6 PCC Wrestlers Qualify for Nationals
Since the new year, there have been a lot of ups and downs for the Pratt Community College wrestling team. Plagued with injuries and the grueling schedule, the team has come out of the regular season with a 3-3 dual meet record and ranked 18th in the nation. The wrestling team suffered a tough loss at Newman University, which is a NCAA Division II school, by a score of 27-19 by forfeiting two weight classes. If those weight classes were filled, then Pratt would have come out on top. The next night a fire was under PCC as they routed #13 Neosho County Community College with a score of 28-13 but the next week fell to #8 ranked Colby Community College by a score of 33-9. "We did not show up against Newman or against Colby,” said Ken Kepley, head coach.
“We have the potential to beat anyone in the country and I have all of the faith in the world in my guys. At the same time, they have to have faith in themselves, and they did not. It was like another team had shown up and took my guys' place. I was very disappointed in our performance and I told them to move on because we have bigger things to worry about."
The same weekend Pratt showed a lot of heart by taking fifth place at the Kansas Cup. Finished by a solid effort by Levi Schnieder, who was introduced this semester to the wrestling team and has taken a step of leadership by taking a sixth place before making it to the semi-finals of the tournament. Also, John Lynch finished with a fifth place while Keegan Smith took a fourth place and Sheldon Graves took a fifth place. Landon Keiswetter took a third place finish while heavyweight Tim Tuaquoi finished up the day with a fourth place finish.
"We started out like a ball of fire and lost some control in some matches,” Kepley said. “But we now see what we are capable of and this is great momentum heading into Regionals."
At the NJCAA West/Central Regional District Tournament, the #2, #4, #11, #12, #22, and #25 ranked teams in the nation were there. Out of the eight teams in the district, seven were ranked including #18 Pratt Community College. After a very slow start, the heart and dedication came out of the Beavers. At 125 lbs, Zach Hoehn took a sixth place finish finishing behind five ranked, and returning National Qualifiers but did not get a bid to nationals. At 133 lbs, Skyler McComb was an OT match away from a bid to Nationals after finishing fifth place behind four top 10 ranked wrestlers. At 141 lbs, Levi Schnieder finished with a very surprising second place finish after beating two top ten ranked wrestlers and then losing to #2 ranked Jordan Basks from Labette County Community College in the finals. At 149 lbs, John Lynch had a tough day losing to the #3 seeded and #4 ranked Nathaniel Garcia by two points and then wrestling the #3 ranked wrestler in the country from Labette County Community College and then being upset and taking sixth place. The coaches then voted on an extra to go to nationals, and John Lynch was heavily favored due to his hard work and dedication in the classroom and the wrestling room. At 157 lbs, Keegan Smith was upset in the first round but then battled back to beat the same wrestler that knocked him out of the championship round to take a strong and well deserved third place. At 165 lbs, Sheldon Graves had a tough day wrestling two tough opponents and then finishing fifth place and pinning his opponent but was edged out by one vote for a bid to nationals. At 174 lbs, Landon Keiswetter was edged out in the semi-finals by a point to #4 ranked and later crowned champion Ray Hall who beat the National Runner-Up and #2 ranked Keithen Cast. At 184 lbs, Taylor Baird had his best day of the year beating two highly ranked opponents after losing a tight match to the #1 seed to take a third place finish. At 197 lbs, Dustin Hackett finished sixth place. At heavyweight, due to an injury that knocked him out of the championship round in the semi-finals, Tim Tuaquoi finished third place.
Overall, PCC finished fourth out of the eight teams with six national qualifiers.
"We now have to buckle down on what we need to work on,” Kepley said. “The entire team is still practicing and we still need to work on our grades. We are training our hardest ever this week and you can tell that the kids want it. I am not satisfied with our finish, but I am content. We should have easily taken third and had 10 qualifiers. But what can you do about having bad days and being in the best region in the country? Schneider and Baird wrestled great this weekend and I am very proud of them for their heart. Tug as well, he had some iffy calls in his semi-finals match and the finals match was a national finals match and I cannot wait to see all six at nationals because I truly believe that we can bring back six All-Americans. I am excited."
PCC travels to Rochester, Minn. for the NJCAA National Wrestling Tournament which is on Feb. 24 and 25. Wish them all the luck you have and we will do our best to make PCC proud.