CSU club wrestling wins conference title, qualifies 11 for NCWA Nationals

Tyler Johnson

The Colorado State club wrestling team won its first conference title under head coach Kendall DeJonge last weekend at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Great Plains Conference Tournament.

CSU had 11 wrestlers finish on the podium, including four champions, qualifying them for the NCWA Division II Nationals. The men will be joined by the team’s two female wrestlers, juniors KaMele Sanchez and Kendal Davis, who already qualified.

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People celebrate with medals around their necks
The Colorado State club wrestling team celebrates its conference title at the Great Plains Conference Tournament in Wayne, Neb. on Feb. 24. (Photo courtesy of CSU wrestling)

This was one of the best conference showings for the Rams and their first title in the GPC all without any seniors on the team. The Rams were lead by four wrestlers who have all had successful seasons. Freshman Louie Romero Jr. (133 pounds) and sophomores Taylor Dawal (157 pounds), Colin Saiz (157 pounds) and Maxwell Furst (184 pounds) all took first, scoring critical team points for the Rams. CSU won the tournament with a team score of 85.5, five points ahead of second-place finisher Iowa State. 

“We all knew we had something special early in the season,” DeJonge said. “The wrestlers and coaches have put in the work to get better all season and the results speak for themselves.”

CSU will look to have a male All-American for the first time since 2010, and the team’s goals are even higher than that. For DeJonge, the goal is to get as many wrestlers scoring and on the podium as possible. If they do that, there is reason to believe that the Rams will be looking at a top-10 finish at finals to cap off one of the best years in program history.

“I think our expectations have (risen) from last year,” Saiz said. “We have been preparing all season for this.”

The men aren’t the only wrestlers looking to prove themselves at nationals as Davis and Sanchez are no strangers to national tournaments on the women’s side. Sanchez took third at nationals two years ago with All-American honors and Davis came up just short of that goal last year. Both are ready to show that their previous success was no fluke. They continue to work hard even with limited matches.

Though it can be difficult for Davis and Sanchez to find matches, the pair recently traveled down to Texas to get ready for nationals. Davis took first and Sanchez took third at the Mean Green Women’s Invitational against some of the best female wrestlers in the country. The two also are important vocal leaders on the team, cheering on their teammates at conference even though they automatically qualified and did not participate.

The team has put in the physical work to prepare for this moment and now the focus turns to the mental preparation. With such a young team, very few of the wrestlers have experience with wrestling on the big stage. For this reason, DeJonge says the focus for the next weeks will be on rest and fundamentals.

“We’ve been working on our conditioning all year,” Furst said. “We need to work on our mat awareness and problems we’ve had in the past.”

The 13 national qualifiers will next travel to Allen, Texas for the NCWA Division II Nationals on March 8-10.

Collegian sports reporter Tyler Johnson can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TylerGjohnson20.

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