Men's werestling headed to nationals
By Donnie Moore - Staff Reporter
Four Highline wrestlers head into national competition tomorrow and Saturday, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
The wrestlers will compete in the 125, 133, 157 and 197 weight classifications.
Highline's only champion from the qualifying meet, Austin Lister, is ranked at No. 2 in his weight class and is seen as a possible favorite of his entire bracket.
"Lister has to be one of the favorites to challenge[No. 1 Todd] Small [of Iowa Central] in the finals," said Northwest Kansas Technical College, Head Wrestling Coach Michael Sebaaly. "It's also impossible to look past [Taylor] Jeffries who lost in the blood round last year. Lister and [No. 3 Kyle] Mock make an interesting semifinal bout as Mock wrestled at nationals last year at 165."
Lister will first head into competition against Corey Robinson from Muskegon (MI) Community College, who placed fourth in the North Central District Championship.
If Lister beats Robinson, he would move on to face the winner of the Jeffries of Northwest Wyoming, versus Munkhbat Bat-Erdene of Northwest Kansas Tech match. Jeffries placed second in his qualifying meet, while Bat-Erdene placed third in his.
The next Highline wrestler is Jacob Mendoza in weight class 125, who is unranked going into the tournament.
His first battle will be against Nickolas Ornelas from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College who is a four-time Kansas State place winner.If Mendoza can pull out a win, he will take on the winner of Brayan Balderrama of Pratt (KS) Community College and Noah Bauer of Rochester (MN) Community and Technical College. Bauer is ranked No. 8 in his classification. "I typically go in with my favorites as the ones that have put in the time along with the blood, sweat and tears," said Itasca (MN) Community College Head Wrestling Coach Nick Wilkes. "These are the guys that don't miss a practice, show up to get better, and persevere the grind. This is a tough sport, but consistency is key when training. They're always my favorites because I get to watch them grow."
Liam Corbett of Highline, who qualified at 157, will take on Xavier Jenkins of Middlesex (NJ) County College, who placed third at Eastern District Championship.
If Corbett can pull off a win, he would face the victor of Noah Jackson of North Iowa Area Community College, who placed fifth at the Central District Championship and No. 4 Alfred Daniel of Rochester (MN) Community and Technical College.Emmanuel Daigbe at 197, is the last wrestler Highline has preforming in the tournament. Daigbe will take on Bruce McLee from Ulster County (NY) Community College.
If Daigbe wins that match he would move on to compete against the winner of Gabriel Rangel of Lincoln College of Illinois, who placed fourth at North Central District Championship, and No. 4 Corey Schmidt of Itasca Community College.
"Schmidt at, 197, is definitely a dark horse. Corey didn't find himself in the rankings until recently after upsetting the No. 4-ranked Mason Hawkins from Rochester, MN. Corey has some of the best practice partners in the country and I don't think his opponents will see it coming," Wilkes said. With so many matches, in the end the wrestler with the best stamina may win it all. "We always train to take it one match at a time. Each match we want to out-work our opponent and put them away if given the opportunity. This is the tournament we've been training for all year and I always tell them 'this is a marathon not a sprint'. These guys can see as many as seven or eight matches in a 32-man bracket while having to make weight two days in a row. This takes precise training and discipline for them to reach their peak at the right time. In order for them to take the tournament as individuals each will have to minimize mistakes and capitalize on scoring opportunities," Wilkes said. The NJCAA Wrestling Championship begins this Friday, Feb. 23. Viewers can stream the events at FloWrestling.org.
You must join PRO for access to 2018 NJCAA Wrestling Championships, Coverage begins at 7:30 a.m. on Feb 23 and continues through Feb 24.