Iowa Central in 2nd

Six Tritons alive at NJCAA tournament; five are semifinalists

Photo by Kirk Hardcastle, for The Messenger Iowa Central’s Todd Small competes for the Tritons in a 133-pound match at the national tournament in Council Bluffs.

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Friday’s opening rounds of the NJCAA National Wrestling Championships left much to be desired for Iowa Central head coach Luke Moffitt.

Yes, the Tritons sent a tournament-high five into Saturday’s semifinal round. However, Moffitt watched as four others had their seasons come to an end.

Iowa Central, the defending national champion, is currently second overall with 86.5 points. Top-ranked Northeast Oklahoma leads with 99, as they have two in the semis and seven more alive competing for medals.

“The opening day is always a tough day because it decides how many you are going to have on the awards podium,” Moffitt said. “We had a lot of close matches late that didn’t go our way and that just kills you because it’s taking guys off the podium that could score you advancement points and bonus points.

“But we’ve done it before with six guys, and it can happen again.”

Moving into the final four for the Tritons were defending national champion Todd Small, Eric Clarke, Ethan Karsten, Jose Rodriguez and Tyree Sutton, with returning placewinner Antrez Clagon staying alive on the consolation side.

Championship semifinals and consolation quarterfinals begin the action Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Placing matches start at 1:15 p.m. with championship finals scheduled for 7 p.m.

Clackamas, with four in the semis and three more on the consolation side, is third followed by Iowa Western, Ellsworth and Western Wyoming.

“We’ve got to get on a roll like NEO did (on Saturday) and have them struggle,” Moffitt said. “We’ll need some other teams to knock (Northeast Oklahoma) wrestlers down to seventh place matches because if they get hot again, there is no way we’ll catch them.”

Small received a bye in the opening round and earned a major decision over Justin Hershberger of Pratt, 16-3. He advanced to his second consecutive semifinal with a 16-7 major decision over Barton’s Gage Gomez.

Clarke picked up his first win in the round of 16, pinning Spartanburg’s Tramone Jenkins in 4:45. He followed that up with a 7-3 decision to reach the semis over Kevin Kissane from Pratt.

Karsten pinned Eric Dobbins from Triton in 1:32 and stuck St. Clair’s Brandon Turner in just 33 seconds. In the quarters, he topped Thomas Stevenson of North Idaho, 8-2.

“Todd, Eric and Ethan are really coming out and wrestling good, smart matches,” Moffitt said. “They are scoring us lots of bonus points along with Jose and Tyree.”

Rodriguez claimed two falls in his first two matches, pinning Labette’s Zachary Pitts in 62 second and doing the same to Lincoln’s Kyle Goin in 5:59.

In the quarterfinals, Rodriguez pulled out a 9-5 decision over Barton’s Gage McBride.

“Jose has a defending national champion from NEO in Wyatt Jordan in the semis, so that is a huge matchup for the team race,” Moffitt said. “He’s got to wrestle like he has been and keep it close late.”

Sutton had two quick falls, pinning Alex Cantu of Labette in 50 seconds and Hunter Harnish from Mercyhurst in 3:29. His path to the semis continued through pins, sticking Triton’s Ryan Cone in just 22 seconds in the quarters.

“Tyree has just been a man on a mission,” Moffitt said. “He came right out from his first match and has just been wrestling great.”

Clagon claimed a major decision over Nick Suk from Middlesex, 15-6, and got by Western Wyoming’s Connor Kirkland, 3-2. A returning placewinner, Clagon fell to North Idaho’s Levi Perry, 4-3.

He was the lone Triton to remain alive on the consolation side thanks to his 14-5 major decision over Camden’s Matt O’Donnell.

Kevin Radcliff, Riley Palmer, Brady Vogel and Gunner Cash all bowed out after two losses.

Palmer topped Tyler Garcia of Cloud to start his 149-pound tournament, 11-8, before falling to Nassau’s Christopher Meloni, 5-2. He bounced back with a pin vs. Lackawanna’s Bartley Novak in 6:01 and a major decision over Jimmy Knapp from Harper.

His season came to an end with a 5-3 loss to Northeast Oklahoma’s Kendon Lee.

Vogel had a technical fall vs. Shawn Dent from Cowley in the opening round, 21-6, and followed up with a pin of Edwin Aguilera from Middlesex in 1:57. He fell in the quarters to Barton’s David Kelly, 7-6.

In the consolations, Vogel lost to Western Wyoming’s Matt Hebel, 7-4.

“It’s so tough anytime you lose in the quarters to come right back 30 minutes later to try and stay alive,” Moffitt said. “But you have to do those things and fight your way through the tough matches. That’s what we preach every single year.”

Cash, who earned a wild-card after regionals, claimed a decision vs. Andrew Wade of Spartanburg (9-5) and a technical fall vs. Joshua Jean-Baptiste from Sullivan, 24-8. He fell to top-ranked Damian Trujillo from North Idaho in the quarterfinals, 9-4, and to Darryl Aiello of Clackamas in the consys, 11-6.

Radcliff was knocked out of the competition at 125 pounds after back-to-back losses. Radcliff pinned Hunter Lajiness of Henry Ford in the first round, but lost by major decision to Nodir Safavrov of Northwest Wyoming and by decision to NIACC’s Mark Gonzalez.


Team Standings

1. Northeast Oklahoma, 99; 2. Iowa Central, 86.5; 3. Clackamas, 75; 4. Iowa Western, 62; 5. (tie) Ellsworth, 61; 5. (tie) Western Wyoming, 61; 7. North Idaho, 57; 8. Northwest Wyoming, 52; 9. Barton, 49; 10. Nassau, 40.

Saturday’s semifinal round matchups for Iowa Central

133 pounds — Todd Small, ICCC vs. Ottis Rollins, Colby.

141 pounds — Eric Clarke, ICCC vs. Christian Kanzler, Lincoln.

157 pounds — Ethan Karsten, ICCC vs. Isaiah Diggs, Clackamas.

165 pounds — Jose Rodriguez, ICCC vs. Wyatt Jordan, Northeast Oklahoma.

197 pounds — Tyree Sutton, ICCC vs. Amos Daigbe, Highline.

Saturday’s consolation round matchup for Iowa Central

184 pounds — Antrez Clagon, ICCC vs. Joseph White, Northwest Kansas Tech.