KEARNEY, Neb. -- The third-ranked Nebraska-Kearney wrestling team had six finish in the top three to win the 2019 NCAA Super Region VI Championships Saturday at the Health & Sports Center.
This is the first year of a new six-region format in NCAA Division II with top three finishers in each weight class qualifying for the NCAA Championships March 8-9 in Cleveland, Ohio. The adjusted regional alignment allows 20 more wrestles to reach the national meet (180 total).
Heading to Ohio will be seniors Calvin Ochs (2nd/165 lbs.) and Zach Stodden (2nd/174 lbs.), junior Jarrod Hinrichs (3rd/285 lbs.) and sophomores Wesley Dawkins (2nd/133 lbs.), Matt Malcom (1st/157 lbs.) and Josh Portillo (1st/125 lbs.). A new seeding formula will now take place with NCAA brackets slated to come out early the week of March 18.
"We had a lot of highs and lows today. I always give the guys some grief that they have to only wrestle three or four matches but I have to wrestle 60 or 70," said Loper head coach Dalton Jensen. "This is a tough tournament and an emotional roller coaster. We're very pleased with the six guys going to nationals and sure we won the region title but we'd obviously be happier with more qualifiers."
All 10 Lopers scored today to help the team rack up 121.5 points and another region title. This marks UNK's 15 region title and seventh in the last nine years. No. 11 Western Colorado (110) was a close second with No. 26 Adams State third (102.5).
Finishing their season and/or careers today were seniors Nick Babcock (149 lbs.), Isaac Deaton (4th/184 lbs.) and Trey Schlender (5th/197 lbs.) and sophomore Jonathan Killingsworth (4th/141 lbs.)
Malcom (Glenwood, Ia.) rolled to the 157 pound title thanks to two tech falls and a major decision. Ranked number one nationally, he is now 25-5 with 19 bonus point wins. He is looking to become a two-time All-American.
Also heading back to the big meet is Portillo (Clarion, Ia.) who is ranked second at 125 pounds. His day included his 13th tech fall of the year and back-to-back decisions. Portillo (29-6) had riding time in a 6-3 semis win and then tallied six first period points to take the first place match, 7-5.
At 165 pounds, Ochs (Hoxie, Kan.) suffered his first loss of the year, a 5-4 decision in the finals to Adams State's Korey Windham. After see Windham escape in the third tie breaking period to tie things up at three, Ochs (12-1) suffered an injury. That allowed Windham to choose down again and he managed a reversal to pick up the win.
"Calvin just has to stay super disciplined in what he's doing. That injury played a factor in the loss but he has to be pretty stingy in what he can do," said Jensen. "Nothing really has changed … he can still win a national title in my eyes."
One weight class higher, Stodden (Broomfield, Colo.) returns to nationals for the third time in his career. Aiming to be UNK's 12th three-time All-American, he won two matches by decision before falling to No. 1 ranked Brandon Supernaw of Western Colorado in the first place match.
Dawkins (Lincoln H.S.) was the other Loper to reach the finals, thanks to a fall in 1:43 and an 8-0 major decision. Ranked 12th nationally at 133 lbs., he lost to Colorado State-Pueblo's D'Andre Brumfield in the first place match. Brumfield, a former Loper, came in ranked second nationally.
Finally among the national qualifiers, Hinrichs (Geneva) bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to reel off four straight victories. Now 32-7 on the year, he had two majors and two decisions to qualify for a second straight season.
"Jarrod was a number one seed who lost in the first round. It's a test of your character on how you fight back and come all the way through," said Jensen. "He's super disappointed he didn't win but to win four matches on the back side is so dang tough." 34793
Schlender (Kearney H.S.) won his first two matches at 197 pounds, including one by a 20-0 tally, but dropped his next two to fall into the fifth place match. In his final collegiate match, he went out in style with a fall at 6:59.
One class lower, Deaton (Valdez, Alaska) won in the consolation third round and consolation semis to give himself at chance at reaching Cleveland. However, he never led in losing the third place match to San Francisco State's Justin Pichedwatna, 6-3. He finishes up his senior campaign at 7-11.
Next, Babcock (Broomfield, Colo.) won once at 149 pounds with Killingsworth (Lincoln S.E.) winning in the quarters and consolation semis to reach the 141 pounds third place bout. There, he gave up five late points to fall to ASU's Dylan Udero, 9-4. He finishes the season at 22-11.