The Red Raider wrestlers traveled to Great Falls, Mont. Friday, Feb. 27 for the National NAIA tournament. The wrestling coaching staff, along with six of the seven national qualifiers competed in the tournament.
The national qualifiers included seniors Ben Hummel and Jon Hoksbergen, sophomores Isaac Schmidt and Boomer Mears, and freshman Matt Wenninger, Jay Wood and Richie Thacker. However, Thacker was not able to compete because of conditions due to a previous concussion.
According to Head Coach Paul Bartlett, the team may have had some All-American qualifiers, but many teammates had difficulty giving their best performance.
“I would have to say that we only wrestled okay at a point when we needed to wrestle our best,” said Bartlett. “We were basically put out of the tournament on Friday because anyone who wrestled on Saturday placed in the final standings.”
Hummel and Wood, according to Bartlett, both did exceptionally well in their matches. Both won one match and Wood was only one match away from placing.
Hummel also stood out as a third time national qualifier and was recognized as an NAIA Wrestling All-American Scholar Athlete for the second year.
Although the Raiders were out of the tournament on the first day, coaches and competitors recognized their efforts, dedication and work ethic. Coaches and tournament participants chose the Red Raiders as the team most deserving of the Sportsmanship Award.
“I was very honored and it was very humbling. But also I wish we would have performed better as wrestlers. I am exceptionally proud of our young men. I indeed believe that we are the best behaved and classiest team at the tournament every year,” said Bartlett. “It’s an honor to receive this award.”