The Ellsworth Panther Wrestling Team closed the 2018 NJCAA National Tournament with a 7th place finish. The 7th place standing is Ellsworth's fifth straight top 8 finish at Nationals.
At the close of the National Tournament, held at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Ellsworth Wrestling added four more names to its list of All-Americans. Javier Moreno, Justin Folley, Steven Lawrence, and Anthony Collins all left their mark by ending the 2017-18 season on the All-American platform.
Collins finishes as National Finalist
For the sixth year in a row, Ellsworth ended its season with a wrestler in Saturday night's NJCAA National Finals. This year it was sophomore Anthony Collins (174). Collins, who came into the tournament unranked, worked his way through the bracket with something to prove. "After my last year and I didn't place, I knew I had to get back there and show everyone what I was really about." Collins did just that, leaving no doubt that he deserved to be an All-American. Collins first bout of the tournament lasted just a minute and forty seconds, as he pinned Jordan Wessley of Colby Community College. Collins moved into Friday night's quarterfinals with a victory over Triton College's Asher Eichert. The match was stopped at the 1:13 mark when Collins lifted Eichert and returned him to the mat and Eichert suffered a dislocated elbow that forced him to drop out of the tournament.
In the quarterfinals, Collins had his first true test of the National Tournament. He was faced with Devin Crawl of Northeast Oklahoma A&M, the #4 ranked wrestler at 174 lbs. After a scoreless first period, Crawl chose the down position to start the second period. Collins rode him the entire period to collect two minutes of riding time and was able to convert a well-executed tilt into four back points to end the period with a 4-0 lead. Collins took control of the match after earning an escape and then a takedown off a failed attempt from Crawl to throw him. Collins rode Crawl out for the remainder of the match for a dominating 8-0 major decision.
When Saturday's semifinals came, Collins faced seventh ranked Michael Abidin of Nassua College. Abidin scored early with a takedown on the edge of the mat in the first twenty seconds after a failed shot attempt by Collins. Both wrestlers traded shot attempts and found themselves in a scramble position, but the period ended with Abidin leading 2-1. Collins amassed over a minute and thirty seconds riding time in the second period, but Abidin extended his lead to 3-1 with an escape in the last twenty seconds. In the third period Collins didn't waste any time and escaped in under ten seconds to bring the match to 3-2. As time dwindled down, Collins had enough riding time that the match would end in a tie and the wrestlers would be faced with overtime if no one scored. With twelve seconds left Abidin attempted to end the match with a winning takedown. Collins stuffed Abidin's head into the mat, denied his shot attempt, and circled behind Abidin, who stood up. With three seconds on the clock, Collins lifted Abidin and returned him to the mat and the official signed two points for a takedown and a Collins win.
That left Collins with one last test in front of him: number one ranked Dylan Reel of Clackamas Community College, a NJCAA All-American in 2015. In a match that was predicted to be over in the first period, the odds were against Collins. Reel is known for his high powered throws and ability to end a match with a feet-to-back throw that usually ends in a pin.
Reel struck first as the two faced off, getting a takedown that took both wrestlers off the mat in the first ten seconds of the championship match. Collins earned an escape in under five seconds on the restart to make it 2-1 in favor of Reel. Reel scored again with a takedown and Collins escaped again before the end of the first period, when Reel led 4-2. The score remained at 4-2 during an uneventful second period after Reel picked to stay in the neutral position.
The third period was a show for all who were watching. Collins picked the down position and quickly escaped to make the score 4-3. Collins then picked up his pace and was the aggressor, taking several shot attempts. Reel used that against Collins and took Collins down to make the match 6-3, but Collins escaped to make it 6-4, but not before Reel had gotten a minute and one second riding time. With under thirty seconds left Collins took a shot and got to Reel's legs. After a bit of a scramble Collins locked up a cradle and flung Reel to the edge, but was not awarded the takedown, and did not have Reel far enough on his back to get back points. On the edge of the mat Collins readjusted and secured the takedown with five seconds left as the wrestlers were called out of bounds. Collins held Reel down for the last five seconds, and Reel lost riding time to make the score 6-6 … the match was going to overtime!
Right off the whistle Collins was the aggressor and pushed the pace, trying to find an opening to get the winning takedown. Twice Collins got to Reel's legs, but could not finish. With fifteen seconds left, Collins took what he hoped to be the winning attempt, and Reel countered and converted the attempt into his own takedown and ended the match, leaving Collins to finish as the National Runner-up. Collins was a National Qualifier in 2017 at 184 lbs.
ECC Head Wrestling Coach Cole Spree said, "Anthony had a great tournament and competed like we all knew he was capable of. It was great to see him make the national finals, but hard to see him fall just short of his dream."
Collins plan to transfer Limestone College after he graduates this spring.
Lawrence takes 3rd Place
Steven "Bam" Lawrence (157) ended his Ellsworth career as a two-time NJCAA All-American with a third place finish at this year's National Tournament. Lawrence's lone loss at the tournament was to eventual champion and #1 ranked Kade Sander of Barton Community College, in the semifinals. All five of Lawrence's wins came by fall; he pinned Shaylan Loomis of Lincoln College, Shae Chafin of Labbette Community College, Thomas Stevenson of North Idaho College, and third ranked Isaiah Diggs of Clackamas Community College.
Folley finishes in 6th Place
Justin Folley (133) wrapped up his Ellsworth wrestling career as a two-time NJCAA All-American with a sixth place finish. Folley, for the second year in a row, found himself in the semifinal round on Saturday morning. Folley fell to national runner-up and third ranked Munhbat Baterdene of Northwest Kansas Technical College. On day one, Folley notched wins over Jordin James of Iowa Lakes Community College and Jack Karstetter Northeast Oklahoma A&M, both by pin.
Coach Spree commented, "Justin and Steven both were able to obtain the All-American status for a second time. This is not an easy feat and it was awesome seeing them accomplish this."
Moreno finishes in 8th Place
Javier Moreno (125) also capped off his Ellsworth career with an All-American performance. In his first trip to the national tournament, Moreno made the most of it, going 4-3 over the three days. Moreno's four wins came by way of a pin (3:55) over Austin Poch of Joliet Junior College in the first round, and then three straight victories Friday on the consolation bracket to secure his All-American status. He garnered a 6-4 decision over Stefhan Caple of Thaddeus Stevens College, a dominating 14-1 major decision over returning All-American Emanuel Browne of Iowa Western Community College, and a 12-1 major decision over Noah Bauer of Rochester Community & Technical College. All of Moreno's losses at the national tournament came to fellow All-Americans (Jaxon Cole, Western Wyoming - 3rd; Boo Dryden, NE Ok. A&M - 4th; Esko Walker, North Idaho College - 7th).
"It was neat to see a sophomore like Javier Moreno get on the stand after all of the battling he has done to earn his position," said Coach Spree. "He has made a ton of sacrifices and it was nice to see him rewarded."
Other ECC National qualifiers
Keegan Powers (141): Powers went 1-2 in his first trip to the National Tournament. His win was a 13-4 major decision over Tre Pone of Labette Community College. Powers plans to transfer to a four-year school to continue his education and wrestling career.
Josh Adams (149): Adams went 0-2 in his second trip to the National Tournament. Adams plans to transfer to a four-year school to continue his education and wrestling career.
Myron Crawford (165): Crawford went 0-2 in his first trip to Nationals. Crawford will return to Ellsworth looking to repeat his trip to Nationals.
Jordan Shahrikian (184): Shahrikian was one match shy of becoming an All-American in his first trip to the National Tournament, going 2-2. His victories were a 10-4 decision over Sergio Crespo of Niagara County Community College, and a 9-3 decision over Dominic Gallo of Harper College. Both of Shahrikian's losses came to All-Americans (Ottis Peeler, Iowa Western - 4th; Alex Kaufmann, NE Ok. A&M - 5th).
Tim Young (197): Young went 2-2 in his second trip to the National Tournament with wins over Dylan Johnson of Cowley by disqualification and Sedrack Sheppard of NIACC in a 3-0 decision. Young will continue his education and wrestling career at Old Dominion University.
Coach Spree summarized, "Overall it was a tough tournament. Some guys wrestled really well and some may not have had the days they anticipated. I'm proud of the guys and the work they put in this season. We had a great season, but unfortunately, in our sport, becoming an All-American is determined on one day."