DUBUQUE, Iowa – Freshman Jonathan Melton finished three points shy qualifying for nationals to lead a much-improved Simpson wrestling team at the 2015 NCAA Division III Central Region Championships.
A year after winning a grand total of one match at the same tournament, Storm wrestlers earned seven wins on the day and were within a few points of crowning their first national qualifier since 2006.
Simpson placed 10th in the region with 21.5 points. Top-ranked Wartburg won with 167.5 points, followed by Luther (127.5).
Melton met 10th-ranked Trevor Engle (Cornell) in the third-place match, losing a close 6-4 decision in overtime. It marked the second time Melton wrestled Engle on the day. In the first meeting, Melton picked up a 4-3 win to advance to the semifinals, where he suffered a 9-6 loss to Dakota Gray (Luther). He picked up a 7-1 win over Josh Donkle (Coe) in the consolation semifinals to advance to the third-place match.
Melton was one of six freshmen and sophomores the Storm sent to the mat on Saturday. His fourth-place finish matched the program's best effort at the Central Region Championships since the tournament began in 2013.
In addition to Melton, freshman Devan Berrian and sophomore Bryce Wignall won first- or second-round matches to advance in the winners bracket to start the day. Both lost in the quarterfinals as Berrian finished the day 1-2 and Wignall went 2-2.
141 - Berrian, 1-2
149 - Melton, 2-2 (4th place)
157 - Mize, 0-2
165 - Wignall, 2-2
174 - Roberts, 1-2
184 - Ward, 1-2
197 - Quador, 0-2
285 - Vlieger, 0-2
1. Wartburg, 167.5; 2. Luther, 127.5; 3. Coe, 104.5; 4. Cornell, 101.5; 5. Loras, 100; 6. Augustana (Ill.), 67.5; 7. Dubuque, 65.5; 8. Central, 57.5; 9. Buena Vista, 36.0; 10. Simpson, 21.5; 11. Huntingdon, 2.5; 12. Knox, 0.5; 13. Ozarks, 0
NWCA Central Region Awards
Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament – Steven DeWitt, Loras (157)
Head Coach of the Year – Eric Keller, Wartburg
Assistant Coach of the Year – Jeff O'Gara, Luther