Grapplers host pair of duals and end day with a 1-1 mark
GREELEY, Colo. – Northern Colorado wrestling split its duals on Friday at Butler-Hancock, defeating Cal State Bakersfield 21-19 before losing 32-6 to Western Wrestling Conference foe Northern Iowa. With the split the Bears move to 2-10 on the year and 1-3 in the WWC. Northern Iowa also defeated Cal State Bakersfield 28-10 in the double dual.
"The guys wrestled with heart," said Head Coach Ben Cherrington. I think this team we saw today was a completely different team than we saw two nights ago (against #14 Wyoming). They were in every match and if we make a few little adjustments at certain positions we probably win some of those matches. I feel like we out-wrestled both teams in almost every match. It's a huge confidence builder for them and for the coaching staff as we head into this last dual meet and into the conference tournament."
Junior Casey Cruz continued his stellar season, winning both bouts. Against Bakersfield, he won a 9-1 major decision over Jose Mendoza and followed it up with a 4-2 decision over Ryan Jauch. With the win against UNI, Cruz picks up his 20th win of the year and his 10th dual victory and more importantly, remains a perfect 5-0 in Western Wrestling Conference competition.
"Casey has been wrestling great," said Cherrington. "He goes out there and competes and gives himself a chance to win every match he's in and when you do that, you're going to win a lot of matches. He's doing the right things on and off the mat and that pays off."
True freshman Nick Bayer also had a big win for the Bears in the nightcap, defeating the Panthers Andy O'Loughlin 8-3 at 197 pounds. O'Loughlin finished second last year at the NCAA West Regional and won the 2007-08 title at 184 pounds. Bayer is now 4-1 in conference duals.
"That was a huge win for us and for Nick," said Cherrington. "That's probably going to give us the number two seed going into the conference tournament. That kid's (O'Loughlin) been good for four years now so that was a great win. It was exciting to see Nick perform like that."
Against the CSUB Roadrunners, freshman Sam Bauer got the team started on the right foot with a 5-3 win over Tyler Iwamura at 125 pounds. Cruz took the mat next for the 7-0 team lead. As they have all season, the Bears forfeited 141 pounds, bringing CSUB back within one, 7-6.
Senior Justin Gaethje recorded a 23-6 technical fall victory over Dalton Kelley and junior Tanner Weiks won 5-1 over Andrew Balch at 157 pounds. Fellow junior Brandon Kammerzell recorded a pin in 4:20 of Trevor Hall to give the Bears the 21-6 advantage, which proved to be enough.
The Roadrunners won the next four bouts, three by decision to make the final score just a two-point spread, 21-19.
"Today was a huge confidence builder," said Cherrington. "Northern Iowa's a tough team and Bakersfield is a very strong team. They took third at the Reno Tournament of Champions this year with that same lineup and it just shows me what these guys are capable of if we go out there and put everything together at the right time."
The Bears conclude the regular season portion of their schedule next Friday at Air Force and then return to the Academy on March 6 for the WWC Championship and NCAA West Regional.