BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – The Lindsey Wilson wrestling team captured the team title at the Mid-South Conference Championship Tournament/NAIA East Qualifier on Saturday at Warren East High School.
The Blue Raiders collected 167.5 total team points to claim the NAIA East Qualifier Championship for the third time in program history, outscoring the second-place team by 36.5 points on the day.
Five Blue Raiders collected individual MSC Championship titles after topping their respective weight classes. Daniel Leonard (149 pounds), Cam Tessari (157), Diorian Coleman (165), Rhodes Bell (174) and Matt Walker (184) all claimed their respective championships as Lindsey Wilson went a perfect 5-for-5 in championship bouts. With the victories, each Blue Raider also claimed First Team All-MSC honors and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Championship Tournament in Topeka, Kansas.
Brady Moser and Cole Overman are also both headed to nationals after finishing in third place in their weight class. Each of the top three placers for each class received an automatic bid into the national tournament field. Five additional regional wildcards were distributed after the conclusion of competition, but no Blue Raider received a bid. Thirty additional national wildcards will be determined by a national selection committee in the coming week.
It was a strong day overall on the mat for Lindsey Wilson as 11 of the 12 Blue Raider participants reached the quarterfinals, nine made it to the championship semifinals, five won titles and five wrestled in third-place matches.
The first individual title on the day came from Leonard.
The senior opened the 149-pound bracket with back-to-back, second-period pins. He first pinned West Virginia Tech's Leland Swafford in four minutes and 50 seconds, and followed by sticking Reinhardt's (Ga.) Dyllan Greene in 4:55 to earn a spot in the semifinals. In his semifinal match, Leonard (ranked No. 9 at 149 pounds) went toe-to-toe with Cumberlands (Ky.) Hunter Bell (No. 14). After trailing in the match 2-1, Leonard used a takedown early in the third period, then rode Bell out for the remainder of the match for the 4-2 win and a spot in the finals.
In the championship bout, Leonard faced off against Campbellsville's (Ky.) Jaedin Sklapsky (No. 12). Each grappler managed an escape in their respective down period as the match went to overtime knotted at 1-1. In the first top-bottom period, Leonard escaped from his down position for the 2-1 lead. He then used his strong grip to ride Sklapsky the entire 30 seconds of his down period to win the match and the 149-pound title. It sparked a run of five-consecutive titles for Lindsey Wilson grapplers.
Moments before Leonard's match had ended in overtime, Tessari (No. 1) claimed his title at 157 pounds.
After a first-round bye, Tessari pinned his quarterfinal opponent at the end of the opening period to secure a semifinal spot. There he worked a 9-1 major decision over Mason Calvert of Life (Ga.) to advance to the finals. He met Cumberland's (Tenn.) Nate Croley (No. 8) in the title match. Tessari was in control the entire way, using a first and third period takedown and his excellent defense to hold Croley at bay for the 5-2 win. Tessari is now 25-0 against NAIA competition this season.
Coleman (No. 6) then took his turn to claim the title at 165 pounds.
He recorded a pair of bonus-point victories to start his tournament, first via 14-4 major decision over Life's Philip McBride, and then following with a second-period, 16-0 technical fall over Louis Bernard of West Virginia Tech. In his semifinal matchup, Coleman was neck-and-neck with Southeastern's Tim Dinsdale (No. 14), but Coleman secured a takedown with 10 seconds to go in the match to snag the 3-1 win and a spot in the finals.
He met top-seeded Tristan Macri from Cumberlands (Ky.) in the finals. Coleman led throughout the match, including 3-2 late in the third period. He was able to deter all of Macri's final darting takedown attempts and countered with a takedown of his own with two seconds to go to secure his title at 165 pounds.
Bell kept the streak rolling with a fourth Blue Raider individual title at 174 pounds.
Bell (No. 10) used a pair of tight decision victories out of the gate to move into the semifinals. He used a third period takedown to help defeat Campbellsville's LJ Henderson 5-2. Bell then broke a 3-3 tie in the third period with 10 seconds to go with a takedown to defeat Life's Jacob Sledge. In the semifinal round, Bell once again came through with the late heroics using a third-period takedown to break a 4-4 tie and defeat Hunter Smith of Life for a spot in the championship match.
In the finals against Campbellsville's Justin Brown (No. 8), Bell used a first period takedown to take a 2-0 lead heading into the second period. After each wrestler managed an escape, Bell used his strength to keep Brown in hand the remainder of the match as he won the title with a 3-1 victory.
Walker (No. 4) completed the perfect 5-0 championship bout record with his win at 184 pounds.
The senior had a pair of bonus-point wins to claim a spot in the semifinals. He used a 17-1 tech fall win over Santarion Frasier of Allen (S.C.) in his first match. Walker then led 14-0 in the second period of his match against Will Van Hoose of West Virginia Tech before pinning him to earn a spot in the final four. Walker continued his strong showing against Cameron Jones of Cumberlands in the semifinals. Leading 4-0 in the third period, Walker flipped and took Jones down before sticking him to the mat to secure a spot in the finals with his third bonus-point win.
In a thrilling championship bout, Walker met up with top-ranked Chuck Sharon of Campbellsville. Sharon got the better of Walker in the regular season meeting 5-3, but this time around, Walker would be the victor.
After a scoreless first period, Walker escaped in his down period in the second. Sharon took Walker down in the period, but Walker escaped again as the match went to the third period tied 2-2. During Sharon's down period in the third, he attempted a rolling escape, but Walker quickly turned that into a two-point near fall to go up 4-2. Walker was later hit with a stall point and Sharon escaped, but not before Walker had accumulated 1:07 of ride time, enough to give him the 5-4 victory and the title at 184 pounds. The loss was the first of the season for Sharon. He was previously 24-0 on the year.
Moser began his day at 133 pounds with a 17-1 tech fall in five minutes and 22 seconds over Denis Robles Gomez of West Virginia Tech. Moser then punched a spot in the semifinals when he pinned Life's Lucas Patterson in 1:39.
In the semis, Moser ran into fourth-ranked Jake Sinkovics of Cumberlands. It was a back-and-forth match that was tied 6-6 in the third period. A Moser escape put him ahead, but Sinkovics countered with a takedown and Moser was unable to break his grip as he fell 9-7 after picking up the ride time point. In his first match in wrestlebacks, Moser used a 10-1 major decision over Reinhardt's Triston Blansit to earn a spot in the consolation finals. Moser's opponent forfeited the consolation finals match to give Moser third place and the automatic bid to the NAIA National Championships.
Overman opened his tournament at 165 pounds with a 5-2 decision over Tyler Button of Life. He then battled John Olivieri (No. 10) of Cumberlands in the quarterfinals. The back and forth match was tied 5-5 in the third period before Overman secured a takedown and then stuck Olivieri with a minute to go to move into the semifinals. Overman slipped into the consolation bracket after a 6-3 loss to Tristan Macri of Cumberlands. He had a rematch with Button in the consolation semifinals and once again Overman had the upper hand with a 6-2 decision to move in to the third-place match.
He met Dinsdale in that third-place match and after trailing 4-3, he used a pair of takedowns and an escape to win 8-5 and secure a spot in the national championship field with his second victory over a ranked opponent on the day.
A trio of additional Blue Raiders had a chance to secure an automatic bid but came up one spot short.
Chad Lampe opened his day at 125 pounds with a 15-0 tech fall over Southeastern's (Fla.) Zac Branning, one of seven bonus-point victories for Lindsey Wilson in the opening round. But then Lampe was unable to score against Sean Nguyen of Cumberland (Tenn.) as he suffered an 11-0 major decision loss to slip into the consolation bracket. Lampe then rolled off three-straight victories to earn a spot in the third-place match at 125 pounds. He stayed alive two-straight decision wins, first with a 7-2 decision win over Cumberlands' John Williams and then a 7-4 win over Timothy Britt of Life, a late takedown sealing the win. He then defeated Southeastern's Olson Delisca with a 10-2 major decision to claim a spot in the consolation finals. In the finals, Lampe fell behind to Devane Dodgens (No. 5) of Life and was unable to cut the lead down as he suffered a 5-1 decision to finish fourth.
Colton Gonzalez (No. 15) had to compete in an opening round match at 174 pounds where he defeated Southeastern's Braxxtin Todd by a 4-2 margin. He then took down Allen's Anthony Fullard with a 19-4 tech fall to move into the quarterfinals. Gonzalez claimed a spot in the semifinals with an 8-3 decision win over Cumberland's Orlando Nawade. In the semis, Gonzalez battled back from a 3-0 deficit against Brown of Campbellsville, but suffered a last-second takedown to fall 5-3 into the consolation bracket. There he handled Sledge from Life with a 17-4 major decision to claim his spot in the consolation finals.
In that third-place match, Gonzalez and Smith from Life went to the third period tied 1-1. Gonzalez had ahold of Smith's leg late in the period, but could not finish the takedown. Smith then secured a takedown of his own with 20 seconds to go to send Gonzalez to a fourth-place finish.
Ameer Daniels recorded a 6-1 decision win over Southeastern's Silas Root in his first match at the heavyweight class. In his next contest against Aaron Vaughan of St. Andrews (N.C.), the score was tied at 1-1 late in the third period before Daniels secured a takedown with 15 seconds to go to pick up the win and a spot in the semis. In the semifinal round, Daniels battle all the way but eventually came up short to Campbellsville's Terrell Moore (No. 16). Daniels then received a medical forfeit to advance to the third-place match. In that match he met Life's Jacob Roza (No. 6). The match was tied 1-1 in the third period before Roza took down Daniels and held on for the 3-2 win, sending Daniels to a fourth-place finish.
Isaiah Frank fought tooth and nail against Life's (Ga.) Dallas Brown in his first match at 149 pounds, but ultimately came up short 5-3 to fall into the wrestlebacks bracket. Frank kept his tournament alive in the consolations with a 9-0 major decision over Noah Walker of St. Andrews. He then had to fight from behind for the majority of the match against Cumberlands' Bobby Ehman before pulling out a 10-9 victory thanks to his ride time advantage. That earned him a rematch with Brown in the consolation bracket. It was another knock-down, drag-out battle that went all the way to the second top-bottom periods where Brown finally edged out Frank due to six seconds of ride time in overtime periods. Frank would then fall in the fifth-place match to Brewton-Parker's (Ga.) Adrain Gomez (No. 13) to finish in sixth place.
Kohl Dodd started his day with a 13-5 major decision over Tony Crowell of Cumberland at 197 pounds. In his next match against Tyler Rowland (No. 15) of Campbellsville, each grappler managed just one escape in their respective down periods. The match went to the top-bottom periods, and after Rowland rode Dodd his entire period, Rowland escaped and Dodd was unable to secure a late takedown as he fell TB-1 2-1 to slip into the consolation bracket. There his tournament would come to an end with a 14-10 decision loss to Matt Carroll of Cumberland.
At the conclusion of the competition, head coach Corey Ruff was named the NAIA East Region Qualifier Coach of the Year.
The five Lindsey Wilson individual champions were the most from a single institution as no other school had more than two.
Cumberlands finished second with 131 points, Life placed third with 119.5, Campbellsville took fourth with 114.5 points and Cumberland finished fifth with 102 points.
The seven automatic Lindsey Wilson qualifiers now begin preparations for the NAIA Wrestling National Championships in Topeka, Kansas beginning on March 3, while other Blue Raider grapplers must wait to see if they awarded one of 30 national at-large bids.