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Bel­larmine Wins NCWA Title Past Lib­er­ty; Allen Earns Fourth Title

| Scott Farrell

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Bellarmine’s four national champions along with a runner-up and three third-place finishers secured its first team title at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championships at the Puerto Rico Convention Center. Devan Hendricks, the Knights’ senior 174-pounder who won his bracket with a third-period pin over Grand Valley State’s Josh Kenny, was named Most Outstanding Wrestler.

The Knights’ 206.5 team points outlasted Liberty’s 189.5 total with the finalists as the difference. Liberty won all three of its finals matches at 197, 235 and 285 but didn’t have the second- and third-place finishes to counter Bellarmine. The Apprentice School won a tight battle for third place with 135 points, edging Springfield Tech Community College (fourth, 133.5) and Grand Valley State (fifth, 131).

Jack Parker opened the finals session with a pin in the 125 title match, taking down Bruno Alves of Apprentice in 4:17. Zac Cowan scored a 22-7 tech fall over Thomas McCane of Central Florida in the 149 bout. McCane was the 2022 national champion at 141 pounds while wrestling for Florida. Bellarmine then won back-to-back titles at 165 and 174. Cole Nance won his 165 bracket by fall over Talon Pisarchuk of the Williamson School of the Trades before Hendricks claimed his national title.

One of the evening’s highlights came in the 235 bracket when Jeff Allen of Liberty became the most decorated male wrestler in association history with a fourth consecutive national title. Allen is the first NCWA male wrestler to win four individual national titles, this one by taking a narrow 5-4 win over Zeke Alleman of Utah Tech. Allen scored a takedown with 36 seconds left in the match to take a 5-3 lead before yielding an escape before time ran out. Allen, a senior from Monroe, Va., also won national titles in 2022, 2020 and 2019. There was not an NCWA national tournament in 2021 due to COVID protocols. Four (4) women have accomplished the 4-peat but in much smaller brackets with the most successful of the four being Samantha Frank of the University of Maine, who also won 4 MOW awards.

Liberty closed the finals session with a sweep of the last three national championships sandwiched around Allen’s 235 title. Josiah Murphy edged Seth Konynenbelt of Grand Valley State 3-2 in the 197 final and Fred Weaver controlled Bellarmine’s Thadd Hull throughout their heavyweight bout before getting a pin in the final minute.

Florida had its best showing as an NCWA program with a national champion in Alfonso Vargas at 141 pounds. Vargas’ title that came by way of sudden victory, 11-9, gives the Gators national champions in consecutive seasons for the first time and only its third all-time. Florida 174-pounder Riley Hackworth took fifth. The Southeast Conference champion Gators’ head coach Trace Thome won the NCWA’s Coach of the Year honors.

Other national titles came from Kaden Blair of Toledo (133), James Lunt of Springfield Tech Community College (157) and Nicholas Franco of Rutgers Wrestling Club, who finished undefeated on the season (14-0) by beating teammate Ben Liss in the 184 title match. It was the first time since the 2020 Championships that two teammates wrestled for a bracket title.

Here are the championship and third-place match results from the 2023 NCWA Championships.

125 lbs.

Championship – Jack Parker (Bellarmine) def. Bruno Alves (Apprentice), by fall, 4:17

Third place - Dante Mininno (Liberty) def. Dylan Beddow (Springfield Tech), 8-4

133 lbs.

Championship – Kaden Blair (Toledo) def. Dillon Messick (Apprentice), 3-1 SV

Third place – Michael Schiffhauer (Bellarmine) def. Blake Schmitt (Liberty), 6-3

141 lbs.

Championship – Alfonso Vargas (Florida) def. Elijah Gandert (Grays Harbor), 11-9 SV

Third place – Parker Watson (Ohio State WC) def. Jordan Robins (Apprentice), 3-1 SV

149 lbs.

Championship – Zac Cowan (Bellarmine) def. Thomas Mccane (Central Florida), tech fall 22-7, 7:00

Third place – Joey Murphy (Grand Valley State) def. Drevon Wallace (Allen), 15-9

157 lbs.

Championship – James Lunt (Springfield Tech) def. Joseph Miranda (Rowan), 4-1

Third place – Alex Rivera (Bellarmine) def. Nicholas Martino (Fresno State WC), 6-2

165 lbs.

Championship – Cole Nance (Bellarmine) def. Talon Pisarchuk (Williamson College of the Trades), by fall 3:57

Third place – Charles Roche (Central Florida) def. Jolan Martori (Springfield Tech), by fall 2:40

174 lbs.

Championship – Devan Hendricks (Bellarmine) def. Josh Kenny (Grand Valley State), by fall 6:48

Third place – Zachary Kaminski (Liberty) def. Benjamin Blickle (Ohio State WC), by fall 2:37

184 lbs.

Championship – Nicholas Franco (Rutgers WC) def. Ben Liss (Rutgers WC), 5-1

Third place – Kennedy Wyatt (Bellarmine) def. Michael Jackson (Allen), by fall 4:27

197 lbs.

Championship – Josiah Murphy (Liberty) def. Seth Konynenbelt (Grand Valley State), 3-2

Third place – Matthew Abraham (Toledo) def. Derek Yingling (Slippery Rock), by fall 4:31

235 lbs.

Championship – Jeff Allen (Liberty) def. Zeke Alleman (Utah Tech), 5-4

Third place – Joseph Pineda (Dubuque WC) def. Seth Ellsmore (Liberty), 3-2

285 lbs.

Championship – Frederick Weaver (Liberty) def. Thaddeus Huff (Bellarmine), by fall 6:09

Third place – Jacob Meek (Toledo) def. Peter Cortapasso (Apprentice), 12-7