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Portillo Bros Wrestling - Wrestlers of the Week (02.15.24 - 02.21.24)

Portillo Bros Wrestling - Wrestlers of the Week (02.15.24 - 02.21.24)

NAIA Men’s Wrestling Conference Recap:

It was the penultimate weekend for NAIA men’s wrestlers as there were seven conference tournaments going on Friday and Saturday last week to find out who punched their tickets to qualify for NAIA Nationals February 29 - March 2 down in Wichita, Kansas. There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of upsets, and even program history in the making; but everyone one of these wrestlers who wrestled this weekend put it all on the mat and let it FLY. I just want to say on behalf of the Porillo Bros Wrestling we want to congratulate everyone who wrestled and to the ones that qualified for nationals at the end of the month. Even those who didn’t qualify, our hearts are with you and we see how hard you work. Nothing is a given in this sport and 99% of wrestlers end up with their biggest dreams crushed; this is the harsh reality of the world’s toughest sport. With that being said, we are down to 28 wrestlers per weight class that will be heading to the big show for a chance at glory. This week we are doing something a little bit different and looking at all the conferences that happened this weekend and picking our top favorites from each conference to talk about. We won’t highlight necessarily the best or most dominant wrestlers; but instead focus on unranked competitors who truly had to go out there and earn their spots. 

 First we will start off with the Cascade Conference which is by far the toughest conference men’s NAIA wrestling, having seven highly ranked teams in NAIA; the most across all conferences. Cade Gubler of Montana State-Northern was our pick at this conference because he pinned #6 Maximus Zamora of Menlo who has qualified for nationals in the past; previously unranked Gubler placed 5th at the Cascade Conference at 174 and has punched his ticket for nationals. 

Next up we have two big upsets at the Mid-South Conference that we want to honor this week; one being Anthony Pyron of Cumberland. Also at 174, he started off the tournament losing to Cory Cannan of Lindsey Wilson in sudden victory but bounced back and got the next best thing which was 3rd. During the 3rd place match, he beat #8 Gabe Martinez of Campbellville, clinching his ticket for nationals. Wylie Dunn of Cumberlands started off hot by taking out 2023 NJCAA National Champion and currently ranked #9 at 285 Kawaun Deboe of Cumberland. Eventually, Deboe did get revenge for third, but the upset was notable nonetheless. Both will have their chance to break the split in Wichita.

Let’s now jump off to the Appalachian Athletic Conference where we have a newcomer from Arizona State to Reinhardt this season, Domenic DiGena at 141. DiGena has been pretty solid all season long representing his new team, mostly only losing to top-10 wrestlers but hadn’t gotten any signature wins at the weight this season. That was until AAC’s, where he pulled off a big win over #10 Thomas Williams of St. Thomas in the quarterfinals 2-0. DiGena has punched his ticket to his first national tournament. 

Within the Heart of American Conference, we decided to pick a Team of Week because not just one but many of their athletes impressed at the tournament. Graceland University had four wrestlers who punched their ticket to nationals at the end of the month; Jax Wenberg at 141, Juan Lopez at 157, Joseph Teguia at 174, and KJ Fry at 184. At conference, they came runner-up as a team, had an individual champion, and all 12 of the wrestlers placed in the top 6! Zack Mullins was named Head Coach of the Year for the third time. As for the individuals, Wenberg won a tough 141 weight class with two ranked wins. Teguia performed slightly above expectations at 174 by beating #19 and getting third. Lopez and Fry were both surprise qualifiers. Lopez got fifth at 157, with his signature win coming over #18 in the nation. Lopez didn’t automatically qualify, but received an at-large bid for his efforts and punched his ticket to nationals. Fry also got fifth but qualified automatically after winning a wild 13-12 bout against the previous #16 athlete in the nation. Although he didn’t qualify, we would be remiss to not mention Jett Nelson at 165. He won in overtime vs. the #18 wrestler in the nation, then lost in the finals to Cam Hargrove. Top two qualified for nationals at this weight, but Nelson lost the true second match to Diego Machado to just barely miss out on qualifying. Delgado, Anderson, Nyberg, and Schuttler were all one match away from qualifying, as well. 

Now let’s take a look at the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. This one was a tough one for us to pick a wrestler of the week. We decided to go with Gunnar Henderson of Friends, who pulled off a upset in the semifinals match over #14 in the nation 4-3. Henderson got runner-up at conference and punched his ticket to nationals at the end of the month. 

Like I said, there were a lot of conferences this weekend, and next up is the Great Plains Athletic Conference. This conference, we picked out two of our favorite performances. We will start off with Jamestown’s unranked Isaiah Miller, who won the 133 lb championship and punched his ticket to his first nationals as a freshman. He outplaced The Open Mat’s #7 CaRon Watson of Briar Cliff and beat two other guys who earned bids. Lastly was a junior from Doane who was runner up at 174, Cael Jordan. He tech falled a previously ranked opponent in the quarterfinals and then pinned #18 in the semis to punch his ticket to his first NAIA nationals. 

The last one we wanted to talk about is a new wrestling program that just made history this season. This was at the American Midwest/Sooner Conference, where Ian Nelson made history for his college. William Woods just started competing in wrestling this season and has already had their first national qualifier, as well as their first conference champion at the American Midwest/Sooner Conference. Nelson picked up three pins and one decision at conference and has punched his ticket to his first nationals in college. Not a bad start for the first year program!

Nase Picks up the Pace

A junior at TCNJ, Kyle Nase pulled off a big upset over #4 Daniel Haws of Centenary during their dual on Friday where Nase won 8-2 over Haws. During his time at TCNJ Nase has yet to qualify for nationals, but this win over a top-5 opponent should boost his confidence that he can qualify for nationals. This likely won’t be the last time these two could face each other because they are both in the same regional. Let’s see if  Nase can keep this high pace on and qualify for nationals this year.

National Champ Returning to Form

Your 2022 DI National Champion at 141 Zeth Brower of Lander has made a big change in possibly his final season representing the Bearcats  in going up to 149 this season. Last year, Brower placed 5th at 141 at nationals. Brower has been off to a great start during the second half of the season only having one loss behind his back at this new weight class. Over the weekend he did pick up two top-10 wins over ranked wrestlers at the Conference Carolinas Championships. During their dual with Newberry, Brower pinned the #8 Devan Moore in 1:27. Then, his team faced UNC-Pembroke where he picked another big win over #10 Jake Piccirilli 4-3. The Open Mat rankings accounted for these wins by moving him from  #14 to #8. Champions usually find a way to get it done in March, regardless of how the regular season went. This is a sign Brower is headed back in the right direction.


Written By Justin Portillo & Joshua Portillo
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