2024 NWCA Multi-Divisional National Championship

10 Big Things That Happened At The NWCA National Duals

10 Big Things That Happened At The NWCA National Duals

The NWCA National Duals wrapped up Saturday in Cedar Falls with a series of drama-packed championship showdowns, highlighted by Iowa's down-to-the-wire win.

Jan 7, 2024 by Andy Hamilton
10 Big Things That Happened At The NWCA National Duals

North Central coach Joe Norton says he’ll lose sleep over the 109-pound match between Jaslynn Gallegos and Iowa’s Ava Bayless during the National Duals finals. Gallegos, the 2023 NCWWC (NCAA) champion at 116 pounds got the nod over teammate Kendra Ryan — even though Ryan teched Bayless at US Nationals a few weeks prior. 

Bayless trailed with 30 seconds remaining when she secured a takedown and a caution and one when Gallegos shuffled out of bounds while her back was exposed. The Cardinal star could have won the match with a takedown but, as Norton learned later, Gallegos thought she was winning 5-5 on criteria. 

Iowa won the dual 21-20 even though North Central won six of 10 matches.

“We want to have 109 back,” Norton said. “We should win that match but we didn’t. Our women wrestled so great. You’re upset that you lost the dual but it’s hard to be upset with the women when they wrestled that well.” 

Second-seeded Iowa showed its resolve against the top seed. Sterling Dias (101 pounds) defeated the 2023 NCWWC champion Maddie Avila 11-0, Marlynne Deede (155 pounds) secured a fall over London Houston, and Kylie Welker (170 pounds) won the match of the tournament: an 11-3 victory over three-time NCWWC champion Yelena Makoyed who returned for her final semester of eligibility. 

More importantly, Iowa earned a team point in every match — even the losses. Freestyle doesn’t use traditional college folkstyle scoring, so a technical point during a loss means one point for your team.

And that’s what ultimately decided the dual. North Central’s Traeh Haynes won 6-1 over Iowa’s Jaycee Foeller in the final match. An activity clock point was awarded to Foeller late in the second period. North Central would have won if the dual was 20-20 since the Cardinals won more matches (6-4).

A single match point ultimately made the difference, and it was enough to give Iowa a National Duals title inside the UNI-Dome during its inaugural season.

“Every point mattered,” Iowa coach Clarissa Chun said. “Without that point from Jaycee’s match, it would have been flipped. Wrestling is hard. Sometimes wrestling is unforgiving. Our women know how to take care of business.

“You fight the whole six minutes. That’s what they’re told. Our team is amazing.” 

— Kyle Klingman

Life Ends Grand View's Incredible NAIA Dual Run

For the past 13 years, Grand View has enjoyed the grandest view in all of college wrestling when it comes to dual meet success. The Vikings won 116 consecutive duals — the longest streak in college wrestling history — before they lost in November of 2022 against Iowa State. 

Against NAIA competition, the Vikings entered Saturday afternoon with 162 consecutive wins and hadn’t lost since 2011. 

Omi Acosta and Cole Manion had been on both sides of Grand View’s dominance — as competitors for the Vikings and adversaries who watched the Vikings ran their National Duals title streak to 11. 

On Saturday, however, Acosta’s Life University program — with Manion captaining the ship in Cedar Falls — took down Grand View 24-17 in the NAIA championship dual. 

Life won six bouts against the Vikings, including five of the first seven to seize control. In that stretch, the Running Eagles picked up a first-period fall from Jaden New at 165, a technical fall from Thaddeus Long at 133 and a major decision from national champ Brevin Balmeceda at 157. 

"We have nothing but respect for those guys over there," Manion said. "They're a great program. A lot of our coaching staff wrestled there, and I think it's a special thing to have two programs — one where everybody graduated from and the graduates — where we're kind of head and shoulders above everybody competing against each other. I think that's a special thing and I've got nothing but love and respect for those guys over there. (Grand View) coach (Nick) Mitchell, coach (Paul) Reedy, those guys were mentors to me and I loved my time there and I really enjoyed it but now it's focusing on ourselves and trying to figure out how good we can be." 

— Andy Hamilton

Three Reigning NAIA Champs Tumble Saturday

The clincher for Life came at 197, where Demarco Lee knocked off returning national champion Owen Braungardt 4-2 to put the title dual out of reach. It was the third instance of the day in which a reigning NAIA national champion went down. 

Grand View’s Aden Reeves kicked off the title dual by scoring four takedowns in a 13-4 major decision against returning champ Brandon Orum. 

In the third-place dual, Menlo’s Kanaipono Tapia posted a 13-3 major against Southeastern’s Salvador Silva, last year’s national champ at 157.  

— Andy Hamilton

Knights Prevail In Battle Of The 'Burgs

Wartburg raced out to an early lead and then handed it over to a pair of reigning national champions who helped the Knights bring home another victory in the latest chapter in the Battle of The ‘Burgs. 

Brett Birchman, Joe Pins and Kyler Romero launched the Knights out to an 11-point lead before Zane Mulder and Massoma Endene put Augsburg away in a 21-19 Wartburg win in the Division III title dual. 

After Birchman’s victory at 125, Pins scored a technical fall at 133 and Romero handled returning national champion Sam Stuhl 11-4 at 141. 

“He was locked in mentally and didn’t give that guy anything,” Wartburg coach Eric Keller said. “And that’s after getting rode hard for a period. A lot of good things there, but I think that was kind of a momentum thing.”

Wartburg’s returning champs took care of business for the Knights. Mulder downed third-ranked Seth Goetzinger 7-2 at 174 and Endene posted a 13-3 major decision at 197 that clinched the title for the Knights. 

— Andy Hamilton

Back To Work For Wartburg

Wartburg upped its National Duals title tally to 13 with the win against Augsburg. It was the seventh time the Knights have defeated the Auggies in the finals of the duals. The two D3 superpower programs have combined to win 21 of the 22 Division III titles at the NWCA National Duals. The lone exception came two years ago when both programs pulled out of the tournament amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This is an important event for us — always has been,” Keller said. “Getting the opportunity to wrestle in a dual format for a championship, you’ve got everybody behind you, pulling for you, it helps elevate everything, and all the teachable moments throughout the weekend as things are unfolding. But to go out there and fight and do what we did right there, I’m extremely proud of them. 

“But it’s hard because it’s January and you know how much work there is still to be done and it’s back to the drawing board tomorrow and that’s what I told these guys. Let’s enjoy this, this is awesome, but we’ve got to go right back to work. That’s reality.” 

There’s perhaps no better reminder for the Knights than what transpired a year ago. It was Augsburg that took home the crown last January at the National Duals. Three weeks later, Wartburg downed the Auggies in the annual dual showdown. 

The two programs will collide again Jan. 26 in Minneapolis. 

“This is a step forward,” Keller said. “This isn’t the end-all, be-all. This is a step forward and it’s a reminder that the things that we’ve been doing are starting to work.” 

— Andy Hamilton

Central Oklahoma Rolls In D2 Final

The lineup pieces came together for Central Oklahoma and that spelled trouble for the Bronchos’ challengers Saturday. Central Oklahoma went 16-4 in matches on the tournament’s final day and won nine bouts in a 37-3 demolition of Augustana in the D2 championship dual. 

Guy Clevenger kicked things off for Central Oklahoma with a 1-0 win against top-ranked Jaxson Rohman at 125 before Shaun Muse and Dylan Lucas registered opening-minute pins for the Bronchos at 133 and 141. 

“That was huge because this weekend we struggled a little bit in the lower weights — and a lot of that’s because of the competition in matchups,” Central Oklahoma coach Todd Steidley said. “To jump out the way we did tonight was huge. It gave us a lot of momentum going into our big guys, our more experienced guys. We feel if we can win two or three matches in the first five we have a great chance. When we jump out like we did tonight, it was really big.”  

With national champions Dalton Abney and Shawn Streck anchoring the back end of the Central Oklahoma lineup, most of the title dual suspense was gone after less than 10 minutes of wrestling. 

“We were fortunate to get everybody back for this weekend,” Steidley said. “We’ve had four or five guys out for the first semester.

“I’m really proud of the way they finished. We got better every dual meet and that’s important. … Really proud of the way our guys wrestled and continued to improve and worked hard and showed a lot of grit.” 

— Andy Hamilton

Senior Salute

Central Oklahoma blew away the field last March in Cedar Rapids when the Bronchos finished 43 points ahead of second-place Lander at the NCAA Championships. A couple weeks later, Abney, Streck and All-American Anthony Des Vigne informed Steidley they were returning for another season at UCO. 

The trio combined to go 12-0 with four technical falls and two major decisions. Streck was the most dominant of the bunch, registering three techs and major while outscoring his opponents by a combined 74-13 count. 

“We’re fortunate to have those guys in our program,” Steidley said. “Great leadership, just good people. Really good guys, good teammates. We’ve got a lot of young guys, too, and they’ve done a good job leading them, and I just enjoy being around them.” 

— Andy Hamilton

Loving Life

Top-seeded Life University won its second NAIA Women’s National Duals title in three seasons thanks to a 25-21 finals victory over second-seeded Menlo College. The McBryde sisters — Zaynah (136), Jamilah (143), and Latifah (155) — came up big by scoring 12 team points for the Running Eagles. Returning national finalist Sarah Savidge picked up a fall at 130 over All-American Louisa Schwab for a crucial win in the dual. 

Head coach Ashley Flavin also became a mother recently, which means less sleep. Flavin and her husband, Christian, coach the women’s team, so it was a family affair the entire weekend with their son Kit.

“I don’t sleep at all,” Flavin said. “We’re lucky that our administration is supportive. Our girls love Kit. They’re always helping him and holding him. The parents love him. It takes a village.”

— Kyle Klingman

McKendree Takes Down King

All eyes were on the North Central vs Iowa dual, but the third-place NCAA women's dual between King and McKendree was just as intriguing. King won the previous two National Duals tournaments while McKendree won the first three NCWWC titles (2020-22). 

The Bearcats topped the Tornado, 29-16, by winning seven of 10 matches, including a forfeit at 155. King won the biggest match of the dual, though — a 2-2 win at 130 pounds by Spanish World teamer Victoria Baez Dilone over three-time NCWWC champion Cam Guerin. 

— Kyle Klingman

Texas Wesleyan Rises Up

Texas Wesleyan was the surprise team in the NAIA women's tournament. The sixth-seeded Rams finished third with a 24-19 win over third-seeded Grand View in the quarterfinals and a 39-10 win over fourth-seed Providence in the consolation finals.

— Kyle Klingman