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.
Napier fourth, Kriss sixth for FHSU
Napier fourth, Kriss sixth for FHSU
By The Hays Daily News
CLEVELAND -- Fort Hays State University seniors C.J. Napier and Tanner Kriss earned All-American honors for the Tiger wrestling team Saturday.
Napier, a 141-pounder and Kriss, a 197-pounder, finished fourth and sixth in their respective classes Friday and Saturday at the NCAA Division II National Championsihps.
Napier took fourth after he fell to Mercyhursts's Dylan D'Urso in the third-place match. Napier finished 3-2 in the tourney after he lost in the semifinal round to UNC-Pembroke's Daniel Ownbey.
Kriss finished 2-3. He won his first two matches to make the semifinals, but dropped out of the winners' bracket with a 3-1 sudden-victory loss to Unviersity of Nebraska-Kearneys Romero Cotton.
Kriss then dropped back-to-back matches.
The two are FHSU's first All-Americans since 2011 when Mitchell Means was fourth.
Means, now a senior, finished 1-2 at nationals at 157 pounds. Junior Josh Rodriguez (174) and redshirt freshman Jon Inman (184) also finishe ...Read Full Story
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