BY: CON MARSHALL
CSC Sports Information
For the third time since Chadron State College joined the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and became affiliated with the NCAA, the Eagles will host the regional wrestling tournament. The action for what is officially the Super Region VI Championships will take place in the Chicoine Center on Saturday.
The first round will begin at 9 a.m. Three mats will be utilized simultaneously. Some 110 matches will take place prior to the finals that are slated to begin at 5 o’clock to decide who advances to the Division II National Championships to be hosted by Upper Iowa University at Cedar Falls on March 10 and 11.
Eleven teams will be competing at the regional showdown. They are from the seven RMAC schools that have wrestling teams, as well as conference affiliate San Francisco State, along with Nebraska-Kearney, Fort Hays State of Kansas and Simon Fraser University from British Columbia.
While winning the regional team championship is a prestigious honor, most coaches would likely say sending a van load of hungry wrestlers to nationals is more important. At stake are 30 qualifying slots to the Division II National Tournament March 10 and 11. Three qualifiers will come from each of the 10 weights.
Chadron State previously hosted the regional showdown in 1997 and 2013.
Kearney is the defending Super Regional VI champion and went on to win the national title by a wide margin last year, when eight Lopers placed among the top five there.
Kearney is fifth in the 2023 team rankings entering the six Super Regionals this weekend.
Central Oklahoma leads this year’s latest poll, followed by Lander of South Carolina, St. Cloud State of Minnesota and West Liberty of West Virginia.
Besides UNK at No. 5, also ranked among the top 25 teams are 7, Adams State; 13, Western Colorado; 14, Fort Hays; and Chadron State, tied for 19th. Both Colorado Mesa and Colorado Mines also have strong teams and are apt to have some national qualifiers and shake up the national poll.
Three Super Region 6 grapplers are No. 1 in the latest rankings, including Chadron State junior Quen Campbell. The junior from Tifton, Ga., had been ranked second much of the season, but moved to the top spot this week. He transferred to CSC from North Iowa Area Community College last fall and has a 14-1 record.
Campbell is tall and wiry. His most recent match was one of his closest. He got a late takedown and won 4-3 over Collin Metzgar of Colorado Mesa when they met on Feb. 11 in Chadron. Metzgar will be among Campbell’s challengers Saturday. He’s ranked ninth at 133.
The other top ranked individuals from Super 6 are Noah Hermosillo of Adams State at 157 and Billy Higgins of Kearney at 184. Both were regional winners last year, Hermosillo at 149 and Higgins at 184. Hermosillo emerged as a national champion and Higgins finished third.
Others expected to compete Saturday who placed at the regional a year ago and are nationally ranked among the top 12 are Dawson Collins of Colorado Mesa at 125, Nick James of Kearney at 141, Hunter Mullen of Western Colorado at 165, Austin Eldridge of Kearney at 174, Anderson Salisbury of Colorado Mines at 184 and Lee Herrington of Kearney at heavyweight.
Eldridge finished fourth last year, Collins, James and Herrington placed fifth and Mullen and Salisbury, seventh. In addition, Mesa’s Ryan Wheeler was third at 157 last year, is competing at 149 this year, has been injured and is not ranked among the top 12.
Herrington was the highest ranked heavyweight much of this winter, but is third on the latest list.
Chadron State Coach Brett Hunter believes his team will score more points this year than the 48 it earned last year and thinks the Eagles will have more than one national qualifier like they had a year ago. He added that five or six of his grapplers should be seated among the top four in their weight classes.
The only CSC entry at the 2022 National Tournament was Ethan Leake at 141. He finished second to James as the regional showdown. At nationals, Leake had the misfortune of drawing Zeth Brower of Lander University in the first round. Brower won 5-2, went on to win the weight class and is ranked No. 1 at 141 again this year.
Wrestlers who will be competing at the Region VI Championships and are among the top 12 in the latest DII Coaches’ rankings follow:
125—3, Brendon Garcia, Adams State; 10, Pat Allis, Western Colorado; 11, Dawson Collins, Colorado Mesa; 12, Quade Smith, Chadron State.
131—1, Quen Campbell, Chadron State; 9, Collin Metzgar, Colorado Mesa; 12, Mason Turner, Fort Hays State.
141—6, Nick James, Nebraska-Kearney; 8, Grayston Dibiali, Colorado Mines.
149—2, Josiah Rider, Adams State; 4, Jason Hanenberg, Western Colorado.
157—1, Noah Hermosillo, Adams State.
165—8, Hunter Mullin, Western Colorado; 9, Aaden Valdez, Adams State,
174—3, Austin Eldredge, Nebraska-Kearney; 9, Cole Hernandez, Western Colorado.
184—1, Billy Higgins, Nebraska-Kearney.
197—3, Tereus Henry, Fort Hays State; 7, Anderson Salisbury, Colorado Mines.
Hwt—3, Lee Herrington, Nebraska-Kearney.