Chris Brannick, Director of Sports Media Relations
WICHITA, Kan. – The University of Central Oklahoma wrestling team earned a third-place finish at the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Championships Sunday at Newman University behind two first-place finishes and eight total placers in the postseason event.
Eli Hale and Caleb Cotter both won titles to book-end a solid day on the mat for the Bronchos. UCO also got a second-place finish from Joel Dixon, third-place finishes from Blake Dauphin and Mason Thompson, and fourth-place finishes from Will Steltzlen, Bryan Dutton, and Reid Rodich.
“I’m proud of Eli and Caleb for winning first place,” UCO head coach Todd Steidley said. “They both had to face some tough competition and they fought through it. I would have liked to finish better than third, I wanted to win this tournament. But we had a chance to rest a couple of our guys this week to get ready for regionals. That’s the focus now.”
Hale won the 125-pound title, going 2-0 on the day. He got a first-round bye and waited more than an hour to get on the mat for his first match. When he did, he didn’t stay on the mat long.
Hale dominated Fort Hays State’s Conrad Cole with a 21-3 second-period technical fall. In the finals, he did more of the same. Hale beat Nebraska-Kearney’s Josh Portillo 13-5 for the major decision.
Hale, who is ranked second in the country at his weight, improved to 16-0 on the season. The Miami, Okla. native has 14 bonus-point wins this season.
Cotter won the heavyweight title going 4-0 on the day. He beat Central Missouri’s Chase Miller 4-1 in the first round, then earned a major decision over Newman’s Thor Balavage 8-0 in the quarterfinals.
Cotter then beat both of Nebraska-Kearney’s heavyweights, taking down Kevin Barrett 4-3 in the semifinals, and avenging one of his two losses this season by beating UNK’s Jarrod Hinrichs 7-2 in the final match.
Cotter improved to 27-2 on the season with the four wins Sunday. He’s won five in a row since a loss to Hinrichs in Kearney earlier this month. Sunday was also the second consecutive MIAA Heavyweight Championship for the UCO senior from Sapulpa, Okla.
Dixon would get second after a tough loss in the final match of the 184-pound bracket. Dixon beat Fort Hays State’s Jordan Davis 4-1 in the quarterfinals, then beat Nebraska-Kearney’s Isaac Deaton 4-3 to advance to the final bout.
Dixon and Newman’s Noel Torres wrestled to a scoreless first period. Dixon held a 1-0 lead after two periods, before losing 5-2.
Dauphin finished third in the tourney, placing there for the third straight seasons. Dauphin earned a dominating 17-1 technical fall over Central Missouri’s Dakota Thevel in his first match of the day before falling short 6-2 in the semifinals to Nebraska-Kearney’s Bryce Shoemaker.
Dauphin battled back though, picking up a 9-0 major decision over Fort Hays State’s Dy’Juan Carney in the consolation semifinals before beating UCM’s Deide Agnew 8-3 in the third-place match.
Thompson also took third in the tournament. He pinned his first opponent, Newman’s Noah Perkins, seconds into the third period to advance to the semifinals, though Thompson would lose there 18-9 to Nebraska-Kearney’s Talon Seitz.
Thompson recovered though, recording another fall – his 17th of the season – in 42 seconds during his consolation semifinal match against Central Missouri’s Zane Heiter. Thompson then beat Newman’s Kyle Ryan 5-4 in the third-place match.
Central Oklahoma now turns to regionals. The Bronchos travel to Las Vegas, N.M. on Feb. 23-24 for the tournament.
At Wichita, Kan.
Nebraska-Kearney, 110 points
Fort Hays State, 74.5
Central Oklahoma, 64.5
Central Missouri, 11.5