peter Anguiano (285). Nate Zobott took second at 235.
It was an impressive run by GCU, who outscored second-place BYU by 114 points. The Antelopes will send all 11 wrestlers to the NCWA Championships, but six other schools will have as many or more qualifiers at nationals. The should set up what should be a tight race at the top between GCU, Liberty (17 qualifiers), Shorter (10) and NCWA legacy programs Grand Valley State (13), Apprentice (13), Central Florida (13), Middle Tennessee (10), and perhaps even Wayne State College (13) and Alfred State (N.Y.) (11), who also have double-digit qualifiers.
Back in the WCC, BYU, a second-year program on the rise, earned runner-up finishes from Kyle Lane (285), Alex Nicholes (174) and Brandon Grooms (141), and will send nine qualifiers to nationals. Host Dixie State had 96.5 points, led by 235-pound champion Brian Curtis, who upset Zobott in the final to break GCU’s title spree.
USC was fourth with runners-up Armand Farrakh at 165 and All-American Nick Cegelski (149). First-year program Glendale Community College (Ariz.) was fifth with 57.5 points.
Here’s a recap of the rest of the NCWA conference championships:
Shorter pulled away in the Southeast Conference Championships with 219.5 points buoyed by six champions. The Hawks swept the 165-184 classes behind Wally Figaro, Dalton Lane and Terrence Smith, and also had SEC champs in Ben Smith (125), Brandon Dyer (141) and Marlen Morgan (285).
The Hawks will send the bulk of their starting lineup – 10 qualifiers – to nationals. Shorter also had placers in Jesse Jones (third, 133), Kannon Madden (second, 157), Joseph Hinchman (fourth, 197), and Andrew Ewers (second, 235).
Central Florida will send 13 qualifiers to nationals, helped by its depth that will include five alternates or wild-card entries. UCF placed second to Shorter with 154.5 points, and had three SEC champions in defending NCWA 157 champion Santiago Martinez, three-time All-American Josh Woods (235) and Nick Anthony (133). Tyrell Walker took second at 197.
Florida Gulf Coast roared into the top three with 116.5 points. The Eagles’ leaders were brothers Giovanni Jiovenetta (174) and Vincent Jiovenetta (184), who were runners-up in their classes. Austin Vajen (third at 125), Michael Blasucci (fourth at 133), Daniel Weiner (fourth at 149) and Carlos Rios (third at 157) also placed in the top four.
Georgia took sixth with 76 points behind two SEC champions, as 2012 All-American Paul Ardilla won the 197 bracket, and John Cook won the 149 class. Ardilla and Cook were the only wrestlers outside of Shorter and UCF to win an SEC title.
Florida surprised with three runners-up in Jacob Wasserman (125), Nick Anthony (133, losing to UCF’s Nick Anthony of the same name), and Beau Doerr (149).
Liberty stormed through the Mid-Atlantic Conference with seven champions and 17 national qualifiers. The Flames torched the 149-197 brackets with six championships in a row from All-Americans Peter Tatanish (149), Chase Boontjer (157), Josh Ferenczy (165), Keyshaun Ward (174), Royal Brettrager (184) and Aaron Thompson (197). Ryan Diehl won the 133 class, and Tim Nordan (125) and Collin Lewis (141) were runners-up at their weights.
The Flames’ outstanding depth led to 219 team points, helped by double-placings in the top six at 125, 133, 141, 149, 174 and 184.
Middle Tennessee and The Apprentice School also dominated the MAC field, scoring 149 and 139.5 points, respectively, well ahead of the rest of the field.
MTSU’s well-earned 149 points came from MAC champions at 125 in Anthony Patnode, 141 in Carlos Garcia, and 285 with Rashied Rayford, who beat Apprentice All-American Ian Jones in the final. The Blue Raiders will send 10 qualifiers to nationals, and also scored runner-up finishes by Eric Feuerbacher at 133 and Jonathan Roberts at 184.
Apprentice scored 139.5 points with 13 qualifiers to nationals. The Builders were paced by four runners-up, Sterling Briscoe at 149, Phillip Porto at 174, Josh Rodriguez at 197 and Jones at 285. Plus, Apprentice earned double-placings at 125 (3-4 finish with Shane Smith and Jake Michael), 157 (3-4 with Kyle Lowry and Patrick Foxworth), and 285 (Jones and fourth-place Jace Grimmett).
The only MAC champion not from Liberty or MTSU was Tennessee Temple’s Corey Wright, who won the 235 bracket. James Madison took fourth with 65 points with third-place finishers Steven Cotnoir at 141 and Trey Gregory at 149. William Austen, a 2011 All-American, placed second at 157.
Grand Valley State rolled to the title in the Great Lakes Conference, sweeping through the middle weights with titles at every weight from 141-184. The Lakers are primed for another run at the NCWA title with 13 qualifiers, including conference champs Kyle Horr (141), Gabe Stepanovich (149), Carter Augustyn (157), Bobby Tymes (165), Alex Morang (174) and Nick Verran (184). Brooks O’Brien was a runner-up at 133.
Toledo surprised the field by climbing into second place with a strong run in the upper weights. The Rockets were without a conference champ, but scored 98 points with its depth that placed seven wrestlers within the top four of their class. Mike Mueller (157), Jake Sowders (174) and Cody Bettencourt (197) were runners-up in their class.
Michigan posted a third-place 89 points in a strong showing for the third-year program. Zachary Vatalare (133) won the 133-lb. class, and Big Blue also had Patrick Bassett (125) and Zachary Dieterle (184) and Humphrey Akujobi (235) were runners-up in their class.
Saginaw Valley State scored two conference champions in Wayne Sanders at 197 lbs. and Dominick Wiggins at 235. Other conference champs were Buddy Poyner (125) of fifth-place Mott Community College (Mich.) and Greydon Pavlik of sixth-place Bowling Green. Henry Ford Community College (Mich.) will send six qualifiers to nationals at the close of its first full NCWA season. HFCC placed fourth in the GLC.
New NCWA program Alfred State won the NEC Championships among a packed field at the top. The Pioneers scored 181 points with NEC champs in Kevin Thayer (149) and Codie Nichols (157), and had 11 wrestlers finish with top-six finishes. Austin Keough (125), Tyler Aldinger (141), Alex Ortiz (235) and Dan Ognibene (285) were runners-up in their weight classes.
The U.S. Naval Academy Prep School took second with 148.5, well ahead of MIT’s 120 points and the U.S. Military Academy Prep School at 115.5. USNAPS wrestlers won NEC titles at 184 with Jadaen Bernstein and 285 with Don Shovestull. The Midshipmen also scored runner-up showings by Drew Daniels at 165 and Robert Mannier at 174.
MIT superstar Sam Shames was a runaway winner at 133, and the Engineers will take eight qualifiers to nationals, including double-NEC-placers Jaes Jones (second) and Levi Russull (fourth) at 157, and third-place Andrew Esquivel at 125. Joe Lowman took fourth at 184.
The USMAPS had Sean Badua lead off the tournament with the 125 title, and later had Parker Meytrot win the 174 class with second-place finishes by Joey Affonti at 149 and Jack Wedholm at 184.
RPI took fifth with 67 points, led by 165 champion Conner Burns and fourth-place Alec Vogel at 133. Zach Tepper won the 141 class for seventh-place New Hampshire, Yale finished sixth behind Zachary Belway’s 197 title, and first-year program Eastern Maine Community College got a NEC title from 235-pounder Victor Irwin.
Maryland-Baltimore County won a tight race in the Mideast Conference with a 137-129 edge over Penn State-Mont Alto. Penn State-DuBois took third with 106 points, following by West Chester with 104. Combined, the MEC’s top four teams won seven of the 11 brackets, and will send 33 qualifiers to the NCWA Championships.
UMBC started the finals with the championship at 125 lbs. from Sean Kellett. The Retrievers also got an MEC title from Stephen Beam at 141, and will have nine qualifiers at nationals. Alec Pence, a 2012 All-American, took second at 197 lbs. to Pittsburgh’s Scott Schretzenmaier, who defended his MEC title and will be fifth-place Panthers’ lone representative at nationals.
Penn State-Mont Alto had a conference champ in Jimmy Hughes at 133 lbs., and three runners-up in Clay Kocsis (165), Alec Warner (184), and Jaron Burke (285). PSUMA placed eight wrestlers in the top five, and had double-placings at 133 (Hughes and fourth-place Danny May) and 149 (third-place Tyler Warner and fifth-place Nick Grimm).
Penn State-DuBois came away from the MEC with the most national qualifiers with 10. Logan Shirley won the 184 class, and PSUDB had runner-up finishes from Austin Sheibley (133) and Ryan Terwillliger (174).
West Chester won the most MEC titles individually, as two-time All-American Luke Bilyeu won the 149 bracket, and Chadd Baribault (157) and 2012 All-American Ryan Kreppel (235) won their classes. The Rams will send six wrestlers to nationals.
In the Great Plains Conference, the U.S. Air Force Academy Prep School edged Wayne State College for the title, 84-83. USAFAP placed six wrestlers, and four of them won their weights. Two of the champions, Drew Romero (125 lbs.) and Zen Ikehara (184), won their brackets over WSC opponents, a key in the one-point advantage in the team standings.
USAFAP also got bracket wins from Robert Walker at 149 and Samuel Kreimier at 157. Michael Billingsley took second at 165 and Elvin Hernandez was third at 285 for the Falcons.
Wayne State wrestlers placed second in six of the brackets, but the Wildcats gained some consolation by advancing 13 wrestlers to the NCWA Championships, one of the highest totals in the association. Jon Williams and Tanner Clark highlighted WSC’s GPC tournament run with a 1-2 finish at 174 lbs., and Jon Mullen won the heavyweight class.
Washington State earned its first Northwest Conference championship, edging defending champion Central Washington 93.5-89.5. WSU scored NWC titles by Nate Williams (149), Brett Johnson (165) and Joe Traverso (174). Also at 174, Brandon Todd took second, and John Morrison (133), Jerdon Helgeson (141) and Zack Anderson (197) were second for the Cougars.
CWU had NWC championships from Andrew Vulliet (125), All-American Nick Bendon (157), and Kevin Madson (285), plus runners-up placings by Steven Alfi (165) and Andrew Huerta (184).
Montana Western took third with 74 points and had two NWC champions, Jayme Kelly at 184 and Terrance Maier at 197, plus four runners-up. WSU, CWU and MWC will each send six qualifiers to nationals.
Texas won its second consecutive Southwest Conference title with 75 points, and will send six qualifiers to nationals. The Longhorns’ Antonio Martinez (141), Mitchell Lax (149), Jordan Hildreth (157), Nathan Bullard (184) and Jordan Bridgers (197) won SWC titles.
Texas-Arlington took second behind 125 champion Michael Dauterive and 235 champion Jose Cardona. Texas A&M (Will Heiges at 285), Texas State (Martin Veliz at 133) and Texas-Pan American (Josiah Borden at 174) also had individual SWC champions.