HASTINGS, Neb. – Levi Calhoun made his return to matside and the Concordia University Wrestling team ventured into competition for the first time in the year 2021. A group of 12 Bulldogs represented the program at Saturday (Jan. 9)’s Hastings Cusatis Open in Hastings, Neb., and combined for 22 wins and 10 pins. Junior Issiah Burks and senior Gabe Crawford led the way with place finishes in their respective brackets.
Calhoun’s squad had last competed at its own Concordia Bulldog Duals on Dec. 19. For family reasons, Calhoun had been away from the team for a large portion of the month of December.
“For me personally being able to be back in these guys’ corner was pretty awesome,” Calhoun said. “It was great to get back into the swing of things after everything that has been going on. I thought it was a good test for us to see where we’re at and see what we need to continue to improve on. I’m pretty happy with how the day went overall.”
Calhoun went as far to as saying this was the best Burks has wrestled in his entire career. The native of Hemet, Calif., suffered a loss to sixth-ranked Giovanni Bonilla of Grand View (Iowa) before settling in. Burks (17-6) went 5-0 the rest of the day and secured third place at 157 pounds. He picked up three pins, including two that occurred in the first period.
At 165 pounds, Crawford made his way to the championship match with three-consecutive wins. In the semifinals, Crawford handled Grand View’s Scott Betterton, 5-2. The most dominant win of the day for Crawford came in the quarterfinals when he majored Midland’s Chase Engelhardt, 13-4.
“Issiah won five matches on the back side to get third – and that’s really tough to do,” Calhoun said. “That’s the best I’ve seen him wrestle in his career. He looked very good. With Gabe, the first semester was kind of up and down. He came out and was really excited to wrestle. He came out and wrestled free and had fun. When he does that he’s hard to stop.”
At heavyweight, team season wins leader Jacob Telles (21-7) advanced to the quarterfinals by pinning his way through rounds 1 and 2. Telles was then edged in the quarterfinals, 3-2, by Briar Cliff’s Matt Wilke. Telles notched additional win with a pin over Midland’s Matt Johnston and came up just shy of a place finish.
Burks, Crawford and Telles were three of six Bulldogs with multiple victories at the Hastings Open. The others to join the group were Tavoris Smith (2-2 at 165), Oscar Ramirez-Garcia (2-2 at 184) and Cyrus Marshall (3-2 at 184). One victory each was claimed by Carter Willis (125), Jose Sanchez (157), Timothy Huber (174) and Mason Garcia (197).
The Hastings Open featured wrestlers from 13 institutions. The event was heavy on GPAC competition with Briar Cliff, Concordia, Dakota Wesleyan, Doane, Hastings, Midland, Morningside and Northwestern all in action.
Said Calhoun, “I think we can learn from this and get better from it. We need to get back to work. We have a lot of important conference duals coming up here the next few weeks so we have to be ready to go.”
Dual action will resume next Saturday (Jan. 16) when the Bulldogs (3-5, 2-1 GPAC) will be at the Bultman Center on the Northwestern campus. Concordia will go up against host Northwestern (1-2, 0-1 GPAC) at 11 a.m. CT before duals against nonconference foes Dickinson State University (N.D.) at 12:30 p.m. and Waldorf University (Iowa) at 2 p.m. The remaining regular season schedule features eight duals and one tournament.