Five Morningside wrestlers placed in the top three at the NAIA North Qualifier Tournament to earn berths in the upcoming NAIA Wrestling National Championships.
Five Morningside College wrestlers qualified for the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships by placing in the top three of their weight divisions at Saturday’s NAIA North Qualifier Tournament in Crete, Neb.
The 149 lb. championship match featured an all-Morningside final, where Steven Garcia, a sophomore from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, won an 11-3 major decision against teammate Kyle Fowler, a freshman from Elk Point, S.D., in the title bout.
The Mustangs’ other national qualifiers were Keegan Hessler, a freshman from Scottsbluff, Neb., with a second place finish at 125 lbs.; Dakota Drenth, a freshman from Hartley, Iowa, with a third place finish at 157 lbs.; and Jared McCoy, a junior from Climbing Hill, Iowa, with a third place finish at 197 lbs.
The NAIA Wrestling National Championships will be held March 4-5 in Topeka, Kan.
The five national qualifiers helped lead Morningside to a second place finish in the team standings. Concordia University finished first with 169 points, followed by Morningside, 115.5; Northwestern College, 110; Doane College, 102.5; Briar Cliff University, 95.5; Midland University, 90; Dakota Wesleyan University, 63.5; and Hastings College, 43.
Garcia, ranked eighth nationally in the NAIA, steamrolled his way to the 149 lb. final by pinning every opponent in his path. Garcia had fall times of 4:23 against Hastings’ Alejandro Tarin in the first round, 6:28 against Dakota Wesleyan’s Tanner Wonch in the quarterfinals, and 6:51 against Midland’s Paul Longshore in the semifinals.
Fowler also won his first bout by fall when he pinned Briar Cliff’s Jacob Caskey in 2:16 in the quarterfinals. Fowler upset 15th-ranked Foster Bunce of Concordia by an 8-4 decision in the semifinals.
Hessler pinned John Fletcher of Doane in just 1:34 in the 125 lb. quarterfinals and then pinned 11th-ranked Austin Boles of Northwestern in 3:32 in the semifinals. Hessler lost a 7-4 decision against seventh-ranked Hugo Perez of Midland in the championship round.
Drenth battled back with four consecutive victories in the consolation bracket after he dropped a tight 10-9 decision against Austin Starkey of Concordia in the 157 lb. quarterfinals. Drenth pinned each of his first two opponents in times of 1:05 against D.J. Maars of Hastings and 1:11 against Austin Moyer of Hastings to reach the consolation semifinals, where he won a 5-2 decision against Leland Swanson of Briar Cliff. Drenth avenged his loss against Starkey in the 157 lb. third place consolation match when he trounced his Bulldog opponent in an 18-8 major decision.
McCoy opened the tournament with a 2-1 decision against Briar Cliff’s Jordan Watkins in the 197 lb. quarterfinals before he lost a 3-2 decision against 14th-ranked Ken Burkhardt Jr. in the semifinals. McCoy pinned Northwestern’s Nick Null in 7:18 to stay alive in the consolation semifinals and then won an 11-6 decision against Chandler Knight of Doane in the third place consolation match.
Lane Nichols, a freshman from Hornick, Iowa, finished one place shy of a national tournament berth with a fourth place finish at 141 lbs. Devin Phaly, a freshman from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, finished fifth at 125 lbs.; Logan Moore, a sophomore from Onawa, Iowa, finished fifth at 184 lbs.; and Derik Bailey, a sophomore from Smithland, Iowa, finished sixth at 165 lbs.