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Notre Dame College A-OK at NC Conferences

02/28/2012 -

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. -- Notre Dame competed in a National Collegiate Wrestling Association regional event called the North Central Conference Championships on Saturday, and a number of NDC grapplers earned their way into the NCWA national tournament as part of a team performance that saw Notre Dame place first in a field of 21 teams.

A dozen or so Falcon athletes now headed to the NCWA National Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., next month (March 8-10) earned their slots in the national brackets by placing in the top eight in Saturday's NCC brackets. The meet at the Vadalabene Center on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville was one of seven around the nation that served as regional qualifiers for the NCWA's national event. Among NDC's place-winners were five champions -- Austin Sanders at 141 pounds, Cody Shivener at 149, Ashtin Primus at 157, Jon Bittinger at 174, and Daniel Demick at 285.

The NCWA is a post secondary athletic association which includes collegiate teams not currently sanctioned for postseason competition in the NCAA or NAIA. The Falcons are competing this season as an NCWA Division I squad. The Division I NCWA wrestling circuit includes junior colleges, trade schools, post secondary prep institutions and several programs, like Notre Dame's, transitioning from the NAIA to the NCAA.

The field at the NCC Championships included a number of Ohio squads. Club teams from Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Dayton, Ohio State, Toledo were represented on the mats at the Vadalabene Center. Also represented was the varsity squad of Lindenwood University (Mo.), a familiar foe from Notre Dame's NAIA days. In fact, the Falcons (200 team points) turned away the Lions (151) to claim the top spot in the tournament. Host SIUE finished third, with 131-1/2 points.

“We were able to qualify a lot of our guys into the NCWA nationals, which will be in a couple weeks,” said NDC Head Coach Frank Romano. “This is a good option for us a year in advance of hopefully competing in NCAA Division II postseason competition next year.”

Among, NDC's titleists on Saturday, Ashtin Primus had perhaps the most dominant performance. The veteran grappler won four bouts via pins, all of which came in under one minute. Primus started his day with a 30-second win-by-fall over Cincinnati Wrestling Club's Rudy Schiedknecht, and he ended it with a 51-second pin of McKendree's Josh Ballard. Overall, he won five straight bouts.

Falcon grapplers combined to earn five victories against 2011 NCWA All-Americans.

At Saturday's NCC event, in addition to NDC wrestlers winning five weight divisions, four Falcons also finished as runners-up: Brian Hauser at 125, Maurice Miller at 133, Jared King at 165, Mark Smilek at 174. Notre Dame also had place-winners earn third (Anthony Burge at 165), fourth (Louden Gordon at 149, Eddie Hupp at 197, Brian Blackwell at 235), sixth (Matt Perez at 125, Charles Mason at 184) and seventh (Albert Bryant at 184, Justin Schafrath at 235).

The end result of NDC's one-day dominance in Edwardsville? Seventeen Falcon wrestlers will now be heading to the NCWA title meet in March. And their head coach -- Frank Romano -- was tabbed as the NCC Coach of the Year.

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