The road to nationals starts Saturday for the Colorado State club wrestling team when it plays host to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association’s Great Plains Conference Tournament.
The field of seven teams consists of CSU, Colorado, Air Force Academy Prep, Wayne State College, Iowa State, Iowa and Winona State.
This tournament provides all teams with a chance at qualifying for the NCWA National Tournament, which will be held in Kissimmee, Florida and begins March 10. The top three wrestlers in each weight class will qualify. CSU head coach Kendall DeJonge is optimistic he can send some of his guys to the promised land in Florida.
“We’re hoping to bring a hand full of kids to the national tournaments,” DeJonge said. “Mike Brungardt and Andrew Gilles each have a really good chance.”
Though the two compete in much different weight classes, Brungardt at 125 pounds and Gilles at 235 pounds, they share the same goal of qualifying for nationals in back-to-back seasons.
Just last week, future president of the club Mike Brungardt stood by and watched while rival CU swept the Rams in their own building. Despite this, the Rams confidence has not been struck.
“Were going to see some of these same kids on the 28th,” CSU assistant coach Barry Bernstein said. “I believe we’ll do better.”
The Rams have been working on sharpening their technique while nursing a few injuries this past week. They hope to have gotten the most out of the four practices they have had since the meet with CU.
“We won’t be doing as much hard stuff,” DeJonge said. “But, I think right now, mentally getting that translation from how we work out in practice to how we work out in meets is the goal.”
CSU will face some stiff competition Saturday. Air Force is ranked No. 15 in the NCWA, and Wayne State is right behind at No. 17.
“Wayne State is easily the favorite,” DeJonge said. “They’re extremely deep and talented.”
Air Force dominated the meet last year, and went on to crown three national champions. Though still a talented bunch, it would surprise many if they could repeat what they did last year.
“Air Force prep has some studs, but they don’t have a completely full team,” Dejonge said.
Another squad who likes their chances at taking home the gold is Iowa State. Dejonge attended Iowa State and always enjoys squaring up against his competitive alma mater.
“I could tell you that even an intramural tournament there was competitive,” DeJonge said of his time there. “If you even placed in that you were really good.”
With the talented field of teams, it is sure to be a dog fight.
The tournament is set to begin Saturday at 9 a.m in the South College Gym. Tickets will be sold for $5 to adults and $3 to students. There will be concessions and CSU Wrestling T-shirts sold as well.
Collegian Sports Reporter Eddie Herz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Eddie_Herz