Wabash Fourth At National Duals, Second at Manchester
By Brent Harris
Wabash captured fourth place on the final day of the 2015 National Duals, while the remainder of the Little Giant team took second place at Saturday's Spartan Mat Classic.
Wabash advanced to Saturday's showdown of nationally-ranked Division III teams in the semifinals and finals of the National Wrestling Coaches Association's showcase event at the Allen County War Memorial. The Little Giants, ranked third in the latest NWCA poll, lost to second-ranked Wartburg 34-9 in the semifinals. Fourth-ranked Concordia-Moorhead edged Wabash in the finals 21-19 to take third place. Wartburg went on to defeat number-one ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater 20-13 to claim its fourth consecutive Duals title and ninth championship overall.
Wabash scored three decisions against Wartburg in Saturday's semifinals, with all three wins coming from the Lefever brothers. Reece Lefever, ranked fifth at 157 pounds by the NWCA, fought to a 4-3 victory over fourth-ranked Drew Wagenhoffer in their second meeting of the season. Wagenhoffer scored a 9-6 win earlier this season against Lefever at the Concordia Open.
"It's nice to avenge my only loss to another Division III competitor from earlier in the season," Lefever said. "Defeating Wagenhoffer shows I'm improving and doing the right things every day."
Twin brother Conner Lefever, ranked second at 174 pounds, scored an equally impressive win with a 7-6 decision against fifth-ranked Brandon Welter. Younger brother Riley Lefever scored a 6-3 win against Devin Peterson at 184 pounds.
The Little Giants battled back and forth against Concordia-Moorhead in the finals before the deciding final bout. The Cobbers opened with three consecutive wins before Nick Bova scored a pin at 2:31 of his 149-pound bout against Yonas Gebreab. Reece Lefever added four more team points to the score with an 11-1 major decision at 157 pounds versus Ben Cousins. Conner Lefever's 5-3 victory against Sebastian Gardner at 174 pounds put Wabash up a point at 13-12. Riley Lefever scored six points for the Little Giants when his opponent at 184 pounds, Dane Ringquist, was unable to continue their match due to an injury. However, the Cobbers scored nine points in the final two bouts to take the two-point victory and third place overall.
"I always look forward to wrestling talented competition, and every team at the National Duals is tough," Riley Lefever said. "I don't necessarily know each and every opponent I wrestle or their ranking, but I step on the mat with the same mindset --- to beat my opponent physically and mentally in order to score as many points possible. Looking back, you can always learn things from any match, but you learn more when you wrestle tougher opponents."
"While we would have preferred placing higher, we're happy to have improved from our fifth-place finish last year," Conner Lefever said. "All of the teams here are top-notch. We lost against two of the best teams in the nation. We look to get better so we can avenge these losses later in the season."
Wabash head coach Brian Anderson echoed his senior wrestler's comments.
"We learned quite a bit from last year's fifth-place finish and used that to perform better this year. While it's nice to know this year's team produced the highest finish in Wabash history at the National Duals, I know we are not satisfied with the overall result.
"This was a big weekend for many reasons but most important was putting these guys in the toughest situation possible to know exactly where we are at as a team. We know our weaknesses and our strengths after the last two days of battle which we will use to keep building toward our goals in March as individuals and as a team. Several different individuals stepped up in each of the duals, however all three Lefevers showed why they will be contending for individual national titles at the end of the year."
While several of the Wabash wrestlers competed at the National Duals in Fort Wayne, another portion of the Little Giant team wrestled at the Spartan Mat Classic at Manchester University. The Spartans won their home tournament with a total of 131 points, while Wabash took second with 87.5 points in the five-team event.
Pat Parham won the 149-pound individual title with a 3-0 record, opening with a pin at 2:04 against Manchester's Ryan Gossett. Parham fought to a 2-1 victory against Luis Godines from Mount St. Joseph University in round two before defeating teammate Mack Neal in the final by a score of 8-3. Neal took second with a 12-2 major decision over Paul Mikesell from Manchester before his loss to Parham in the finals. Jeremy Chen scored a 12-0 major decision against Gossett in the finals to take fifth place.
Christian Rodriguez won the 157-pound weight class with a 9-2 win over Alex Arney from Manchester before picking up a 5-4 victory over fellow Wabash wrestler Chance Brown in the finals. Brown advanced to the finals after scoring a 5-4 victory against teammate Jeff Mucha in the semifinals. Mucah took fifth place, scoring a pin a at 48 seconds in first match of the day against Joe Kammerer from Mount St. Joseph before adding a pin at 2:35 in the final versus Arney.
Jacob Cottey won a round-robin matchup at 133 pounds with three victories. He scored an opening round 4-2 decision over Chase Wilson from Manchester, followed by a pin at 4:48 versus Brennen Storey of Manchester in round three. A final pin round five gave Cottey the first place finish. Robbie Carter posted a pair of wins in the weight class to finish fourth overall. He pinned Storey at 3:45 in the second round before handing Cottey his only loss by a score of 5-2 in round four.
Mak Maldonado earned a third-place finish at 174 pounds, opening the tournament draw with a pin at 3:21 versus Taylor Ferrill from Manchester. After a two-point loss in the semifinals, Maldonado rallied for a 16-1 technical fall against Jack Knoll of Heidelberg before a forfeit by teammate Luke Davis provided the final victory. Davis advanced to the finals after a 9-5 win against Ferrill and an 8-6 decision over teammate Grant Gough in the consolation semifinals. Gough won his opening bout by a major decision of 13-2 against Knoll, then defeated him for a second time in the finals by a score of 7-0 to finish fifth.
Corey Hawk added a third-place finish in the round robin 141-pound weight class after scoring an 18-1 technical fall in the opening round versus Clayton Capes from Manchester. Nolan Fenwick won 7-6 in the consolation semifinals at 197 pounds on the way to a fourth-place finish.
The Little Giants return to action Saturday when Wabash will serve as host for the annual Max Servies Duals. Competition begins at 9 a.m. at Chadwick Court.