UGF Wrestling Prepares for Nationals - News, Sports and Weather

UGF Wrestling Prepares for Nationals

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Argo wrestling is sending nine wrestlers to the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships after the team took third place in the 2016 NAIA West National Qualifier hosted by Embry-Riddle (Ariz.). Of the nine qualifying Argos, six qualified by finishing in the top three of their respective weight classes. The other three were granted one of the five available "wildcard" spots voted on by the region's coaches after the tournament.

"I'm really happy. If you had told me that we were going to get nine with how we've been performing, I would've said 'there's no way,'" said UGF head coach Caleb Schaeffer. "We wrestled to our seeds and finished with pretty good numbers. All-in-all I think we had a pretty dang good tournament."

Most of the team's qualifiers were wrestlers whose finishes matched their seeds, but three of them were surprise qualifiers who finished well beyond their expectations. Those three were junior Sam Voigtlander, freshman Justin Harbison, and sophomore Isaac Wilson. Both Wilson and Voigtlander dropped down a weight class for the tournament, a calculated risk that payed off.

The risk was particularly big for Wilson who dropped into what was probably the toughest weight class of tournament at 125. He wrestled to a fourth place finish behind the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ranked wrestlers in the country. While he lost to (5) Quintel Fuchs in the third place match by a 27-11 major decision, his unlooked for performance earned him a wildcard spot.

"Isaac is the big, big, big, huge performance of the tournament," Schaeffer said. "Not many people knew about him. When we decided to drop down we knew he was either going to put an amazing tournament together or it was going to hurt him and he put an amazing tournament together."

Dropping down a class worked for Voigtlander as well. He took advantage of the absence of top seeded 184 wrestler (3) Brady Beamon but still had to defeat the higher seeded Nate Rodriguez of MSU-Northern in the third place match. He won that battle with an 8-1 decision.

Harbison also finished well above his fifth place seed, to take third at 197 and qualify for his first NAIA National Tournament in his first year of collegiate wrestling. After losing his first match 7-6 to the 4 seed, Erik Parsons of Menlo College, the freshman had to win three straight matches to finish in the top three. He started that climb with a win by fall (4:59) before grinding out a 1-0 decision over the 3 seed, Kenny Steers. That win set up a rematch against Parsons for third place, and this time Harbison rose to the occasion, pinning his opponent at 3:17.

"Those guys all wrestled above their seed. Everyone else did what they were supposed to do, but these guys making it in was unbelievable," Schaeffer said.

What wasn't a surprise was the performances of the team's top two wrestlers, seniors (4) Luke Schlosser and (5) Taylor Vaughn.

Schlosser, who came into the tournament as the 2 seed, pinned his first two opponents, the first at 2:49 and the second at 1:48, before meeting the top seed, (3) Troy Lakin of Menlo College in the finals. The two had faced twice earlier this season with both times resulting in low scoring wins for Lakin, and this time was more of the same. Schlosser lost 4-2 but still took second place in the stacked 125 weight class.

Vaughn also took second but his came at 184. He won an 11-1 major decision over Nate Rodriguez, who Voigtlander would later beat to claim third, before losing to (4) Ryan McWatters in the finals.

The other top-3 finishers for UGF were junior Justin Whitman who took third at 141, and senior (15) Michael Ayala who took third at 174. Senior Kyle Lier at 147 and junior (6) Khaldoon Rashid at 165 both took fourth place but were award wildcard bids.

The nine will move on to the NAIA Nationals in Topeka, Kan., on March 4-5.

UGF Sports Information.

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