MITCHELL, S.D. – Seven members of the Dakota Wesleyan University wrestling team start their quest for All-American status Friday, March 1, at the NAIA Wrestling National Championships. The national meet is at the Jacobson Exhibition Center in Des Moines, Iowa.
All seven of this year’s qualifiers are national meet veterans. Trever DeVestern, Kyle Gerlach and Dusty Paulsen are both making their second trip, and Richard Rios, Nick Hutcheson, Tyler Sarringar and Eric Gruis are all making the trip for the third time this weekend. The tournament runs Friday and Saturday, with the championship round scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 2.
Rios, Gerlach and DeVestern were all one match away from earning All-American status at last year’s national tournament, but all three came up one win short. Rios and Gerlach both went 3-2, and DeVestern picked up two wins in the championship bracket before losing and going 2-2 on the weekend. Rios is the Tigers’ highest ranked wrestler heading into nationals. He is No. 7 at 133 pounds and is 15-3 heading into the final meet of the year.
Rios, a junior from Chino Hills, Calif., recently earned All-Great Plains Athletic Conference First Team honors, and moved up to eighth on the Tigers’ all-time wins list this season. He has 63 wins heading into nationals after a second-place finish at the qualifying tournament earlier this month.
Gerlach is DWU’s win leader this season heading into the national tournament. He is 24-13 and earned All-GPAC First Team honors earlier this month. The 157-pound sophomore from Mount Vernon, S.D., is ranked 12th in his weight class heading into the national meet and took fourth at the qualifying tournament.
DeVestern, who set the Tigers’ individual record for wins (41) and pins (24) in a season as a freshman last year, returns for his second attempt at All-American status as a sophomore. The Pearblossom, Calif. native is ranked 11th in the NAIA at 157 pounds and is ninth on DWU’s all-time wins list with 59 heading into the national meet. DeVestern earned All-GPAC Second Team accolades this season.
Sarringar, a 174-pound junior from Pierre, S.D., heads into nationals seventh on the school’s all-time wins list with 68 after going 19-7 so far this season. He went 1-2 at last year’s national meet, and is looking to make it to the placing round in his third national tournament appearance. Sarringar is 15th in the NAIA at his weight class.
Paulsen is looking to pick up his first win at nationals this weekend in his second trip to the national meet. The sophomore from Pierre, S.D., is ranked 13th at 149 pounds and is 18-12 so far this season. He earned All-GPAC Second Team honors and took third at the qualifying tournament.
This is the third national tournament appearance for Hutcheson and Gruis, who both went 0-2 at least year’s national meet. Gruis, a junior heavyweight from Baltic, S.D., is 12-11 this season and earned All-GPAC Honorable Mention accolades. Hutcheson, the Tigers’ 165-pound wrestler, is a redshirt junior from Elk Point, S.D. He is 8-5 this season and is currently 10th on the school’s all-time wins list with 58.
Dakota Wesleyan is ranked 19th in the NAIA heading into the national meet. The Tigers are looking to improve on last year’s 26th-place finish. DWU’s best finish at nationals was a 12th-place finish in 2001. DWU’s best finish in the last decade was an 18th-place finish at the 2011 national meet. The Tigers went 7-5 this season and finished third in the GPAC. That marks the most wins in a season since the 1968-69 season (12) and the first winning season for the DWU wrestling program since the 1998-99 season when DWU went 5-2. This year also marked the first time the Tigers had two wrestlers earn All-GPAC First Team honors.