Dalton, GA - The GVSU Lakers made a great run to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Duals finals. This was the first tournament the team employed this line-up; enroute to the finals, the Lakers defeated the third, fifth, eighth, and ninth place teams.
The top seed in pool E, the Lakers began the tournament with a 50-6 defeat of Auburn University. Tyler Dempsey (141; Delton Kellogg), Kyle Benkarski (157; Novi), Bruce Rau (165; Valley Lutheran), and Ben Wright (174; Novi) contributed key victories and Luke Klein (148; Sparta) and Dan Tomasello (197; Addison Trail IL) recorded forfeit victories.
In round two, GVSU defeated University of Maryland-Baltimore County 51-9. Trevor Pickett (St Clair) recorded a forfeit victory and Harun Bogdanic put an exclamation on the bout with a fall at heavyweight. With these two wins the Lakers won the pool and advanced to the championship bracket.
In the round of sixteen, the Lakers dominated Middle Tennessee State University, the fifth seed. Brendan Hazelton (125; L’Anse Creuse), Zach Cooper (141; Whitehall), Jake Sobeck (149; Rogers City), Austin Geerlings (165; East Kentwood), and Bailey Bischer (174; Yale) all recorded bonus point victories to put GVSU up 35-3. With the win guaranteed, GVSU forfeited the final four weights, saving the ahtletes for later matches, to make the final score 35-21.
The quarterfinals were a tight match against NCAA D2 Emmanuel College, the sixth seed. Emmanuel College’s athletic department is transitioning from a NAIA affiliation to a NCAA affiliation. As such, they are ineligible for NAIA or NCAA post-season events and are competing in the NCWA on a provisional basis.
GVSU jumped out to a quick six to nothing lead with decisions by Hazelton and Mitch Hrnyak (133; Forest Hills Central), each defeating top-ten nationally ranked wrestlers. After falling behind 12-6, Gabe Stepanovich (157; Forest Hills Northern) added a decision to drawn within three. Geerlings and Bischer added bonus point victories to take the lead 19-12. Trailing 21-19 after 197, GVSU needed to win the last two to advance. Bogdanic secured a 10-5 decision to take the dual lead, 22-21. This left the heavyweight bout to decide the final outcome. Nick Verran (235; Grand Ledge) led 4-2 entering the final period and secured a pin and the GVSU victory, final score 28-21.
Waiting in the semifinals was defending national champion and second seeded Liberty University. Behind huge victories from Hazelton, Nick Reddy (133; Grandville), Cooper, Sobeck, Stepanovich, and Geerlings, the Lakers jumped out to a 26-0 lead. Sobeck recorded a major-decision over a returning All-American. Eric Dietz (184; Lockport Township IL) put the match away with a decision, giving GVSU an insurmountable lead 29-3. With a trip to thr finals secured, GVSU conceded the final three bouts to take the 29-21 victory.
The finals included familiar foes in GVSU and the University of Central Florida. The two programs have combined to win half the national championships in the history of the NCWA. Hrnyak secured a fall at 133 to knot the match at 6-6. Cooper recorded a fall to allow the Lakers jump out to a six point lead but the team was deducted a team point for use of profanity during the excitement following that pin, leaving the Lakers up 11-6. UCF won the next two to take a 12-11 lead. Geerlings answered with a major decision to put GVSU out front 15-12. UCF won the next three bouts to take a 26-15 lead. In the last of those three bouts; Tomasello gave the defending national champion all he could handle, leading nearly the entire match before surrendering the winning takedown with only four seconds remaining. Bogdanic won a sudden victory bout at 235 to close the gab to 26-18. This left the dual out of reach so GVSU conceded the heavyweight bout, making the final score 32-15 in favor of UCF.
This ia the highest finish by GVSU at this event since winning it in 2009. As a result of the runner-up finish the team will take 23 points to the NCWA National Tournament in March. GVSU will return to action when they host the Laker Classic in the Fieldhouse arena on Saturday, February 6.
GVSU results here
Full tournament results here