Apprentice Pushes Through to Take Second-Day Lead

March 10, 2018 | Scott Farrell

ALLEN, Texas – The last time The Apprentice School had a finalist on the Saturday night finals stage, three of its four current coaches were still in their singlets. Builders assistant coaches Marcus Chevres and Ty Holley split their finals matches in 2010, but with a semifinal blast from three wrestlers along with some scoring help in consolations, they and fellow alum and head coach Micah Amrozowicz, have their alma mater in the lead after the second day at the Allen Event Center.

Apprentice moved past rival Liberty and into the lead at the NCWA Championships with 130 points going into Saturday’s finals matches, and the Builders are in position to win their first NCWA title since 2009 with three finalists. Liberty is second just a point-and-a-half behind at 128.5, leading up to a match-by-match dogfight during Saturday’s placing rounds.

Five of the 11 championship bouts are 1-vs.-2 matchups, setting up a great evening of wrestling at the Allen Event Center beginning with the championship march-in at 6 p.m., with the finals bouts beginning at 6:15 p.m. Wrestling begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with consolation rounds.

It was the fourth round of action Friday that boosted Apprentice into the lead. The Builders have not had three finalists since the 2003 season that closed with a runner-up finish. In fact, the last time Apprentice had even one finalist, three of its four current coaches were still competing on the mat when Marcus Chevres and Ty Holley placed second and first in 2010.

Colton Messick ignited the crowd and Apprentice’s fortunes with a last-second win in the 125-pound semifinals. Trailing 10-8 with 25 seconds left, Messick, a sophomore, scored a takedown with back points against Melvin Rubio of Queens University of Charlotte to advance, and becomes the Builders’ first finalist in eight seasons. It was Messick’s second win over Rubio in two weeks after he pinned him in the MAC semifinals, and Messick now faces top-seeded senior Byron Smith of Middle Tennessee in the final that is a rematch of their Mid-Atlantic Conference final won by Smith, 5-3.

Apprentice has three finalists and three still wrestling in the consolation rounds. Second-place Liberty, who suffered a handful of losses in the championship rounds Friday, has Austin Amos in the 235-pound final but also has eight wrestlers still going in Saturday’s placing matches. It’s still anybody’s tournament between the two MAC rivals.

Chad Simmons also reached the finals at 157, repeating as an All-American and looking to improve his fifth-place finish at 165 last year. Simmons, the MAC champ and top seed, faces Emmanuel College’s second-seed and SEC champ Hunter Quinn in the final.  

Chad Simmons secured his second spot on the podium with a razor-thin 5-3 decision over Matthew Seymour of Central Florida in sudden-victory.  Chad will now face Azamat Akhmedov of UMBC, for a bid to the National finals.  Chad is now 31-10 on the season and is undefeated at 157 lbs. Upstart freshman Ross Graham will close the finals out for Apprentice in the 197 final. The MAC champ takes on one of the four remaining undefeated finalists in Robert LaPeter (19-0) of Florida State. LaPeter, a senior, is FSU’s first finalist.

The heavyweight final pits two of the other undefeated wrestlers against each other. Nathan Spinetti (23-0) is Penn State-Fayette’s first finalist in program history, and he’ll take on three-time All-American Dylan Stadel (9-0) from Utah State. This is Stadel’s first appearance in the finals after third-place finishes in this class the past two years. After three pins to open the tournament, the second-seeded Stadel edged out a 6-3 decision over 3-seed Donovan Lozada of Springfield Tech CC for the first semifinal win over his career.

Shane Brown (23-0), Akron’s senior stalwart and a seasoned wrestler, is the other undefeated wrestler in the 174 class. The three-time All-American takes on top-seed Noah Curreri (29-3), a freshman with Queens University who would hit 30 wins on the season with a finals win.

Among the other finalists is Ty’Rae Carter of Texas A&M, who continued to shock the tournament field with a run to the 149 final. Carter (8-2), a freshman from Houston, was a wildcard entry from the Southwest Conference and has now become that conference’s first finalist since 2011, and the first finalist from a Texas-based school since 2010 (Brian Millford of Texas A&M). Carter faces second-seeded Zach Blevins of Toledo, who is also a first-time All-American and the Great Lakes Conference champion.

Alfred State senior George Van Valen earned a pair of victories on Friday to return to the championship match at 184. The three-time All-American played a major part in crushing third-place Central Florida’s (110 points) title hopes by taking out two of UCF’s wrestlers himself. Van Valen earned a 16-1 tech fall over UCF’s Brad Kata in the morning quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he led 2-0 after the first period before erupting for 13 points in the second period en route to a 15-0 tech fall over UCF’s Jarrod Smiley.

Van Valen now faces Jerron Thomas from Mott CC (Mich.) in the finals. Thomas is a first-time All-American who won the Great Lakes Conference.