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01/15/2011 -

RIVERSIDE, Calif. --- California Baptist University's Chris Santana and Caleb Gerl have been selected to participate in the second American Airlines Champions Challenge Saturday Jan. 15.

The event features the top wrestlers from both the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) going head-to-head. The event will take place on the campus of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.

"I used to be part of the committee that put the NAIA team together, and now I will be on the other side for the next few years as we transition to NCAA Division II," said CBU Head Coach John Petty, who has been selected as one of three coaches for the NCWA team. "Our guys have good chances of winning their all-star match and they have a shot at winning a national championship. They work that hard. It won't be easy, and if they fall short, it won't be from a lack of effort."

The NAIA topped the NCWA, 39-3, in the inaugural event held last year.

Santana will go head-to-head with Danny Hutcheson of Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) at 149 pounds. Santana is currently 24-5 and has placed in four of five tournaments, winning two of them. He also defeated 2009 NAIA Champion Matt Burns of Grand View (Iowa) at the Desert Duals in December as well as the No. 6- and 7-ranked NCAA Division III wrestlers from Coe and Wartburg. Hutcheson is a two-time national qualifier.

Gerl will take on Charles Gibbs of Missouri Valley at 197 pounds. Gerl is 17-8 and finished second at the CBU Open and won the Embry-Riddle Open. He also defeated Atticus Disney of NCAA Division I Cal Poly SLO in a dual Dec. 17.

Jimmy Martinez was selected as an alternate.

"To me, wrestling is wrestling no matter the division," said Petty. "We see and respect all divisions, and I tell the guys that everyone they wrestle will only have one head and no more than two arms and two legs and they will weigh nearly as much as you. It all comes down to who wants to score more points than the other person, and that is what you train for. We are looking forward to this opportunity, and it will be a great measuring stick."

Founded in 1997, the Dallas-based NCWA was created to fill gaps in today's wrestling community. It is committed to the goal of using wrestling to increase leadership opportunities for its student-athletes, and it functions to provide a spawning ground for new wrestling teams. There are currently 172 programs in the NCWA, including teams from The Ohio State University, the University of Texas at Austin and Central Florida.

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