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Undefeated and outright GPAC champs!

Undefeated and outright GPAC champs!
Photo Courtesy-Concordia Athletics

SEWARD, Neb. – This time the Bulldogs won’t have to share it. As part of a triangular on Thursday (Jan. 30) night, the 20th-ranked Concordia University wrestling team wrapped up an outright GPAC regular-season title with an unbeaten conference mark. In dual action inside Walz Arena, the Bulldogs flattened Dakota Wesleyan, 48-4, before rallying for a 30-16 victory over York College.

Second-year head coach Levi Calhoun’s squad won 15 of its 20 individual matches on Wednesday while moving to 12-2 overall with a sparkling 8-0 GPAC mark. Concordia is also 5-0 this season in home duals.

“It means a lot,” Calhoun said of the GPAC championship. “I told the guys the other day it’s easy for us to get complacent about GPAC titles because that’s pretty common here. That’s the expectation here but for me as a coach, you have to step back and recognize what an accomplishment it is for the guys. I made sure they knew how appreciative I was of their work … they’ve done an amazing job. I’m super proud to be their coach.”

Concordia’s eventual win over Dakota Wesleyan (0-6 GPAC) was a foregone conclusion with the Tigers bringing only four wrestlers to Seward. The Bulldogs won three of those four contested matchups, including the 125-pound tussle that saw Giancarlo Facio notch a first-period pin over Taten Bahm. In addition, Gabe Crawford won by decision at 157 pounds and Jason Watkins edged out his opponent with the help of riding time at 197.

Concordia waited until after the night cap with York to hold a short ceremony with the GPAC championship trophy. Such celebrations have become commonplace for a program that has enjoyed GPAC championship seasons in five of the past six years. Over that stretch, the Bulldogs are 41-4 in conference duals.

“I remember my freshman year (winning it outright) and that was a really cool moment,” said senior Cameron Devers. “We all got to share it. It’s cool to be able to do it again as I’m going out and catch another conference title outright with nobody there to challenge you.”

The night could have ended on a bit of a somber note if Devers hadn’t helped spark his teammates after the Bulldogs found themselves in a 13-0 hole against York. Calhoun met Devers in the tunnel for some quick words of encouragement. It worked. The 149-pounder from Holly Springs, N.C., went on the attack and earned a pin in just one minute. The tide turned as Crawford (decision at 157), Issiah Burks (pin at 165), Blake Castillo (decision at 174) and Darrin Miller (pin at 184) followed with consecutive victories.

To close the night, Concordia heavyweight Demitrius Miller pinned Cooper Wilkins in 1:09 for the exclamation mark. It seems the rivalry with the nearby Panthers (3-6) has been reborn. The two programs had not met since Nov. 10, 2015.

“(Head coach) Chad Mattox has done a great job with the program and getting its roster back up,” Calhoun said. “I’m excited to get back to wrestling them every year. They’re just down the road. He’s going to continue to build that program. It was awesome to get them out here and to continue to get that rivalry going again.”

One of the surprises of the night was the upset loss suffered by No. 17 Mario Ybarra to Harley Williamson at 125. That match began York’s string of three-straight wins. Even so, Ybarra (16-7) remains a GPAC title contender. His teammates had his back on Thursday. Said Devers, “I came out there to make a statement and prove, we got this match. This is my house.”

Select members of the Bulldogs will again be in action on Saturday at the Dave Edmonds Sioux City Open hosted by Morningside. The tournament is set to get underway at 9 a.m. CT from The Arena in Sioux City. Concordia will make its final home appearance next Thursday (Feb. 6) when Bethany College (Kan.) will be in town for a dual.

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