GSU Finishes 5th in D-II Standings, 235 Brooks Pendleton National Champion
Georgia Southern University attended the NCWA National Championships in Hampton, Virginia bringing home a 5th place finish as a team in the Division-II standings and their first All-American in over a decade and first ever National Champion. The field saw 79 teams from across the country; 25 at Division-I status and 54 at Division II. Georgia Southern took 5th as a team in D-II and 16th overall as a team in the entire tournament field. Of the 7 National Conferences, Georgia Southern competes in the Southeastern Conference which finished tied with the North Central Conference with 17 All-Americans each for the most of any of the Conferences. Even more impressive was the fact that five of the eight wrestlers in the quarterfinals of the tournament at the 235 weight class where Pendleton came out the National Champion were from the Southeastern Conference. Georgia Southern had qualified 6 wrestlers at the Southeastern Conference championships but lost 184 Kamaal Barron before the event.
197 Shaun Scruggs and NS-235 Darren Sexton both lost their only 2 matches, but wrestled tough matches and accomplished large feats in both qualifying for Nationals in their first year as freshmen. Scruggs’ two matches came against the West Chester University and eventual All-American Stuart Roes from the Apprentice School. Sexton’s matches were against eventual All-American Travis Dickson from Amherst University and Dane Szente from Bowling Green University.
141 Chris Stewart was seeded last in the tournament and had to face the #1 seed and eventual National Champion in his first bout in a rough start, but fought back hard in his second match against A.J. Groff from Northwest Missouri scoring the first takedown and ride time points going into the second period. Stewart went to the down position in the second period before scoring a reversal putting his opponent straight to his back and scoring the pin for advancement and 2 bonus points for his team. His last match the next day went to the 3rd period against Brian Wolfe from South Carolina. Stewart finished the season with a 14-12 record with half of his losses coming to All-Americans in the NCWA this year and was a pivotal leader to his team throughout the year in only its second year of competition. He was named a team captain and will remain in that position going into his junior year.
285 Caleb Mock received a tough draw catching returning All-American Corey Melinn from Grand Valley Michigan in the first round who he met at the Nationals one year ago where he lost an 8-4 decision. Mock was losing 3-2 before trying a desperation throw in the loss with less than 20 seconds left in the match. He wrestled his way back pinning his next opponent Daniel Avery from Northeastern University in the 2nd period after scoring a takedown in both periods and scoring an escape point off his selection of bottom in the period. His 3rd match on day two was against the 4th seeded John Lapoint from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County who had been upset in the second round the previous day. After a scoreless 1st period Mock chose down and scored the reversal off a Standing Peterson and also got 2 back points to take a 4-0 lead. Lapoint got the escape before the period ended and chose bottom for the third and final period. After an escape, the rest of the match finished with no other points scored and an upset win by Mock by a final score of 4-2. Mock was taken down but scored an instant reversal in his next match against Enes Ozekin from Colorado State. Mock lost control on a leg ride and was reversed and pinned to finish 2-2 in the tournament. The Heavyweight weight class was completely unpredictable with upsets and Mock gave it all to finish in the top 16 of the National Tournament 2 years in a row.
235 Brooks Pendleton had a stellar year leading his team in takedowns, pins, victories, and nearly every other category on his way to posting a 23-3 record while remaining undefeated in matches wrestled. He went into the Southeastern Conference Championships as the #1 seed but was forced to forfeit 3 matches for a 6th place finish due to injury and went into the National Championships unseeded, but healthy.
In the National Championships, Pendleton was dominant, allowing no points scored on him except a locked hands penalty in his first match the entire tournament. Even more impressive being an unseeded wrestler with the quality of opponents he had to face to gain his title made the fear of no points scored against him more impressive. Wrestling highly seeded wrestler Carl Worthy from Grand Valley Michigan, Pendleton gave up the only point in this match going on to gain a Major Decision of 8-1. Worthy would wrestle back into the tournament to place 8th and be named an All-American himself. Pendleton’s next 2 matches against Ike Okoli from South Carolina and Mideast Conference Champion Marty Racenis from Lafayette were both 1st period pins. In the semi finals Pendleton faced Mark Koski from the University of Florida for a 10-0 major decision to advance to the National Finals. Racenis and Koski would go on to face each other for 5th and 6th place in the tournament with the victory going to Racenis but both being named All-Americans in the process. Pendleton’s toughest match came in the finals against Texas A&M University’s Brian Milford, the 4th overall seed in the tournament. Pendleton scored the only points of the first period to take a 2-0 lead. Milford deferred to the 3rd and Pendleton took bottom to start the 2nd period. Milford gained over a minute worth of ride time nearly turning Pendleton on 3 occasions with a Power Half and legs in and went out of bounds with about 20 seconds left in the period. Pendleton came back to the center and exploded up and hit a switch for a reversal with short time left and rode out the period. The 3rd period Milford took down and Pendleton rode him out trying many attempts at a turn and even getting a caution called on Milford from stalling on the bottom. Pendleton gained all the time back in the ride time and even went up a minute to gain the extra point for a 5-0 victory and a Major Decision to become an All-American and National Champion.
With every wrestler eligible to return to competition and the only Senior being 285 Caleb Mock the Georgia Southern University Eagles will look to improve in the offseason with new additions and the same focus to bring home even more champions and an even higher finish going into their 3rd year returning to competition.