The Chadron State College wrestling team is expected to have a tough row to hoe at the NCAA Division II Midwest Super Regional Tournament at New Mexico Highlands this Saturday and Sunday.
The Eagles have not been up to par this season following the suspension of four veterans early in the season and the fact that two of their top wrestlers have been battling health issues. In addition, the regional competition will be brutal.
A question is: Will Chadron State be able to qualify at least one wrestler for the national tournament for the 50th consecutive year?
Fifteen teams, stretching from California to Kansas and Oklahoma and reaching into Arkansas and Canada, make up the regional field. Eight of those teams are among the nation’s top 25 in the rankings released Friday.
Four Eagles have winning records as the season winds down. They are redshirt freshman Chance Karst, 18-13 at 133 pounds; junior Brock Thumm, 16-7 at 141; redshirt freshman Jacob DeSersa, 11-7 at 149; and junior Rulon Taylor, 17-11 at heavyweight.
Both Karst and Thumm have missed recent matches because of health issues. Coach Brett Hunter said last week Thumm seems improved, but Karst, who has been hospitalized recently, may not be available
DeSersa battled a knee injury that threatened to end his season midway through the schedule, but has rebounded and should be a full strength this weekend. Perhaps aided by the fact that his semifinal opponent was disqualified during that match, DeSersa finished second at the RMAC Tourney. He did not wrestle the championship match.
Taylor has been healthy all season and has split his last six matches against RMAC foes.
Hunter said sophomore Jacob Otuafi has improved during the season and could be competitive at 157 pounds. He has an 11-14 record.
Veteran Johnny Porter, the only member of this year’s team who was in the lineup at last year’s regional tourney, also is scrappy. He has a 9-12 record at 165 pounds. He competed at 157 a year ago.
Cal Baptist and Colorado State-Pueblo are fourth and fifth in the latest National Wrestling Coaches Association rankings, respectively. They finished first and second in that order at the RMAC Tournament on Feb. 3.
St. Cloud State of Minnesota, Notre Dame of Ohio and Wisconsin-Parkside are the top three teams nationally.
Also among the top 25 nationally are Simon Fraser, the Canadian team, at 10th, followed by 12, Central Oklahoma; 14, Nebraska-Kearney; 16, Fort Hays State; 19, Western State; and 21, Colorado Mesa.
Thirty-one grapplers from the region are ranked among the top 12 in their weight classes. There are four ranked wrestlers at 133, 149, 174 and heavyweight, three at 125, 165, 184 and 197, two at 141 and one at 157.
Three entries from the region have the top billing in their weight class. They are Eli Hale of Central Oklahoma at 126, and Pueblo teammates JaCobi Jones at 165 and JaVaughn Perkins at 184.
Both Jones and Perkins are Omaha North graduates. Both placed second at last year’s regional showdown. Perkins finished fourth and Jones was eighth at the national tourney.
Three more Midwest wrestlers are ranked second nationally at their weights entering regionals. They are Payton Tawater of Colorado Mesa at 157 pounds, Tyler McLean of San Francisco State at 165 and Nolan Kistler of Cal Baptist at 174. Kistler won the 174 title at last year’s regionals and was fourth at nationals.
Also back this year after winning last year’s regional crowns are Brandon Ball of Fort Hays State at 141, Keith Surber of UNK at 149 and Caleb Cotter of Central Oklahoma at heavyweight.
This year’s national championships will be March 9-10 at Cedar Rapids, Iowa.