Grand View University wrestlers celebrate the school's first national championship on Saturday night in Des Moines, Iowa. (G. Wyatt Schultz Photo)
Life is Grand for NAIA Champion Grand View University
Heading into Saturday night's NAIA championship finals at the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa, Grand View head coach Nick Mitchell knew the pressure was off.
His Vikings had locked up the school's first national championship in the program's fourth year of wrestling. All he had to do know was coach the four athletes wrestling in the finals.
As for the team title, Grand View had it locked up early on Saturday and outdistanced second-place Southern Oregon 172-141. Campbellsville was third with 121.5 and Lindsey Wilson was fourth with 96.5.
Two of those athletes - Omi Acosta at 133 pounds and Eric Thompson at 285 pounds - took the pressure off by delivering individual national titles.
Acosta built a 4-0 lead and held off Lindsey Wilson's Keith Klink 7-4 to win his first championship after failing to place a year ago.
"I won Junior College nationals two years ago. I came back last year to the NAIA and didn't place" said Acosta. "I bought into Grand View wrestling. I bought into the system. I cut weight right, I did what I had to do and I lost my weight the way I was supposed to do it and it paid off with a national championship."
Thompson credited Mitchell for helping him get back on the right track after a promising career at Iowa State ended with poor choices.
"I was able to change my life around" Thompson said. "At one point in my life, I was working 40 hours a week, living in my parents house and now I'm a national champion. It just shows you can do whatever you want, you can, you just have to be able to focus and know what you want."
Thompson, named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler, picked up his fourth fall of the tournament when he decked second-ranked Brandon Gebhardt of Baker in the finals at 1:57.
"I didn't want to be on the mat any longer than I had to" said Thompson. "(Gebhardt) is a good kid, a good athlete, a good competitor. I wanted to win the tournament, I wanted to dominate it too."
And that's just what he accomplished.
Mitchell, named the NAIA Coach of the Year, was also cognizant of Thompson's changes.
"He wasn't real successful because it was the way he lived his life, he came to Grand View and he's made some changes" said Mitchell. "His grades are good, his lifestyle's good, he does everything right. Because of that, it's all paying off for him."
"Coach Mitchell is one of the best coaches I've ever had," said Thompson. "I've had good coaching my whole career with Cael Sanderson, Rick Caldwell, Kevin Jackson and coach Mitchell is there with them. He knows what attitude to bring in every day.
"He knows what we're doing every day, so when we compete, we're in peak physical condition and mentally, he puts on a whole different level than anyone else in the country. We're not there to really compete with people, we're there to dominate people," he said.
Southern Oregon's second-place finish was highlighted by three champions, most of any program. Brock Gutches' last-second victory at 174 pounds ignited the Raiders, who went 3-1 in Saturday night's finale.
Gutches trailed Lindsey Wilson's Joseph Stephens 4-2 with 10 seconds to go when Gutches put Stephens to his back for a takedown and two nearfall points to win 6-4.
"I just knew there was short time and I had to go" said Gutches. "I was trying everything I could. I think it was a little bit of skill and luck. What goes through my head, I'm behind, I have to go go go. It was a scramble and like I said, it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill."
Gutches, originally at Division I Boise State, returned to Oregon and contemplated not even wrestling after back surgery.
Mitchell Lofstedt won his second NAIA championship at 125 pounds after taking a year off to pursue a music career. He pinned Morningside's Kory Kistner in 1:06 to earn his fourth fall, second title and the Gorriaran Award.
Lofstedt pinned four opponents en route to the title in a combined time of 7:37.
Austin Vanderford picked up SOU's third title with an 8-0 major decision over Campbellsville's Allen Scruggs at 184 pounds. Vanderford was up 4-0 in a sluggish bout before countering Scurggs' switch attempt to suck him back for three nearfall points and an additional riding time point for the final outcome.
Seven different schools claimed titles as Lindsey Wilson, Oklahoma City, Great Falls, Midland and William Penn all had wrestlers end their season at the top of the podium.
Great Falls' Anthony Varnell won his second championship at 141 pounds, beating Campbellsville's Chris Teague 10-8 in sudden victory. Varnell jumped out to a 5-0 lead with a first-period cradle. Teague took a brief 9-8 lead in the third period, but Varnell tied it with an escape with a minute left and converted a single leg and doubled off to get the title-winning takedown 35 seconds into the extra period.
Lindsey Wilson crowned its first NAIA champion with Charlie Pingleton's 3-2 victory over Oklahoma City's Nik Turner at 157 pounds. Pingleton was a two-time All-American for Division II Indianapolis before taking three years off from the sport after joining the military. He returned last season, redshirted to get back into wrestling shape and brought the Blue Raiders a national championship for the first time in the program's three-year history.
Easton, Pa., native Eric Burgey came in ranked eighth and picked up the title at 149 pounds for William Penn after defeating Southern Oregon's Jimmy Eggemeyer 5-3. Burgey, who credits the constant motion from the Easton wrestling room, scored a slick finish off a low-ankle shot attempt late in the match to ice the win.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Hardy won the title at 165 pounds, beating Grand View's Brad Lower 4-0. Hardy, an Ohio native, left Notre Dame College in the offseason to finish out his NAIA eligibility and it paid off with a title.
Notre Dame College is reclassifying to NCAA Division II, which would have cost Hardy a shot his last year of eligibility.
Midland University, in just its second year of wrestling, crowned its first NAIA champion as Joshua Marsh edged Grand View's Derek Nightser 3-2 at 197 pounds.
Marsh becomes Midland coach Beau Vest's first champion after Vest started the program in the wake of his former school, Dana College, closing.
55TH NAIA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
JACOBSON EXHIBITION CENTER, IOWA STATE FAIRGROUNDS
DES MOINES, IOWA
Most Falls Least Time: Mitchell Lofstedt, Southern Oregon, 125 4 Falls, 7:37
Outstanding Wrestler: Eric Thompson, Grand View
Coach of the Year: Nick Mitchell, Grand View
Team Scores (Top 20)
1. Grand View (Iowa) 172; 2. Southern Oregon 141; 3. Campbellsville (Ky.) 121; 4. Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 96.5; 5. Oklahoma City 94; 6. Great Falls (Mont.) 91; 7. Montana State-Northern 73.5; 8. Missouri Valley 67.5; 9. Midland (Neb.) 67; 10. Missouri Baptist 64.5; 11. Baker (Kan.) 60; 12. Morningside (Iowa) 52.5; 13. Dickinson State (N.D.) 49; 14. University of the Cumberlands (Ky.), 46.5; 15. Shorter (Ga.) 40; 16. Indiana Tech 39.5; 17. William Penn (Iowa) 33; 18. York (Neb.) 30; 19(tie). Concordia (Neb.), Northwestern (Iowa) 29.
125- Mitchell Lofstedt (Southern Oregon) FALL Kory Kistner (Morningside) 1:06
133- Omi Acosta (Grand View) DEC Keith Klink (Lindsey Wilson) 7-4.
141- Anthony Varnell (Great Falls) DEC Chris Teague (Campbellsville) 10-8, SV
149- Eric Burgey (William Penn) DEC Jimmy Eggemeyer (Southern Oregon) 5-3
157- Charlie Pingleton (Lindsey Wilson) DEC Nik Turner (Oklahoma City) 3-2
165- Kevin Hardy (Oklahoma City) DEC Brad Lower (Grand View) 4-0
174- Brock Gutches (Southern Oregon) DEC Joseph Stephens (Lindsey Wilson) 6-4
184- Austin Vanderford (Southern Oregon) MD Allen Scruggs (Campbellsville) 8-0.
197- Joshua Marsh (Midland) DEC Derek Nightser (Grand View) 3-2
285- Eric Thompson (Grand View) FALL Brandon Gebhardt (Baker) 1:57.
3rd Place - Larone Madison (Cumberlands) won by decision over Bryden Lazaro (Dickinson State) Dec 8-5
5th Place - Deteoreious Prayther (Missouri Baptist) won by decision over Danny Luttrell (Great Falls) Dec 5-2
7th Place - Gabriel Roman (Missouri Baptist) won by pin over Sean Silva (Embry-Riddle) Pin 4:06
3rd Place - Tim Thurston (Campbellsville) won by major decision over Travis Barroquillo (Indiana Tech) Maj 17-5
5th Place - Adam Joseph (Concordia) won by decision over Nathan Galloway (Shorter) Dec 8-6
7th Place - Angel Garcia (Menlo) won by decision over Matt Katusin (Midland) Dec 4-1
3rd Place - DaMonte Riley (Lindsey Wilson) won by pin over Anthony Weerheim (Montana State-Northern) Pin 4:52
5th Place - Gustavo Martinez (Grand View) won by decision over Myles Mazurkiewicz (Great Falls) Dec 4-1
7th Place - Isaac Thomas (Lindsey Wilson) won by decision over Jacob Williams (Concordia) Dec 13-7
3rd Place - TJ Moen (Grand View) won by decision over Anthonie Linares (Cumberlands) Dec 3-1
5th Place - Jarell Price (Baker) won in overtime over Shay Shive (Missouri Valley) OT 5-3
7th Place - Bradley Steele (Dickinson State) won by decision over Carey Cloud (William Penn) Dec 9-2
3rd Place - Chad Lowman (Grand View) won by decision over Colby Crank (Bethany) Dec 7-5
5th Place - Conor Young (Campbellsville) won by decision over Jeremy Padilla (Waldorf) Dec 10-3
7th Place - Jimmie Schuessler (Grand View) won in overtime over Nick Waldrop (Campbellsville) OT 8-6
3rd Place - Pat Nord (Jamestown) won by decision over Brian Lemmon (Southern Oregon) Dec 7-5
5th Place - Damon Jackson (Missouri Valley) won by major decision over Ethan Hinebauch (Montana State-Northern) Maj 13-1
7th Place - Rashad Moss (Waldorf) won by decision over Jared Wildeboer (Morningside) Dec 4-2
3rd Place - Derek Peperas (Oklahoma City) won in overtime over Ty Knowler (Grand View) OT 3-1
5th Place - Jose Alvarez (Wayland Baptist) won by decision over Tanner Martin (Indiana Tech) Dec 10-5
7th Place - Joe Sievert (Morningside) won by pin over Max Payne (Montana State-Northern) Pin 5:46
3rd Place - Evan Hinebauch (Montana State-Northern) won by decision over Brian Block (Morningside) Dec 6-2
5th Place - Weston Keleher (Missouri Baptist) won by pin over Derrick Rottenberg (Southern Oregon) Pin 6:24
7th Place - Robert Shadrach (Baker) won by pin over Jarid Price (Baker) Pin 8:30
3rd Place - Jamelle Jones (Campbellsville) won by pin over Kamron Jackson (Great Falls) Pin 2:17
5th Place - Nic Leither (Northwestern) won by decision over Spencer Adams (Campbellsville) Dec 7-3
7th Place - Jesse Alter (Missouri Valley) won by pin over Julian Silva (Concordia) Pin 4:28
3rd Place - Mike Brown (Oklahoma City) won by decision over Andrew Ewers (Shorter) Dec 7-1
5th Place - Jose Lopez (Dickinson State) won by major decision over Joe Kent (Missouri Baptist) Maj 9-0
7th Place - Leviticus Roberson (Midland) won by decision over Jacob Combs (Waldorf) Dec 6-1