By KLINT SPILLER
The University of Nebraska-Kearney was the national wrestling favorite heading into the year.
UNK, the defending national champion, was ranked No. 1 in the first NCAA Division II poll of the year, but the Lopers battled some injuries early in the season. Then they got some transfers at semester, one of which recently became eligible this week, so the Lopers weren't at full strength until now.
UNK showed off its full team last weekend, upsetting No. 3-ranked University of Central Oklahoma and winning the inauguaral conference tournament.
"Our team is intact finally," said Nebraska-Kearney head coach Marc Bauer.
Unfortunately for No. 20 Fort Hays State University, the Tigers were the first team to face UNK, now ranked No. 7, in dual action at its highest level.
FHSU lost 28-6 on Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum, but the Tigers at least made many of the matches close.
All but two of the matches were decisions, and three of which were one-point losses to ranked wrestlers.
It was the final dual of the season for both teams as UNK finished 12-3 and 4-1 in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association. FHSU dropped to 11-8 and 3-3 in the MIAA.
Though his wrestlers didn't come out on top, FHSU head coach Chas Thompson said he didn't think it would hurt his squad much when it came to seeding at the NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament next Friday at Chadron State College since many of UNK's wrestlers likely will be No. 1 or No. 2 seeds.
"It wouldn't have killed us to lose those matches," Thompson said. "It could only have helped us (for seeding at the regional)."
The Tigers' two victories came early in the dual.
FHSU 125-pound junior Garrett Jones defeated freshman Connor Bolling by an 8-3 decision.
It was a significant victory for Jones, 21-11, considering he fell to Bolling, 22-8, in the championship match of the conference tournament the prior weekend.
Thompson said Jones, who was the Tigers' highest placer at the MIAA tournament, has wrestled better as of late.
"(Jones) is a gamer," Thompson said. "He always wrestles well late in the season."
Junior C.J. Napier, ranked No. 5 at 141 pounds, defeated UNK junior Brock Coutu with an 8-5 decision.
Though they didn't win, the Tigers held their own with UNK prior to intermission.
FHSU junior Rory Wilkinson (15-18) fell by a 4-3 decision to No. 6-ranked Daniel DeShazer, a 24-8 redshirt-freshman, at 133 pounds, and redshirt-freshman Noah Killip (18-11) lost to UNK senior Raufeon Stots, ranked No. 6 at 149 pounds, by a 3-2 decision.
Then at 157 pounds, FHSU senior Derek Koehn (25-13) lost to No. 2-ranked Chase White, a 28-10 redshirt-freshman, by a 2-1 decision.
UNK's two newcomers at semester took care of business as well. Junior Patrick Martinez, 11-0 and ranked No. 5 at 174 pounds, defeated senior Travis Budke by a 10-6 decision, and redshirt-freshman Romero Cotton (3-1) knocked off junior Tanner Kriss (21-5), a Colby graduate ranked No. 5 at 197 pounds, for the second time in a week, defeating Kriss by a 9-5 decision.
Cotton transfered from Hutchinson Community College, and Martinez transfered from the University of Wyoming.
UNK also recorded a major decision at 184 pounds and a pin at 285 pounds.
"The second half of our group kind of took off with things," Bauer said.
Tigers' Seaton gaining control
Tigers' Seaton gaining control
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University sophomore Symon Seaton first cut down to 133 pounds for the season-opening University of Central Missouri Open. Seaton went 1-2, lost his first match by fall, won 15-0 and then lost 9-6. He wasn't among the Tigers' five medalists Nov. 18.
"I knew I was going to have a bad day," Seaton said. "I just did not feel up to it. My body wasn't really happy with me."
On Nov. 23, Seaton had a big turnaround at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Open. Seaton went 5-0 and won the 133-pound Amateur Division. He won three of his first four matches by fall, all in under 2 minutes, 55 seconds, collected an 8-5 decision and won the title with a 10-1 victory against Central Missouri's Hunter Neighbors.
"Once I got down the second time, it was like so much better," Seaton said. "It was just like a completely different wrestler. That cut really did kill me that first time, but now my body is already good and used to being down to 133. ...Read Full Story
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