OTTAWA, Kan. – Wayland Baptist finished second as a team and qualified seven individuals, including first-place finisher Demarco Speller, for the NAIA Wrestling National Championships at Saturday’s South Qualifier.
“It was a good showing for the team. The guys looked good,” Wayland coach Aaron Meister said of his 19th-ranked Pioneers who scored 141½ points to come in behind Oklahoma City University’s 188½.
The South Qualifier, featuring nine teams, was one of six competitions around the country at which the top three finishers in each of 10 weight classes automatically qualified for nationals, set for March 3-4 in Topeka, Kan. The remainder of the 240-man field will be filled with 30 at-large qualifiers determined by coaches at each regional with 30 more being named by a national selection committee. The full field will be announced Tuesday.
Speller, a junior from El Paso, won the 133-pound class with a tech fall victory followed by two decisions, including an 8-7 nail-biter in the championship over Brandon Vela of Bacone.
“Demarco was really focused and looked sharp,” Meister said.
Valdez, competing at 125, fell to OCU’s Mason Naifeh in the first-place match, 7-3.
Mitchell, in 165s, pinned his first two opponents before losing to OCU’s Ricky McCarty in the championship match by tech fall. “Zach lost to a very tough opponent, a returning two-time all-American national champion,” Meister said.
Wayland qualified two wrestlers at 174, Alvarez and Drake Lovvorn, who placed third. Both lost matches to Nicholas Meck of York, Neb., Alvarez in the championship, 7-2, and Lovvorn in the semifinals, 6-2. Meister tipped his cap to Meck. “He got the ball rolling before we could.”
At 184, Wayland opted to take a medical forfeit on Napier’s behalf in the championship, giving the title to Derek Sivertsen of OCU.
“Mich is coming off an injury, and we didn’t want to risk re-aggravating anything,” Meister explained. “We’ll give him more to heal up for nationals and hopefully get him back on the podium.”
Williams, at 197, faced a familiar opponent in his title match, Evan Hudson of OCU. Meister said Williams has beaten him previously, but Hudson got the upper-hand Saturday and won, 7-2. “He found a way to get it done,” Meister said of Hudson.
Abraham Rodriguez just missed automatically qualifying by placing fourth at 141, losing by pin in the third-place match to Bacone’s Abel VillaMoreno.
Meister said he and the team are happy with the results and look forward to a solid showing at nationals early next month.
“I like where we are as a team heading to nationals,” Meister said. “We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing right and improve on the things we didn’t do right and have an even better performance a nationals.”
1. Oklahoma City – 188.5
2. Wayland Baptist (Texas) – 141.5
3. Bacone (Okla.) – 126.0
4. Bethany (Kan.) – 80.5
5. York (Neb.) – 72.5
6. Ottawa (Kan.) – 43.0
7. Kansas Wesleyan – 25.5
8. Central Christian (Kan.) – 15.0
9. Saint Mary (Kan.) – 0.0