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Grand View wins conference mat title

ATCHISON, Kan. — Top-ranked Grand View scored a fifth consecutive Heart of America Conference title here Saturday behind two individual championship performances from Shea Ruffridge and Tanner Abbas.

The Vikings racked up 209.5 points, distancing themselves from Missouri Valley and Baker.

The NAIA National Championships return to Kansas with Wichita hosting the event March 6-7. Grand View cruised to its eighth consecutive national team title last year in Des Moines, scoring 219 points — 134 ahead of Lindsey Wilson.

Ruffridge rolled through his day on the mats, earning two falls and a 7-3 decision in the 133-pound finals over Gresh Jones from Dickinson State. The reedshirt freshman received a bye in the first round before pinning Tommy Truong of Central Methodist in 64 seconds and sticking Zane Baugh of Baker in 2:04.

“It was a great feeling,” Ruffridge said. “I waited all of last year for my chance to represent this team and now I’m just trying to make the most of it.”

Ruffridge, a state champion as a senior at Pocahontas Area, is 21-5 overall. He is ranked second behind Warner Pacific’s Austin Wallace-Lister.

“I haven’t had to change a thing (over the season),” Ruffridge said. “The focus all year has been to control what I can control, and to focus on what’s in front of me.

“I’m definitely going into nationals with a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

With his brother, Reed Abbas securing his first high school state medal in Iowa earlier in the day, Tanner Abbas was dominating here. The redshirt freshman moved to 28-8 with a 10-2 major decision over Missouri Valley’s Richard Pocock in the finals at 149 pounds.

“I’ve been excited to compete at nationals for a long time and I’ve put a lot of work in to get where I am,” Abbas said. “Nationals is just a celebration of all the work that has been put in and I’m looking forward to getting another opportunity to compete in two weeks.”

Abbas opened with a fall over Levi Green of Baker in 6:03 before scoring an 8-2 decision vs. Missouri Valley’s Casper Sherow. He is ranked fifth at his weight class.

“Wrestling felt great,” Abbas said. “It was just another tournament and I can feel myself making progress each time I compete. It felt good to beat some quality opponents and help my team secure another conference championship.”

Justin Portillo, a former state champion at Clarion-Goldfield/Dows, placed second for the Vikings at 125 pounds and also advanced to nationals. He is currently 21-6 on the season.

Portillo, who received a first round bye, picked up two falls in the quarters and semis. He is the top-ranked wrestler at 125.

Former Iowa Central wrestler Kendrick Jones placed first at 184 pounds, while ex-Tritons Tyree Sutton and Brian Stanford are both on the roster along with Emmetsburg grad Spencer Griffin.