Two Champions, Nine All-Americans lead California Baptist to NCWA Title
Fittingly, the tournament results came down to the heavyweight match, where CBU’s Zach Merrill sealed the title with a 3-0 win over Ross Janney of McKendree. That ended a rush of points for both squads that saw each team score All-American (top eight) finishes in five of the last six weight classes. McKendree had the higher finishes during the impressive run, but the Lancers’ three additional All-Americans earlier in the tournament were the difference.
Liberty took third not far behind with 130.5 points, and Lindenwood-St. Charles was fourth at 128.5. Grand Valley State was an underdog leader on the first day, and closed the tournament in fifth place with 92.5 points and with five All-Americans.
Cal Baptist, last year’s runner-up behind Notre Dame College, scored a double-dip at 141 pounds when Bradford Gerl won the national title at 141 pounds, and Miguel Gallegos took eighth. That followed a string of wins in the lightweights that saw Taylor Hall take fourth at 125 pounds and Dakota Thayer take third at 133 that pushed the Lancers to the top of the standings following Friday’s semifinals.
CBU started another scoring spree in the finals rounds at 165 when Anthony Ballinger took seventh, followed by similar finishes from Kenneth Tribble at 174 and Paul Head at 184. David Dill took fifth at 197 to set up the deciding heavyweight match.
McKendree, which placed ninth last year, kept pace on the final day with high finishes in a spree of their own, but could not make up the difference. Brendan Murphy put McKendree in first place for a spell when he won the national title at 133. But the Bearcats hit a lull in the middle weights that allowed Cal Baptist to regain the lead.
McKendree’s run began at 165, where Nic Haferkamp took fifth. Isaiah Gonzalez placed third at 174, and Luis Alba fourth at 184 as the Bearcats matched Cal Baptist’s All-American finishes.
Julian Smith earned the Bearcats’ second national title of the day at 197 pounds, just before Janney settled for second in the heavyweight title match.
Liberty scored seven All-Americans, along with a national title from Andrew Wilson at 235 pounds. The Flames entered the tournament tied with the most qualifiers with 17, but did not have the depth to keep up with CBU. Still, six of the Lancers’ seven All-Americans placed in the top four – Marcus Miller (2nd, 157), Robert Clymer (3rd, 165), Keyshaun Ward (4th, 174), Royal Brettrager (3rd, 184) and Aaron Thompson (2nd, 197).
Lindenwood-St. Charles had the lead in the team standings on Friday, based on the success of its middleweights. Derrick Weller finished as the national champion at 149 pounds, and Luke Roth took home the 165 title. Craig Chiles was second at 141 in a double-dip effort with Jacob Janes, who placed fifth.
Matthew Greene placed fifth at 174 pounds, but was the last of the Lions to have an All-American finish. Blayne Shockley took third, Brendan Caldwell was fourth, and Cullen Halpin eighth among the other Lindenwood All-Americans.
MIT stole the show in the Division II race, garnering 50.5 points behind a national champion and another third-place finish. The Engineers placed 12th in the overall tournament scoring. Sam Shames won the 125-pound title with an 11-6 win in the title match. Ryan Madson finished off his four-time All-American career in fourth place at 157.
South Carolina’s three-headed beast of Mike Ahearn (165), Ben Brummel (184) and Ike Okoli (285) finished second in the Division II standings. Brummel was the national title, and Okoli ended up fifth. Ahearn had to give up an injury default to McKendree’s Haverkamp in the quarterfinals. Haverkamp would up fifth.
Among the other national champions, Santiago Martinez of Central Florida won the national title at 157, and Larry Lanier of Lindenwood-Belleville took the 174 trophy.
In the women’s division, Southwestern Oregon Community College ran away with a second straight national title, earning 139 points to more than double Lindenwood-Belleville’s 64.5. The NCWWA had its deepest field of teams in the five years the national tournament has been held.