CBU Lancers Wrestling have Historic Wins at Regionals
GOLDEN, Colo. – History was made in more ways than one by California Baptist University at the NCAA Division II Super Region IV Tournament, as the Lancers claimed the team title and qualified seven wrestlers for the D-II Championships on Saturday.
Both those achievements were program-firsts for the Lancers, but they also matched another historic achievement by going 3-0 in region championship matches at Colorado School of Mines. Nolan Kistler claimed the 174-pound title, Nick Fiegener secured the 184 crown and Jacob Waste prevailed at 197 to give CBU three regional champions for the second time since 2014.
It pushed the Lancers over the top for the regional title after they’d finished second in the region in 2016 and 2014. This time, CBU won the crown with a 12.5-point cushion, totaling 125 points, while No. 16 Colorado State-Pueblo finished second (112.5), third-ranked Nebraska Kearney took third (100.5) and No. 4 Central Oklahoma finished fourth (97.5).
“It was actually tougher than it was last year,” Coach Lennie Zalesky said. “The guys just wrestled amazing, we had so many guys wrestle way above their seeds. It was just a total team effort. There were a lot of pin points and tech points, too.”
Peter Cunningham (141), Christian Smith (165) and Paul Head (heavyweight) all won both of their consolation matches on Saturday to take third place in their respective weight classes. It took overtime, but Daxton Gordon secured a fourth-place finish at 149 to punch his ticket to nationals.
“We won by 12.5 points, but it was very close and we came into today down by one,” Zalesky said. “If any of our guys in consolation slipped up and got eliminated, we would have lost so many points and wouldn’t have won. We had two really good rounds, I just can’t give the guys enough credit.”
Waste won his third-straight regional championship to maintain his No. 1 Division II ranking at 197. The senior squared off with third-ranked Jon Inman of Fort Hays State for the first time this season and took control of the match with a takedown halfway through the first period.
Inman battled back to a 2-2 tie with two escapes with 1:43 left in the second period, but Waste took back a 4-2 lead with a takedown at the 45-second mark. A third-period escape gave Waste the 5-2 victory.
“It was No. 1 against No. 3 in the nation,” Waste said. “He’s a tough kid but I was ready for the battle. I just had a bring-your-lunch-pail mentality, because I knew it was going to be a scrap.”
Waste also expressed high expectations for the Division II Championships. The Lancers took sixth in D-II last season, with five individuals qualifying for nationals.
“I am just really proud of these guys to come out and fight as hard as they can,” Waste said. “Everyone fought so hard and it’s a big step going into nationals. We qualified five guys last year and took sixth as a team. Now we have seven going, so our possibilities are endless.”
Fiegener’s championship match with eighth-ranked JaVaugh Perkins of Colorado State-Pueblo was the most dramatic finals match of the day for CBU, going into overtime. Twenty seconds into the match, Fiegener found himself down 2-0 and then had to battle back against Perkins.
Two escapes and a takedown led Fiegener to a 4-4 tie at the end of the regulation. No points were scored in the first overtime, and Fiegener successfully rode out Perkins in the next 30-second overtime. Perkins gave Fiegener an automatic escape in the third and final overtime, and Fiegener’s defense led him to a 5-4 victory.
“I just kind of knew I could come back, I knew he wasn’t great on the mat and I could score points there and I did,” Fiegener said. “I wasn’t too worried, I knew I was in for a tough match but I was ready.”
Even so, all the individual success did not compare to the team’s championship run for Fiegener.
“It was definitely the highlight of the trip,” he said. “It’s never be done before, so it is pretty cool to be the first CBU team to come in and do it.”
Kistler defied seedings all week and upset 10th-ranked Brandon Supernaw of Western State Colorado with relative ease in a 10-3 championship win. About halfway through the match, the fourth-seeded Kistler picked up a single-leg takedown for a 2-0 lead. At the end of the first period, Supernaw chose down position in hopes to tie the score. It played right into Kistler’s strength, as he rolled Supernaw for two nearfalls totaling six points and an 8-1 lead going into the third period.
“Honestly, I just haven’t been worrying about [seeds] like I usually do,” Kistler said. “I usually stress about it, but it’s been all about having fun and enjoying it while it’s here since I’m a junior and next year is my last season. My whole family has been backing me and praying for me, and the reason I have the confidence I do comes from knowing God is right there and will always be there for me.”
It was just the latest memorable regional chapter for Kistler, who’s qualified for the Division II Championships all three years, taking third in the region in 2015 and second in 2016.
“Regionals have always been special for me,” Kistler said. “You never know what can happen at regionals. It’s a great victory for all of us and a great day.”
Cunningham won his first match of the day over Colorado State-Pueblo’s Jared Mestas, 10-3, to advance into the third-place bout. Cunningham then exacted some revenge and upset Colorado Mesa’s Daniel Salazar, the seventh-ranked 141-pounder in Division II, on a 3-2 decision.
Smith shutout his consolation semifinal opponent, Ouachita Baptist’s Tyler Mann, 7-0, and then rolled right through Colorado Mesa’s Jason Buhr, 16-9, to take third place.
Head won his third-straight regional match in the consolation semifinals by upsetting eighth-ranked Christian Lance of Fort Hays State, 3-1. The senior then launched a furious, third-period comeback against Chadron’s Cooper Cogdill in the third-place match. Head hit a reversal with 1:52 to go in the match for a 2-1 lead. Cogdill worked his way to an escape to tie things with 1:40 remaining, but Head nailed a takedown with 17 seconds to go to secure the 4-3 victory.
To open the day, Gordon upset Newman’s 11th-ranked 149-pounder Tyler Mies on an 8-4 decision to move on to the third-place match, which he lost in the final three seconds to move into the fourth-place match with Ouachita Baptist’s Blake Clevenger.
With the winner advancing to nationals and the loser going home, Gordon and the ninth-ranked Clevenger went into overtime tied at 1-1. Gordon scored two precious points with a reversal in the second overtime period and then preserved the 3-2 lead for the win after the third and final overtime session.
Greg Gaxiola dropped his first match of the day against second-ranked Greg Tooley of Fort Hays State. The 157-pound Gaxiola came through in his next outing, defeating WSCU’s Shawn Beiriger 12-7, but an injury forced him to default in the third period of his fourth-place match with CSUP’s Kyle Fantin. All of Gaxiola’s proved crucial in helping the Lancers win the regional.
While CBU certainly had plenty to celebrate this weekend, the Lancers will look to add to it at the national level on March 10-11 in Birmingham, Alabama.
“I definitely think we are in the running to win it, so that’s the goal,” Kistler said. “This is the best we have ever wrestled, looking up and down the lineup. Coach has us peaking us at the right time, we had our losses at the beginning of the year and now we are wrestling our best when it matters most.”