MOORHEAD, Minn. (3/08/17)--- An equal mix of newcomers and experienced returners will represent the maroon and gold at the NCAA Championship Meet this weekend. For the second straight year the Cobbers will have six wrestlers at the national meet and for the second consecutive year Concordia will have three NCAA Meet rookies and three who have been to the big stage before.
No.24-ranked Concordia's trip to La Crosse, Wis. will be a chance to regain some national momentum after last year's trek to nationals where they only had one athlete earn All-American honors and finished in a tie for 31st place.
Since 2010 the Cobbers have brought multiple athletes to the NCAA National Meet. During the past seven years CC has qualified 41 wrestlers for nationals, had 12 All-Americans and placed in the top 15 in four of the past six years.
A total of 180 wrestlers from 58 different schools will compete at the NCAA Division III Championships. The first session is set to begin at 11:00 a.m. (CST) on Friday with the first two preliminary rounds as well as the first consolation round. The final session on Friday is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., and consists of the championship quarterfinals and the second and third round of consolations.
Saturday's action will begin with the championship semifinals at 10:00 a.m., followed by the consolation quarterfinals and semifinals and then the placement matches (third through eighth). The parade of All-Americans will take place at 6:30 p.m. with the championship finals to follow at 7:00 p.m.
To earn All-America accolades, a wrestler must place in the top eight of their respective weight class. If they are still alive in the tournament (championship or consolation bracket) at the conclusion of Friday's sessions, they have assured themselves of being an All-American.
The Cobbers who have experience at the NCAA National Meet include juniors Cole Sladek and Jacob Johnson and senior Justice Davis. The three newcomers are juniors Aaron Dick and Adam Presler and sophomore Ty Johnson.
Sladek and Davis are the two nationally ranked Concordia athletes. Sladek is ranked sixth at 157 while Davis checks in as the No.8-ranked wrestler at 285.
Sladek owns the best winning percentage of any Cobber this year as he heads into the national meet with only one loss. He is 17-1 on the year. Sladek was the only West region champion as he rolled to a 3-0 record and his first region title.
Last year Sladek earned a spot at the national meet in the 165-lb bracket and went 1-2.
Sladek is the sixth seed at 157 this year and opens his quest for All-American honors by wrestling in one of the "pigtail" bouts. He will face Nicholas Racanelli of Wilkes University. The winner of that bout will advance to face Keone Derain of Elmhurst College.
Davis will be making his second appearance at the national meet. He qualified in his sophomore season but then was hampered by an injury in 2016 and failed to make the NCAA Meet.
Davis is 22-6 on the year and earned his trip to La Crosse by finishing second at the West Regional Meet.
Davis is seeded seventh at 285 at the national tournament and, like Sladek, will have to compete in a pigtail match. He will face Jacob Evans of Waynesburg University with the winner advancing to take on Jake O'Brien of Ithaca College.
Jake Johnson has now gone back-to-back in his trips to the NCAA Meet. Last year he qualified for nationals at 174 and lost both of his matches. This year he also qualified at 174 after he lost in the quarterfinals at the West Region but then rallied to win four straight bouts to claim third place and the final national qualifying spot at 174.
Johnson enters the national meet with a 28-12 overall record on the year and has won 46 matches the last two years combined.
Johnson starts his second NCAA Meet experience by squaring off against the winner of the pigtail match between No.4-seeded Benjamin Schweiger of Delaware Valley and Michael LaBell of Johnson and Wales.
The three newcomers not only qualified for nationals in three of the four lightest weight categories but all three also competed for the Cobbers at the region meet for the first time ever in their careers. While they might be small in stature all three have put together impressive seasons and all three have a serious chance to make a deep run in the meet.
Dick qualified for the NCAA Meet by claiming third place at 125 at the West Region. He won his quarterfinal bout but then lost in the semifinals and had to go through the consolation bracket to get to La Crosse. He won two straight matches, including a 10-1 major decision in the third-place match, to earn his first-ever trip to nationals.
Dick is 17-14 for the year and starts his NC AA experience by going up against Carlos Fuentez of Wheaton College (Ill.) in a pigtail match. The winner advances to face No.8-seeded James Kaishian of Ithaca.
Presler took the same path to nationals as fellow junior Dick. He placed third at the West Regional after losing in the semifinals at 141. Presler scored a pair of decisions in the consolation round after losing in the semifinals.
Presler is now 25-16 for the year and will open Friday by wrestling No.2-seeded Devin Broukal of Wabash (Ind.).
Ty Johnson rounds out the Cobber contingent at nationals. The sophomore lost in the championship bout at 149 at the West Regional. He earned his spot at nationals by earning a pin fall in the quarterfinals of the region and then scoring a 3-1 decision in the semifinals. Johnson then lost 4-0 to No.5-ranked Ryan Epps of Augsburg in the title bout.
Johnson, who enters nationals with an 18-12 mark on the year, will face No.4-seeded Dan Del Gallo of Southern Maine in the Round of 16 on Friday to start his national meet.