KEARNEY, Neb. -- The sixth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney wrestling team won the NCAA Super Region VI Championships and qualified seven for the NCAA's Saturday night at the Health & Sports Center.
This was the second straight year UNK hosted the 10-team event. The top three finishers in each of 10 weight classes advance to the NCAA Championships, held March 13-14 in Sioux Falls.
UNK tallied 148.0 points to easily outdistance Western Colorado(106) for the team title. Colorado Mesa (88) was third with Colorado School of Mines fourth (84.5).
Coming in first was Geneva senior Jarrod Hinrichs (285 lbs.), Lincoln junior Wesley Dawkins (133 lbs.), Iowa junior Josh Portillo (125 lbs.), Colorado junior Sam Turner (149 lbs.) and Pennsylvania junior Jacob Wasser (157 lbs.) with Iowa junior Matt Malcom (165 lbs.) the lone Loper runner up. Battling his way through the backside to finish third was Lincoln junior Jonathan Killingsworth (141 lbs.).
Seeing their 2019-20 season come to an end today were Delaware graduate transfer Anthony Mancini (184 lbs.), Illinois sophomore Andrew Demos (197 lbs.) and Kansas sophomore Terrell Garraway (174 lbs.).
"These tournaments are tough on the heart of the coaches … very emotional. You have your ups and downs. On a positive note we were projected to have seven qualifiers and we got those through," UNK head coach Dalton Jensen said.
Wasser (15-6), heading to his first national tournament, was the most unlikely champion as he trailed in his first two matches. He used a reversal and a 2-point near fall in the final 16 seconds to edge Adams State's Natrelle Demison, 6-4. That proved to be the warmup because Wasser next pinned top-seed and fourth-ranked Maxamillian Schneider of San Francisco State at 2:45. At the time of the fall Schneider was up 10-4.
The good day continued for Wasser as Payton Tawater of Colorado Mesa forfeited the first place match.
"Both of his wins came against higher seeded guys. That doesn't happen without all the stuff he's dealt with the last two years. He had some things, injuries and defeats, not go his way and he's overcome it. When you look at the whole story, the last three or four years and not just today, we're really proud of him," Jensen said.
Ranked 12th-nationally but battling a significant injury, Killingsworth (Lincoln S.E.) managed four wins to punch his NCAA ticket. He came out on top by scores of 2-0, 6-1, 7-3 and 4-2 with a reversal at 1:10 in the third period allowing him to win the third place match over Western Colorado's Jason Hanenberg. The 4-2 victory puts him at 24-7 on the season.
"John is probably the standout in my mind because he was in a cast three days ago. We cut it off and threw him out there today and he qualified in a very tough weight class," Jensen said. "Really impressed with his performance but at the same time your heart goes out to the three guys we're leaving at home."
AD Marc BauerHinrichs (19-4), also ranked 12th in his class, had a 4:08 fall to start the day but went overtime to outlast CSU-Pueblo's Gavin Nye, 5-3. Hinrichs moved ahead for good with an escape in the second tie-breaking period and then finished Nye off with a takedown. In the finals he used an escape and two penalty points to defeat fourth-ranked Weston Hunt of Colorado Mines.
At 125 pounds seventh-ranked Portillo (26-7) didn't have any nail-biters, majoring his first two opponents and then rolling past sixth-ranked Patrick Allis of WCU, 11-4, in the finals. Earlier this year Portillo fell to Allis by a 10-4 score at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds.
Next fourth-ranked Dawkins (26-9) had another donnybrook with former Loper= and current CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolve D'andre Brumfield. The two squared off at last year's regional and national tournaments with Dawkins winning 7-6 thanks to a reversal with 25 seconds left. Brumfield had erased a 5-2 deficit with four points in the third but a last second shot came after the clock hit zero. Dawkins then pinned Jonathan Andreatta of Adams State in only 31 seconds to come in first.
Finally among the national qualifiers, ninth-ranked Turner (8-1) had a major and tech fall before having to using a third period escape and riding time to beat Chase Clasen of Chadron State, 2-0, in the 149 pounds finals. Malcom (30-8) suffered a rare defeat to a Division II opponent in the 165 pound finals, 7-6. The match featured four video reviews with an early 4-1 Malcom lead being wiped off the board. Colorado Mesa's Fred Green (10-9), formerly of Virginia, won thanks to a five-point third period that featured a takedown and reversal.
"Matt wrestled well and got put into a situation where maybe a call didn't go his way. A four-point swing is tough to overcome against a good competitor," Jensen said. "He kept fighting hard."
The second-ranked Mancini completes his lone season in Kearney at 15-4 and with a fourth place finish at 184 pounds. Garraway (20-12) came in fourth a weight lower with Demos (21-17) ending up in sixth place.
"Anthony had a great season for us and (his losses) are tough to swallow. He probably put a little too much pressure on himself … he's a much better wrestler than he showed today," Jensen said.