Third-ranked Argos ready for NAIA Wrestling Nationals - News, Sports and Weather

Third-ranked Argos ready for NAIA Wrestling Nationals

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Sports - UGF Sports - UGF

Conventional wisdom says the NAIA National Wrestling Tournament this weekend in Topeka, Kan., is a race for second place.

But the No. 3 University of Great Falls wrestling team qualified a dozen wrestlers in nine weight classes, and the Argonauts are poised to make a run at three-time defending champion Grand View (Iowa).

“We have been wrestling really well the last couple of weeks and hopefully it will carry over to this weekend,” UGF coach Caleb Schaeffer said. “We received seven first-round matches (and five byes) so we can really set ourselves up for the team race.”

The Argos are coming off a second-place finish at the NAIA West Regional Tournament Feb. 21 at MSU-Northern in Havre as fourth-ranked Southern Oregon claimed the regional crown.

UGF also placed second at nationals last season – the highest placing in school history.

This year's team is anchored by seniors Michael Ruiz (133), Kyle Wilson (141), Ryan Martin (149), Chad Cebulski (157), Brock Picard (165) and Shawn Lau (174). Martin, Cebulski, Picard and Lau are all Montana natives and members of the same recruiting class – one that Schaeffer considers his best in-state class to date.

Lau is a two-time All-American having finished fourth as a sophomore in 2013 and fifth last year. Ruiz (fifth), Wilson (fourth), Martin (fourth) and Cebulski (fifth) all earned All-American honors last year.

“The senior leadership on this team is amazing,” Schaeffer said. “It's a great opportunity to go to nationals with a group of guys that have been there multiple times.”

The tournament begins Friday morning. The championship round is scheduled for Saturday night.

At 125 pounds No. 2 Luke Schlosser (25-6) matches up against No. 16 Andrew Lenz (7-8) of St. Catharine College.

Top-ranked Ruiz (25-4) has a first-round bye, while No. 6 Clinton Garvin (17-5) has a first-round match with Grant Burkhalter of Cumberlands (Ky.) at 133 pounds.

Second-ranked Wilson (23-5) faces Baker's Juan Rivera in the first round at 141, while No. 8 Martin (21-8) and No. 16 Kyle Leir (9-10) both have byes at 149.

Fourth-ranked Cebulski (25-9) takes on St. Catharine's Mike Clark at 157, while Picard (18-20) faces Morningside's Corey Sornson at 165.

Third-ranked Lau (17-4) has a first-round bye at 174, while Kolbjorn Skaflestad (11-11) takes on No. 11 Khalil Abdush-Shaku of Life University.

Sixteenth-ranked Taylor Vaughn (26-12) has a bye at 184, and No. 15 Dylan Lemery (20-11) takes on Life's No. 16 Jacob Roza at 285.

The tournament features 211 wrestlers from 44 schools. There are six defending national champions and 40 returning All-Americans in this year's field.

Grand View leads the field with three top-ranked competitors including Ryak Finch (125), Brandon Wright (141) and Dallas Houchins (157). The Vikings also have 12 qualifiers, while SOU has 11. Second-ranked Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and No. 10 Concordia (Neb.) each have 10 qualifiers.

Stretch Internet, the NAIA's official video streaming company, will be broadcasting the 10 title bouts (Session IV) of the 2015 NAIA Wrestling National Championships on March 7 on Packages can be purchased for $10

Information provided by UGF Sports Information Director.

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