KEARNEY, Neb. – California Baptist University made a strong case for a top-20 ranking in NCAA Division II at the second annual UNK Midwest Duals Saturday at the Buffalo Fairgrounds.
Not only was there something to prove in regards to the previously rankings for the Lancers, but it was their Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener. CBU was previously ranked No. 17 in Division II before dropping out, however, still received votes in Wednesday’s Division II Wrestling Coaches Association poll.
CBU went 1-2-1 on the day to move to 9-3-1, 1-1 in conference overall with a win over No. 11-ranked Adams State (36-7) and tie with No. 6-ranked Fort Hays State (21-21). Both of the Lancers’ losses came against top-10 ranked squads in Division II – No. 9 Western State Colorado (24-20) and fifth-ranked Central Oklahoma (21-15) – and were decided by a single match.
“We were an inch away from beating both teams,” head coach Lennie Zalesky said. “We just lost some key swing matches. It came down to one match each time.”
The Lancers were dealt a tough blow when Bradford Gerl had to default his first match against Western State Colorado with an injury. It gave the Mountaineers six free points and proved to be the difference.
“That was a nine-point swing in that match because he was winning at the time he got hurt,” said Zalesky, who was proud of how his team competed down a man. “I think if Bradford was in there we would have won all our matches today, but we still put ourselves in a position to win without him.”
Bryden Lazaro, a 125-pounder, and heavyweight Jacob Mitchell went a perfect 4-0 Saturday for the Lancers. Lazaro, who is ranked second individually in Division II, provided his squad with 18 points on the day. Mitchell was good for 22 points in his CBU debut, as he produced two first-period pins, a major-decision and forfeit win.
CBU got its first win in its second dual of the day, a 36-7 throttling of Adams State. The Lancers won five of the first six matches for a comfortable 21-3 lead. Lazaro opened the dual with a pin, while Taylor Hall (133), Alex Anunciation (149) and Brady Bersano (157) all earned narrow-decision victories by respective scores of 7-4, 5-3 and 5-4.
The Lancers then closed out the Grizzlies with a 3-0 bout run, including two pins. Caleb Gerl pinned Nevada Bencomo 1:57 into the 184-pound bout and Mitchell earned his second-straight first-period pin of the day over Tuli Laulu, just 29 seconds into the action. Kenneth Tribble finished out the match with a win over Adams State’s Dakota Bencomo, 9-4, at 197.
Lazaro closed out his day with an 8-2 win over Fort Hays’ Adam Ludwin, who is ranked No. 7 individually. Hall also picked up a decision over the Tigers’ Symeon Seaton, 5-2, while Bersano earned his third win of the day with a pin of Fort Hays’ Mitchell Means at the 4:35 mark. Smith was the other Lancer to win in the Fort Hays matchup with an 11-6 decision against Bradley Little.
Despite going down a man in the first dual of the day, CBU nearly knocked off Western State Colorado by putting up more than three points in four matches. Lazaro started the day with a major decision over Dammion Heard, 15-4, to give CBU a 4-0 lead.
Western State took a quick 9-4 advantage on a decision win at 133 and the injury default at 141, but Anunciation and Bersano--who ranks fifth at 157--put the Lancers back in front, 14-9, with a 14-4 defeat of CJ York and second-period pin of Garrett Adams, respectively.
The Mountaineers stole back the momentum and took a 10-point lead, 24-14, to seal the result with a 4-0 run from 165 to 197, with two of those wins coming on one-point decisions. Mitchell ended the dual and made his Lancer debut with a pin of Western State’s Lane Stuht in the first period.
It was another close battle between CBU and Central Oklahoma. Lazaro won the opener yet again, and the Lancers upper weights rallied by winning the final three matches.
Lazaro produced a technical fall of Central Oklahoma’s Ryan Brooks, 16-1, while Caleb Gerl and Tribble added decision victories in the dual. Mitchell picked up his first win over a ranked opponent this year when he majored No. 8 Cody Dauphin, 9-1.
It was not enough to overcome the Broncos, who carry the No. 1 wrestlers in Division II at 149, 157 and 165 and won six-straight matches from 133 to 174 for a 21-5 lead.
“We wrestled a lot of ranked guys today, we faced three No. 1 guys in a row against Central Oklahoma,” Zalesky said. “We’re going to have a really tough conference this year.”