NAIA Championships: Great Falls uses falls to power to first round lead in Des Moines
Maybe there's something to the name "Great Falls."
Six of the nine wrestlers who won matches for the University of Great Falls in the first round of the NAIA National Championships at the Jacobson Exhibition Center at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Thursday did so by fall.
Great Falls pushed nine of its 12 wrestlers into the second round and picked up six falls to lead after the first session with 30 points.
Southern Oregon sits in second with 28.5 points and 10 of its 12 wrestlers wrestling on the championships side of the bracket. Fourth-year program Grand View, ranked No. 1 coming into the tournament, has 11 in the top side and sits in third place, a half-point behind Southern Oregon with 28.
Campbellsville (23.5) and Oklahoma City (22) round out the top five.
Coming in, Great Falls head coach Caleb Schaeffer, a 2004 NAIA Champion at 133 pounds for Montana State-Northern, thought it would be more than a runaway championship for host Grand View.
"I think there's five or six teams that will be a factor, we'll just have to wrestle well that first round and see what happens" said Schaeffer.
"I think there are five teams that are evenly matched" he said. "I think Grand View thinks the same thing. I think they have all the pressure on them. They're in their hometown, they're ranked No. 1 all year, they're going to have a lot of pressure on them."
Grand View, in its fourth year of wrestling and the 2012 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals NAIA champions, had 11 first-round bouts and picked up seven bonus victories, including four falls. The fastest fall for Grand View was registered by heavyweight Eric Thompson, who pinned Hastings' Pat Mattfield in 41 seconds.
Even with the pressure, Thompson feels the team title is in reach, but there's still work that needs to be done.
"Every day, we come and talk about what it would be like to win that title here in our home town and our city" said Thompson. "It's just that, for every guy, it's one match at a time. In the end, it all adds up. We want to take that gold trophy back to Grand View with us."
Great Falls took a hit early when second-ranked Mike Vasser was pinned by eighth-ranked Eric Burgey of William Penn in the opening round.
Grand View lost one of its 174 pounders from the championship side as James Haywood of Lindsey Wilson beat Cody Swim 7-4 in the opening round.
Southern Oregon also notched six falls in the opening session, two of which came at 184 pounds where Derrick Rottenberg and Austin Vanderford advanced.
While uncommon in the rest of college wrestling, the NAIA allows 12 scoring wrestlers to be entered, which can lead to teammates meeting in the championship finals.
"We had two guys wrestle in the national finals at 165 last year" said Schaeffer. "If we were Division I, Division II, we couldn't be able to do that. So you can actually recruit a little differently."
Also of note is the changing landscape of NAIA wrestling. With the growth within the organization, five of the top six programs in the team standings after Thursday's first session weren't even in existence 10 years ago. Southern Oregon is the only program not created within the last decade in the top six.
All six of those programs (Lindsey Wilson is in sixth place), brought the maximum 12 wrestlers to Des Moines.
Southern Oregon, Grand View, Campbellsville and Baker have at least 10 wrestlers on the championship side heading into Thursday evening's final session.
Notable Matchups in Second Session
NOTE: Rankings are from February 22 and are NOT seeds.
#6 Danny Lutrell (Great Falls) vs. #10 Paulie Hansen (Missouri Valley)
#6 Keith Klink (Lindsey Wilson) vs. #9 Travis Evans (Grand View)
#5 Chris Teague (Campbellsville) vs. #10 Kyle Wikurty (Southern Oregon)
#4 Nick Coffman (Grand View) vs. #12 Josiah Simburger (Northwestern College)
#2 Anthony Varnell (Great Falls) vs. #11 Damonte Riley (Lindsey Wilson)
#6 Tommy Pretty (Campbellsville) vs. #8 Myles Mazurkiewicz (Great Falls)
**- Rematch of the 2010 133-pound Championships Final
#4 Jimmy Eggemeyer (Southern Oregon) vs. Brandon Starkey (Concordia)
**-Starkey beat #5 Jarell Price in opening round
#7 Nick Haugen (Baker) vs. #8 Eric Burgey (William Penn)
#10 Anthonie Linares (U. of the Cumberlands) vs. Beau LaSalle (Montana State-Northern)
**-LaSalle beat #12 Cody Green in opening round
#2 Conor Young (Campbellsville) vs. #6 Chad Lowman (Grand View)
#1 Nik Turner (Oklahoma City) vs. #12 Dalton Lane (Shorter)
#4 Jeremy Padilla (Waldorf) vs. #10 Nick Waldrop (Campbellsville)
#3 Charlie Pingleton (Lindsey Wilson) vs. #5 Colby Crank (Bethany)
#3 Isaiah Williams (Missouri Baptist) vs. #11 Ethan Hinebauch (Montana State-Northern)
#2 Kevin Hardy (Oklahoma City) vs. #12 Kyle Conley (Midland)
#9 Danny Hutcheson (Dakota Wesleyan) vs. #10 Derek Mestrovich (Southern Oregon)
#2 Joseph Stephens (Lindsey Wilson) vs. #11 Max Payne (Montana State-Northern)
#12 James Haywood (Lindsey Wilson) vs. Jose Alvarez (Wayland Baptist)
**- Alvarez beat #9 Alfredo Torres in opening round
#8 Tanner Martin (Indiana Tech) vs. Parker Owen (Baker)
**- Owen beat #10 Tyler Sarringer in opening round
#4 Evan Hinebauch (Montana State-Northern) vs. #9 Jesse Hellinger (Dickinson State)
#1 Kody Kersten (Midland) vs. #8 Derrick Rottenberg (Southern Oregon)
#2 Brian Block (Morningside) vs. #10 Kody Reed (Montana State-Northern)
#6 Weston Keleher (Missouri Baptist) vs. #12 C.J. Berry (Bacone)
#6 Derek Nightser (Grand View) vs. #9 Julian Silva (Concordia)
#5 Jesse Alter (Missouri Valley) vs. #10 Nic Leither (Northwestern College)
#7 Joshua Marsh (Midland) vs. #11 Bradlee Carls (York)
#4 Spencer Adams (Campbellsville) vs. #12 Shawn Michaelk (Embry-Riddle)
#5 Joe Kent (Missouri Baptist) vs. #9 John Sievert (Morningside)
#8 Jacob Combs (Waldorf) vs. #12 Scott Brasil (Menlo)
#10 Dylan Berg (Baker) vs. #11 Mike Brown (Oklahoma City)