Photos by Kylee Crane
“Are we going to win?”
These were five words that Head Wrestling Coach Jason Warthan heard whispered from his Greyhound wrestlers as he walked around Nicoson Hall during the NCAA Division II Super Region 2 on Feb 24-25.
“I’m kind of superstitious a little bit, so I try not to look at team scores while the guys are wrestling,” he said. “I just kept saying, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’ Because that won’t change how we need to wrestle, we still need to win matches.”
They did win.
By one point.
Having won the second regional championship in program history, the first being in 2014, the team also will send four wrestlers to the 2017 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships. Freshman Ana Abduljelil, redshirt junior Nick Crume, redshirt sophomore Heath Lange and redshirt sophomore Dylan Faulkenberg will represent UIndy in the 125, 141, 157 and 285 weight classes, respectively.
Warthan said that after a weekend of wrestling hard and seeing a successful end result, it is emotional.
“It’s a culmination of the hard work they’ve put in all year, and I think everyone contributed to the championship. Everyone scored at least one point, so it’s special for sure,” he said.
Faulkenberg also won regional runner-up in his weight class and will be making his second trip to Nationals. He stressed that each individual wrestler made a difference in the meet, despite some obstacles that the team faced.
“Just going into regionals with things like Barry [McGinley] getting injured, and other variables, I didn’t know what the team outcome would be,” Faulkenberg said. “But we came together as a team, and there were people who had to fight for fifth, and those are the people that won it for us, for sure.”
Faulkenberg earned his trip with a 2-1 win in the semifinals. The scenario was much like the match to punch his ticket to the 2016 National championships, which went into three overtime matches.
“In the heat of the moment, I knew I could get away, and I knew I could ride him out,” he said. “It’s kind of nerve wracking, but I live for those moments. I focus on the conditioning because those bigger guys get a lot more tired than I do, so I just have to push them to that limit to where I can take advantage.”
Lange also claimed runner-up in the 157 class and earned his first trip to Nationals. He was ecstatic about this achievement upon winning his semifinals match, during which he pinned his opponent in 1:22.
“For me individually? I was psyched. As a team, we were expected to send a few guys all year, and we were supposed to do well, but nobody thought that well, so it was nice to get it done,” he said. “….We had those big upsets in January and a lot of people thought that was going to be the peak of our season, but we kept winning.”
Abduljelil had to battle all day to earn his trip to Nationals for his first year of collegiate wrestling. He opened up the day with a loss, won his second in the consolation semifinal, but fell in the third place match. It took a 5-3 decision in his true fourth match to earn fourth place allowing him to continue on in the tournament. Abduljelil said his feelings were “through the roof,” and that it has been an amazing journey since joining the team this year.
“Having a team as good as ours, they were able to back me up and get me ready for competition,” he said. “Each of us has each other’s backs, and it was like a family as soon as I stepped onto this team.”
Crume was the lone Greyhound to win regionals in the 141 weight class, his second straight title, while also achieving his third trip to Nationals. And while he’s excited to make another appearance, he said he just wants to get the job done.
In four years spent with UIndy wrestling, Crume said that this season’s group could best be described as “determined.”
“Those of us who want to be here come here every day and work our asses off. Everyone knows their job, and everyone knows their part, and we came and did just that,” he said.
In addition to determination, Warthan said “commitment” could be used to describe the team’s work and season.
“Some of these guys have overcome quite a bit and kept pushing. It means something to them, to be a part of this team. It wasn’t just the 10 guys either that wrestled, it was a culmination of the 33 guys who made a commitment back at the beginning of the year that they’re going to do it the right way, train hard, sacrifice some of the things that they wouldn’t in the offseason, live a clean lifestyle, and really put forth the effort in practice,” Warthan said. “I think that’s ultimately why we won, that commitment level all season.”
Abduljelil, Crume, Lange and Faulkenberg will head to Birmingham, Ala. for the National Championships on March 10-11.