Thanks to a gallant effort by Brock Thumm, a native of Watervliet, Mich., Chadron State College will have an entry at the NCAA Division II National Wrestling Championships at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for the 50th consecutive year, after all.
Things were looking iffy that the Eagles would be able to continue the string because Thumm, their best bet, had been ailing and both of the next two strongest candidates, redshirt freshmen Chance Karst and Jacob DeSersa, weren’t even able to make the trip to the regional tourney in Las Vegas, N.M., because of health problems.
But Thumm, a junior honor student, made the grade. He finished second at 141 pounds and will tangle with Isaiah Royal of Newberry College in South Carolina in the first go-round at nationals on March 9.
Thumm received a forfeit in the opening round at regionals, then edged fourth-seeded Austin Solari of San Francisco State 3-2 in the second tiebreaker session. Thumm got the point he needed to win by escaping with eight seconds left in the first 30-second overtime and the rode out Solari in the second session.
Next, Thumm upset the nation’s No. 3 141-pounder, Brandon Ball of Fort Hays State, 2-1 in the semifinals. Ball was the 141-pound regional champion last year and earned All-American honors by placing sixth at nationals.
In addition, Ball decisioned Thumm 8-4 when the two met in a dual on Jan. 13.
In the finals on Saturday, Cal Baptist’s Andrew Schulte bested Thumm 8-4, but it was much closer than the 18-3 technical fall that Schulte had posted when they tangled met at the RMAC Tournament two weeks earlier.
Thumm was still recovering from a four-day and three-night stay in the Chadron Community Hospital when he went to the conference showdown. CSC coach Brett Hunter said Thumm contracted an infection that he may have picked up at a wrestling tournament this winter and was then knocked for a bigger loop when his kidneys shut down.
“I really doubted that he’d be able to wrestle again this season when he had to go to the hospital,” Hunter said. “He’s a gritty kid. I’m happy for him in particular because he’s recovered and also because he qualified for the national tournament.
“I’m also glad for the team. He kept a really remarkable record alive for us,” added Hunter, who was a two-time national champion for the Eagles during his terrific career that ended in 2009 with a CSC-best 133 victories.
Thumm’s record going to nationals is 19-8.
The Eagles’ other primary contender for regional honors, Rulon Taylor of Curtis, Neb., finished sixth at heavyweight.
Taylor won his first match Friday 8-4 over Tanner Hawkins of Ouachita Baptist of Arkansas 8-4, then was pinned by nationally-ranked Caleb Cotter of Central Oklahoma, before pinning Sam DeSeriere of Western State and nipping Sam Alnassiri of San Francisco State 8-7.
Those wins allowed Taylor to wrestle again Saturday, but he lost to both Cody Johnson of CSU-Pueblo 10-3 and Zach Schrader of Cal Baptist 6-3, forcing him to settle for sixth place.
Hunter took just six wrestlers to the regional showdown. Junior transfer Chase Clasen at 149 pounds won his first match, before losing to eventual runner-up Efe Osaghae of Fort Hays State 3-0 and to John Daniel of Colorado Mesa 7-6.
Cal Baptist, which is moving up to Division I next year, won the regional title with 114.5 points. Nebraska-Kearney was second with 111, followed by Adams State with 94 and Pueblo with 84.5.
The championship match results
125—Eli Hale, Central Oklahoma, major dec. Josh Portillo, Neb-Kearney, 16-4; 133—Bryce Shoemaker, UNK, dec. Nate Cervantes, San Francisco State, 3-1; 141—Andrew Schulte, Cal Baptist, dec. Brock Thumm, CSC, 8-4; 149—Daxton Gordon, Cal Baptist, dec. Efe Osaghae, Fort Hays State, 5-4; 157—Tyler Mies, Newman, major dec. Shawn Beiringer, Western State, 13-5.
165—Tyler Mann, Ouachita Baptist, dec. Koery Windham, Adams State, 5-2; 174—Nolan Kistler, Cal Baptist, dec. Brandon Supernaw, Western State, 4-1; 184—JaVaughn Perkins, Colo. State-Pueblo, dec. Nick Fiegener, Cal Baptist, 3-2; 297—Konner Schmidt, Western State, dec. Morgan Smith, Simon Fraser, 8-5; Hwt—Jarrod Hinrichs, UNK, dec. Caleb Cotter, Central Oklahoma, 5-2.