Morningside will send five athletes to compete in the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships in Topeka, Kan. Photo / Gene Knudsen
Morningside College will send five athletes to compete in the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by USA Wrestling-Kansas, this Friday and Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.
The Mustangs’ national tournament competitors are Keegan Hessler, a freshman from Scottsbluff, Neb., in the 125 lb. division; Steven Garcia, a sophomore from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, and Kyle Fowler, a freshman from Elk Point, S.D., in the 149 lb. division; Dakota Drenth, a freshman from Hartley, Iowa, in the 157 lb. division; and Jared McCoy, a senior from Climbing Hill, Iowa, in the 197 lb. division.
Garcia, who has a career record of 51-18 record with 11 falls, is the Mustangs’ top candidate to earn NAIA All-America honors at the tournament, an honor bestowed on the top eight place winners in each weight class.
Garcia, ranked fifth in the nation, is the Mustangs’ victory leader with a 24-5 record, including seven wins by fall. He will enter the tournament riding a seven-match winning streak, including three victories by fall, two by major decision, and one by technical fall. Garcia stormed through the 149 lb. bracket to take top honors at the NAIA North Qualifier Tournament in Crete, Neb., when he pinned three straight opponents to reach the title bout, where he outpointed Fowler 11-3 for the championship.
Garcia is slated to receive an opening round bye at the national tournament to set up a second round match against the winner between Kyle Leir (21-13) of the University of Great Falls and 10th-ranked Patrick Grigsby (23-9) of Williams Baptist College.
Fowler came on strong over the second half of the season and will take a 10-6 record with two falls into the tournament. He went 8-2 over his final 10 matches.
Fowler is scheduled to face 14th-ranked Drake Randall (27-13) of Montana State University-Northern in the opening round of the 149 lb. division. The winner will face fourth-ranked William Upson (12-0) of Missouri Baptist University in the second round.
Hessler, ranked 11th nationally, was one of the Mustangs’ top freshman this season and has a 16-6 record with six falls. He was the runner-up at the NAIA North Qualifier Tournament and also had second place finishes at this year’s University of Nebraska-Kearney Open and Central College Invitational.
Hessler will face Sean Nguyen (24-16) of the University of the Cumberlands in the opening round. The winner is slated to meet the winner between third-ranked Troy Lakin (22-6) of Menlo College and No. 16 John Altieri (20-13) of William Penn University in the second round.
Drenth has a record of 19-12 to rank second on the team in victories and is the Mustangs’ pin leader with 11 falls. Drenth battled back from an opening round loss against Austin Starkey of Concordia University at the NAIA North Qualifier Tournament with four straight victories in the consolation bracket, including an 18-8 major decision in a rematch with Starkey in the third place consolation match to earn his spot in the national tournament field.
Drenth will face 15th-ranked Brandon Weber (31-12) of Montana State-Northern in the opening round of the national tournament, with the victor slated to face eighth-ranked Victor Thomas (21-5) of Wayland Baptist University in the second round.
McCoy also earned his national tournament berth with a third place finish at the NAIA North Qualifier Tournament, where he won an 11-6 decision against Chandler Knight of Doane College in the third place consolation match. McCoy has a 14-7 record with three falls and has a 32-22 record with five falls during his Morningside career.
McCoy has an opening round bye and will face the winner between fifth-ranked Stephen Loosbrock (30-8) of Benedictine College and No. 16 Kasey Crump (24-8) of Ottawa University in the second round. Loosbrock finished fifth in the 197 lb. division of last year’s NAIA Wrestling National Championships to earn All-America honors.