Oklahoma City, OK – The Central Christian College men's wrestling team took part in the inaugural Sooner Athletic Conference wrestling championships. Winners in each weight class, and in some divisions the runner up, earned automatic bids to the NAIA national tournament.
With their hopes high, the Tigers had five wrestlers place, two of them finishing on the podium, but it wasn't enough to qualify any of them for the national tournament. Terrell Banuelos was first on the mat for the Tigers at 133. He opened with an 8-3 decision over Cody Casteline from Wayland Baptist. In the semifinals, he lost by technical fall (18-2) to Brandon Vela of Bacone. Now on the backside of the bracket, he bounced back to defeat Alex Bonner of Wayland Baptist by a fall. He finished his day by winning the 3rd place match 4-1 over Coulton Parker of Oklahoma City and making his way onto the podium.
Next up for the Tigers was Devontae Fitzgerald at 149. After a bye in his first round, the quarterfinals, he fell to the #1 seed, Matt Landgraff of OCU, by technical fall (16-0) in the semifinals. He blanked his next two opponents on the back side, defeating Flynn Hamilton of Lourdes 10-0, and then following that up with a 7-0 win over William Pollack of Bacone College. Fitzgerald had one more chance to qualify for nationals, wrestling the second place finisher Justin Atkinson of Indiana Tech in the "true second" match. The second seeded Atkinson was too much for Fitzgerald, defeating him by a fall.
JP Krussick was the Tigers' entry at 157. He had a rough day finishing the tournament at 0-2. At 165, the Tigers sent David Taylor to the mat. He lost his first match by a fall to Bobby Kelly of Lourdes. He got an injury walkover in his next match and then lost by a fall to Mason Gaines of Indiana Tech in his final match. He finished the tournament placing 6th.
At 174, Mason McCarty also had a tough day. His tournament finished early as he dropped back to back matches. At 184, Garret Gibson was also a 6th place finisher. He opened with a tough 4-3 loss to Richard Almondover of Bacone but bounced back to defeat Cutter Cox of Wayland Baptist by a fall. In the 5th place match he lost 13-4 to Fernando Serje of Wayland.
Josh Snook finished out the day for the Tigers at 197. He had a bye in his quarterfinal match, but then was pinned by Jovanni Virgen of Bacone in the Semis. He wrestled for 5th place, losing to Hunter Jacks of Lourdes by a fall.
It didn't end the way the Tigers had hoped, but they have begun to establish a culture of excellence and winning. This year's squad is the foundation of that culture, and with oldest member of the team only a sophomore, the future is certainly bright.