DES MOINES, Iowa – For the first time since 2004, the Dakota Wesleyan University wrestling team will return home from the NAIA National Championships with a pair of All-Americans.
Sophomores Dusty Paulsen and Trever DeVestern both won their first matches of the day and then picked up wins in the consolation bracket it to make it to the placing rounds Saturday. Neither can finish lower than eighth, guaranteeing both wrestlers All-American status.
Jared Digmann (125) and Scott Loveless (165) both earned All-American honors in 2004 the last time the Tigers had more than one All-American wrestler in a season. Josh Geppert was DWU’s last All-American, placing sixth at heavyweight in 2011.
Paulsen started the day with a 4-3 decision over Campbellsville’s Shawn McGhee in the first round. Paulsen, a Pierre, S.D., native, scored a pair of takedowns to go up 4-0 before McGhee earned an escape. McGhee scored two points on a late nearfall, but Paulsen held on for the win. In his quarterfinal match, Paulsen lost an 11-3 major decision to University of Great Falls’ Mike Vassar, but he came back and picked up a 7-5 win over Baker’s Nick Haugen in the consolation bracket to advance to Saturday.
Haugen got two takedowns early to go up 4-1, but Paulsen got a reversal to cut the gap to one, 4-3. He tied the match at 5-5 with a takedown in the third, and scored two back points late in the match to win in regulation. Paulsen is 20-12 heading into tomorrow’s placing rounds.
DeVestern, a Pearblossom, Calif., native, won a 12-0 major decision over Great Falls’ Chad Cebulski in the first round to advance to the quarterfinals. He came up against Campbellsville’s Conor Young – the No. 1 wrestler in the nation at 157 pounds – in the quarters, and fell by a 7-2 decision to be bounced to the consolation bracket.
DeVestern – who finished one win shy of All-American status as a freshman last season – made sure he wouldn’t fall short again with an 8-3 decision in the wrestlebacks. He took control of the match early and never let Illinois Tech’s Adam Fahs take control. DeVestern is 21-7 heading into the placing round.
Nick Hutcheson also won his first match of the day. In the first match of the tournament for the Tigers, Hutcheson picked up a 10-7 decision over Lindsey Wilson’s James Haywood at 165 pounds. Hutcheson was down heading into the third and final period, but he used a late reversal to pick up the win.
In his second match of the day, Hutcheson – a redshirt junior – lost a 7-3 decision to Southern Oregon’s Derek Mestrovich and moved to the consolation bracket. In his first match of the wrestlebacks, Hutcheson, an Elk Point, S.D., native, got ahead early, and ended up pinning Northwestern College’s Zach Fishman in 6:59 to stay alive. He ended his tournament run with a 9-0 loss to Simpson’s Brady Beamon. Hutcheson ends the year with a 10-7 record.
Richard Rios also picked up a win for Dakota Wesleyan on the first day of the tournament. Rios got a tough draw to start the tournament, taking on Southern Oregon’s Prescott Garner in the first round. Garner was ranked No. 1 at 133 pounds most of the year, but got upset at the qualifying tournament and was seeded lower at nationals. Garner got several early takedowns, and with ride time beat Rios by a 9-1 major decision.
Rios, a Chino Hills, Calif., native, came back with a 5-0 decision over Bacone’s Zach Pilkington in the wrestlebacks, but lost a 12-8 decision to Bethel’s Aaron Garcia to end his season and his tournament run. Rios, a junior, ended the year 16-5.
Kyle Gerlach, Tyler Sarringar and Eric Gruis were all eliminated in the first day of competition Friday afternoon. Gerlach hung with Bethel’s Colby Crank in his first match of the day at 157 pounds, but Crank held on for a 10-6 decision. Crank started the match with a takedown, but Gerlach answered with an escape and a takedown to go up 3-2. Crank got another takedown, but Gerlach tied the score, and Crank used several late takedowns to earn the win. Gerlach’s national tournament run ended with a 10-7 decision to Fahs. Gerlach was up early, but Fahs used a late takedown to pull away and advance.
Sarringar started the day with a 7-3 loss to Cumberlands’ Zeke Hunt at 174 pounds, and ended his tournament run with a 7-4 loss to Oklahoma City University’s Teagan Franco in the consolation bracket. The junior from Pierre, S.D., got as close as 4-3 after several escapes in the first two periods, but Franco got a takedown and an escape in the third period to pick up the win. Sarringar went 20-9 in his junior season.
Gruis lost a 12-4 decision to Missouri Valley’s Daniel Mueller to start the day, and ended his junior year with a 10-3 loss to Lindsey Wilson’s Teddy Furnish in the consolation bracket. The Baltic, S.D., native went 12-13 this season.