And then there were four.
Redshirt senior Josh Kieffer, redshirt sophomore Nick Crume, redshirt junior Taylor DeLong and redshirt freshman Dylan Faulkenberg will represent the University of Indianapolis at the NCAA 2016 Division II National Championships in the 125, 133, 184 and 285 lb. weight classes, respectively.
The four earned their trip to Nationals by placing in the top four at the NCAA Super Region 2 Tournament. UIndy hosted the regionals in Nicoson Hall on Feb. 26-27. As a team, the Hounds finished fourth out of the 14 teams present.
Kieffer’s first match against the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s redshirt junior Ronzel Darling ended in a 3-2 decision, that sent Kieffer to the finals match. He then claimed first place in the 125-bracket with a 3-0 decision over Tiffin University sophomore Giuseppe Penzone.
Kieffer’s two regional titles make him the fourth Greyhound in the program to do so. Kieffer also is the third wrestler in Greyhound history to earn four trips to Nationals.
Crume’s semifinal match ended in a 10-2 major decision against the then No. 8 seeded Derrick Nelson from Coker College. The win sealed Crume’s Nationals fate. With a trip to Nationals already in hand, Crume went one step further and earned first at regionals. He beat Newberry College’s redshirt freshman Jordan Simpson with a 9-1 major decision for the title.
Crume said his lack of nerves and previous experience against Nelson on the mat helped him earn his semifinal victory.
“I wrestled him last year and beat him pretty handily. This is only the second time I have wrestled in this weight class this season, which is why he was ranked above me,” Crume said. “I was pretty confident about that match stepping onto the mat, which really helped.”
DeLong’s matches on Friday sent him to the consolation bracket, but Saturday he revived himself. DeLong went 3-0 on Saturday and earned his trip to Nationals. He opened the day against Coker College’s freshman Luis Peguero with a 2-0 win. That was followed with a pin against Shorter University senior Dalton Lane. DeLong earned a third-place finish in an 11-10 decision over redshirt junior Brandon O’Neill from Ashland University.
Faulkenberg opened the day with a 6-3 decision over University of Wisconsin-Parkside sophomore Matt Halverson. The win over Halverson led to Faulkenberg wrestling the University of North Carolina-Pembroke redshirt junior Stuart Nadeau. The match was decided in the first tiebreaker, resulting in a 9-6 decision that moved Faulkenberg to the third-place match. In a close match, Faulkenberg battled for a 3-2 win in the second tiebreaker round against junior Austin Akins from Coker College to earn his first trip to Nationals.
Head Wrestling Coach Jason Warthan said that while being fully satisfied with the Super Region 2 Tournament results is difficult from a coach’s standpoint, the weekend also was bittersweet.
“It’s tough [going into regionals], because you know there’s a good chance that not everyone is going to go through. So you might be coaching someone to the last match of their season or their career and then turn around and have a very meaningful match and sit in the corner and get yourself composed. So emotions are all over the place,” Warthan said. “I thought Friday could have gone better. I thought the seven who advanced to Saturday wrestled very well, and then of course the four who are moving on wrestled very well. It’s hard to be satisfied as a coach. There were a few matches that I think we could have won that didn’t go our way. But the silver lining there was that it wasn’t a lack of effort or preparation; it was aggressive mistakes.”
With a two-week break between the regional tournament and Nationals, Warthan said that practices will remain similar to those of the regular season, thanks to this year’s Spring Break and Nationals schedule.
“This year is different than the last six,” Warthan said. “Nationals is[the] first week of Spring Break instead of [the] second. We have the luxury of practicing all the guys that are healthy, so I want it to be as normal as possible. As far as lifting goes and wrestling for two hours, we’ll cut that back and kind of taper. The guys will watch what they are eating and watch what they’re doing and take care of their bodies, and get rest.”
Crume said that he plans to come in with a much more laid-back perspective, as he did during the Super Region weekend, but not because of his previous Nationals experience.
“I’m coming in with the same mentality as last year. Switching and not having a lot of matches in this weight class this season gives me the opportunity to prove myself again,” Crume said. “I’m not trying to take it too serious anymore. In the past, I stressed myself out too much. And this year, I’ve really been able to zone out, relax and have fun.”
Two wins, whether in a row or with a loss before or between, are all a wrestler needs to earn the title of All-American at Nationals, and Warthan believes the four wrestlers have the capability of returning home with at least that.
“Is it realistic for all of them to be All-American? I think so. I think we’ve put ourselves in the position to return with all four of them with at least that title,” Warthan said.
The Greyhound wrestlers will head to Sioux Falls, S.D., for the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championships, March 11-12.