AMERICAN AIRLINES CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE
DALLAS, TX -
The National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) continue their first-of-its-kind wrestling event next weekend when the University of Central Florida and Orlando, Fla., host the American Airlines Champions Challenge.
The AA Champions Challenge, in its second year, is a dual match between the returning NCWA and NAIA national champions and/or the top-ranked wrestlers from each association. The NCWA will have two of its defending national champions and three runners-up within its lineup, while the NAIA has six returning All-Americans in its lineup. Combined, there are 13 of each association’s finest programs represented at the Challenge, and the competing student-athletes hail from 11 different states.
The NAIA topped the NCWA, 39-3, in the inaugural event last year held in conjunction with the Lone Star Duals in Grand Prairie, Texas. Each association has one wrestler back for the 2011 Challenge, and together they compose a rematch from last year’s event. The NCWA’s Kevin Bacci, a senior from West Chester University and the defending NCWA champion at 174 pounds, takes on Jameon Rush, a junior from Hastings College (Neb.) who is currently ranked third in the NAIA and placed 5th at the nationals last year. In the highlight match of last year’s Challenge, Rush held on to defeat Bacci 4-3 in triple overtime in the same weight class.
The coaches for both squads also represent the best the two associations have to offer. Jason Balma (Central Florida), Jovon Butler (The Apprentice School) and John Petty (California Baptist) will coach the NCWA team, while Brian Jackson (Missouri Baptist), Jake Stevenson (Morningside College) and Patrick Giangrasso (Missouri Valley College) will guide the NAIA lineup.
The AA Champions Challenge will be at The Venue at UCF, a unique 2,000-seat facility designed to house the UCF volleyball team. Formerly the UCF Arena, the facility was completely renovated and re-opened in 2008 as an 87,000-square foot multi-purpose facility.
Here are the American Airlines Champions Challenge lineups, along with notes regarding each wrestler’s 2010 national finish, current ranking within their association or other 2010-11 season accolades:
125 lbs. NCWA - Grant Kadokura, Sr., MIT - Ranked 5th; Defending NCWA Champ
NAIA - Paul Hansen III, Jr., Missouri Valley College - Ranked 3rd - 2 x national qualifier
133 lbs. NCWA - Steve DeAugustino, Sr., Central Florida - Ranked 2nd; Placed 4th at 2010 nationals
NAIA - Anton Prater, Sr., Missouri Baptist - Ranked 3rd; Placed 5th at 2010 nationals
141 lbs. NCWA - Kendall Albert, Kennesaw State - - Ranked 4th; Placed 3rd at 2010 nationals
NAIA - Drew Smith, Sr., Morningside (Iowa) - Ranked 6th; Won Buena Vista Open in Dec.
149 lbs. NCWA - Christopher Santana, So., Calif. Baptist Ranked 1st; Placed 4th at 2010 nationals
NAIA - Danny Hutcheson, Sr., Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) - Unranked; 2 x national qualifier
157 lbs. NCWA - Ricky Anderson, Jr., Apprentice School - Ranked 1st; Won UCF Open, 22 pins
NAIA - Brad Cusatis, Jr., Hastings College (Neb.) - Ranked 9th; 2 x national qualifier
165 lbs. NCWA - Dustin Tancredi, Jr., West Chester Univ. - Ranked 1st; NCWA runner-up in 2010
NAIA - Joe Sievert, So., Morningside (Iowa) - Ranked 3rd; Placed 3rd at 2010 nationals
174 lbs. NCWA - Kevin Bacci, Sr., West Chester Univ. - Ranked 1st; defending NCWA Champion
NAIA - Jameon Rush, Jr., Hastings College (Neb.) - Ranked 3rd; All-American, 5th at 2010 nationals
184 lbs. NCWA - Ben Brummel, South Carolina - Ranked 4th; NCWA runner-up in 2010
NAIA - Jesse Alter, Jr., Missouri Valley College - Ranked 4th; Placed 7th at 2010 nationals
197 lbs. NCWA - Caleb Gerl, Jr., California Baptist - Ranked 2nd; Former JC All-American
NAIA - Charles Gibbs, Sr., Missouri Valley College - Ranked 3rd; Placed 7th at 2010 nationals
285 lbs. Brian Milford, Sr., Texas A&M - Ranked 4th; NCWA runner-up at 235
Travis Ewart, Sr., Missouri Valley College - Ranked 2nd; NAIA All-American in 2010
Brian Jackson, Missouri Baptist
Jake Stevenson, Morningside
Patrick Giangrasso, Missouri Valley
Jason Balma, Central Florida
Jovon Butler, Apprentice
John Petty, California Baptist