The Lindenwood wrestling team repeated as national champions on Saturday evening as the Lions captured the 2008 NAIA Wrestling National Championship. The Lions are the first NAIA program to repeat as national champions since Montana State-Northern won three straight from 1998-2000.
The Lions led throughout the tournament, but needed at least one win in Saturday's championship finals to seal the victory. Lindenwood got more than that as Ray Stephens (133), Ryan Moyer (149) and Matt Cauley (174) all won individual national titles.
Lindenwood finished with 130 points, defeating second-place McKendree by 20.5 points. Dickinson State (107.5), Great Falls (101) and Dana (91.5) rounded out the top-five.
Head coach Joe Parisi was honored after the competition as the NWCA/NAIA Coach of the Year.
Ray Stephens had little trouble winning his weight class, with his closest match being a 9-7 decision win in the quarterfinals. He had one pin and two major decision wins in his other matches, including an 18-7 win in the finals against Dana's Burke Barnes.
Ryan Moyer also did not receive much of a challenge at 149 pounds. He advanced to the finals with two major decisions, one technical fall and one pin. In the finals, he had his toughest match but won by a 13-9 margin over Missouri Valley's Brian Graham.
Matt Cauley put the icing on the cake for Lindenwood by winning the 174 pound title. Cauley went 4-0 at nationals with one fall and two major decision wins. He won the finals by a 22-8 major decision over Great Falls' Brendon DeCock.
Other Lindenwood wrestlers to place at the event were Dennis Kakrah, who was second at 125 pounds, Lance Shunia, who was sixth at heavyweight, and Sam Schmitz, who finished eighth at 149 pounds.
Kakrah won three matches, one by technical fall and two by decision, to advance to the finals at 125 pounds. In the finals, he dropped an 11-5 decision to Montana State-Northern's Cody Borges, who was the number one ranked wrestler in that weight class.
Shunia went 4-3 at the event for his sixth-place finish. He won his first two matches before falling in the championship quarterfinals. Shunia bounced back with two decision victories before falling in the wrestleback semifinals and fifth-place match.
Schmitz also started the tournament with two wins before falling in the quarterfinals. He went 1-2 in wrestlebacks to finish the tournament with a 3-3 record.
The other six Lindenwood wrestlers all recorded at least one win to help contribute to the national championship. Michael O'hara won three matches at 157 pounds. Richard Zuniga (125), John Lloyd (133), John Sumner (165) and Neil Kemp (184) all won two matches. Those five wrestlers all lost in the fourth-round of wrestlebacks. Glen Shaw (165) won his opening match before two straight losses to end his tournament.
Lindenwood has now won four national championships since 2002 and have finished second or better in six of the last seven seasons. The program's four national titles tie for the fourth most in the NAIA's 51-year history, and the team's 22 individual national championships are the sixth-best in NAIA history.
Session One Recap
Lindenwood went 15-4 during the first session as eight wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinals. Even more impressive were that seven of the victories came by pin, two were by technical fall and two were by major decision.
Richard Zuniga and Jonathan Lloyd both had a pair of pins for Lindenwood during the Thursday evening session.
Lindenwood led the team standings after the round with 37 points, seven more than second-place McKendree. The Lions and McKendree each had eight wrestlers into the quarterfinal round. The only other school with more than five wrestlers in the quarterfinals was fourth-place Missouri Valley who had seven.
Session Two Recap
The highlight of session two was four Lions advancing to the championship semifinals. At 125 pounds, Dennis Kakrah earned a 7-3 decision in the quarterfinals. At 133, Ray Stephens captured a two-point decision win. Ryan Moyer earned a major decision victory to advance to the semifinals at 149. The final quarterfinal winner was Matt Cauley at 174 pounds.
Michael O'hara, John Sumner and Neil Kemp all picked up two victories to advance through the wrestlebacks. They joined four other Lindenwood wrestlers who lost in the championship quarterfinals, in the fourth-round of wrestlebacks.
Lindenwood had 74 points after the session, 9.5 more McKendree who remained in second.
Session Three Recap
Lindenwood went 4-0 during the championship bracket matches during the third session and opened up a 26.5 lead.
Dennis Kakrah won his semifinal match by a 4-2 decision. Ray Stephens had little trouble in his match, winning by a 17-7 major decision. Ryan Moyer also made it look easy with a technical fall victory. Matt Cauley made it four-for-four for Lindenwood semifinal victories with a major decision win.
In the wrestlebacks, Lindenwood wasn't as fortunate, going 2-5. Sam Schmitz and Lance Shunia each advanced to Saturday's wrestleback quarterfinals.
Session Four Recap
Lindenwood's opponents had a chance to catch up to the leader during session four as the Lions had just two wrestlers remaining in wrestlebacks. No team could make a big enough move though as Lindenwood still led by 10.5 points at the end of the session.
Lance Shunia opened up the session with a 4-2 decision victory in the wrestleback quarterfinals. He lost the semifinal contest and also fell in the fifth-place contest.
Sam Schmitz also lost twice in the session as he lost matches in the wrestleback quarterfinals and the seventh-place contest.
Session Five Recap
Heading into the final session, Lindenwood needed just one win to seal the national championship, with four wrestlers competing in national title matches.
At 125 pounds, Dennis Kakrah faced the top-ranked wrestler for the title. MSU-Northern's Cory Borges held up his ranking by earning an 11-5 decision.
Ray Stephens ended the suspense of the team title at 133 pounds when he competed his run through his bracket with an 18-7 major decision over Dana's Burke Barnes in a battle between the top two ranked wrestlers in that class.
Coming into the tournament, Moyer was first in the national rankings and Graham was sixth at 149 pounds. Moyer was able to capture the title with a 13-9 decision over Graham.
Matt Cauley was the final Lindenwood wrestler to see the mats and he finished the team's tournament on a high note. Cauley captured a 22-8 major decision over Great Fall's Brendon DeCock. Lindenwood's second-biggest victory of the season at the NAIA National Duals was also capped off when Cauley defeated DeCock in the finals.