Battling opponents wasn’t a problem for four members of the Waldorf College men’s wrestling team during the opening day of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championships on Friday.
“Effort was there every match,” Waldorf coach Brad Stockton said. “The outcome just wasn’t.”
Bo Bettinson (125 pounds) and Brock Binversie (184) both made their third straight national tournament appearances for the Warriors. They each finished one win short of earning All-American honors.
Building momentum proved to be a challenge.
“Some matches, it came down to a late takedown and an unanswered score at the end of a period,” Stockton said. “Something like that at this level is hard to come back from.”
Losing a 10-6 decision to Southern Oregon University’s fifth-ranked Jake Stigall (17-12) in the first round forced Bettinson (23-10) to fight his way back.
“That’s a tough thing to do,” Stockton said. “He kept his composure pretty well.”
Bettinson, a junior, earned a first-round consolation bye and bounced back by claiming a 9-7 decision from Menlo College’s Troy Lakin (21-8) and a 10-5 decision over Oklahoma City University’s Adrian Gaines (31-16).
A fourth-round consolation match pitted Bettinson against York College’s ninth-ranked Oscar Marin (27-10). Bettinson led the early stages of the bout. Marin, a returning All-American, prevailed in the end in an 11-5 decision.
“Bo went out there and started strong,” Stockton said. “As the match went on, he just kind of got out of position a few times.”
Binversie (17-15) entered the tournament ranked No. 15 and received a first-round bye. Southern Oregon’s fifth-ranked Jacob Abrams (28-11) won a 17-1 technical fall over Binversie in the second round.
Coming off a first-round consolation bye, Binversie faced a familiar opponent. Northwestern College’s 10th-ranked Randall Null (19-10) defeated Binversie four times this season. This time was Binversie’s turn to shine as he scored a 10-3 decision.
During last year’s national tournament, Montana State University-Northern’s Kody Reed (12-7) pinned Binversie. When the two met again on Friday, Binversie pulled out a 2-1 decision.
“He wrestled a smart match, stayed in position, wrestled strong and came out on top,” Stockton said.
Binversie, a senior who earned NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors, saw his tournament run end in the fourth round of consolations when he lost a 6-2 decision to Morningside College’s Rulin Pederson (12-4).
“The season he had was up and down, but he was peaking at the right time,” Stockton said.
Waldorf’s Ray McQueen (133) and Angel Gomez (285) also competed in the tournament.
McQueen (24-16), a senior ranked No. 12, began the day losing a 6-4 decision to Wayland Baptist University’s 16th-ranked Andrew Porras (18-11).
Following a first-round consolation bye, McQueen earned a 12-6 decision over Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Andrew Burr (9-14). Making his first trip to the national tournament, McQueen saw his career conclude as he fell short in a 7-6 decision to Lindsey Wilson College’s seventh-ranked Keaton Thomas (18-10).
“He didn’t reach his ultimate goal and fell a little bit short, but like I told him, ‘Wrestling teaches you more about life than it does about wrestling,’” Stockton said.
Gomez, ranked No. 14, started strong in the first round. The sophomore took a 6-3 decision from Bethany College’s 13th-ranked Zach Anderson (28-16).
Gomez (18-19) continued to compete hard in the second round, but saw University of the Cumberlands’ fourth-ranked Courtney Freeman (34-5) escape with a 7-5 decision in overtime.
A bye set the stage for a third-round consolation match between Gomez and Southern Oregon’s 10th-ranked Clayton Burtis (18-13). Burtis came out on top in a 6-4 decision.
Despite ending the season with a heartbreaking loss, Gomez showed promise in his national tournament debut.
“He’s got two years left to improve and to reach his goals,” Stockton said. “I was proud with the way that he and the other three guys responded at the tournament.”
Bettinson returns next season, looking to become a four-time national qualifier. He has plenty of drive after falling one win shy of All-American recognition the past two years.
“That’s a lot of motivation for him to help push the other guys next year,” Stockton said.
Together, Bettinson and Gomez are expected to lead the way for the Warriors next season.
“That’s how we start building a team,” Stockton said. “They have the experience and goals to raise themselves and everyone around them.”