The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV’s Josh Kenny wins wrestling National Championship in program’s first season since 1992

Courtesy GVSU Athletics

In their inaugural season, the No. 13 ranked Grand Valley State University men’s wrestling team (13-7) sent four wrestlers to compete in the 2024 NCAA Division II National Championships in Wichita, Kansas, as redshirt sophomore Josh Kenny won the National Championship for the 174-pound weight class.

The tournament was played on March 15 and 16, where Kenny, sophomore Chris Donathan, redshirt sophomore Wyatt Miller, and senior Seth Konynenbelt competed against the best wrestlers in the country for a national title. To qualify for the event, each wrestler placed top three in their weight class at the regional tournament on March 2 at West Liberty University in West Virginia.

The first wrestler to compete for the Lakers was the No. 3 seeded Donathan in the 149-pound class. Ranked third heading into the tournament, Donathan took on Devan Moore from Newberry College in the first round. Donathan battled for a close win by decision. For his second match, Donathan faced No. 6 seed Dylan Brown from the University of Central Oklahoma. Donathan scored first with a takedown, but a late turnaround by Brown led to Donathan’s second loss of the season.

However, this loss did not knock Donathan out of the tournament yet, as wrestlers are put in the
“Wrestleback Bracket” after their first loss. Next for Donathan, he faced Dean Noble from Western Colorado University. Although another low-scoring match ensued, Donathan ultimately fell to Noble with a score of 9-3. Finishing the season with a 25-3 record, Donathan had lost just one game heading into the NCAA Championship Tournament.

The next Laker to compete was No. 4 seed Josh Kenny in the 174-pound class. He began his run with a win by major decision over Johnathan Parrilla from Millersville University. Kenny followed this win with a lengthy overtime match against Matt Ortiz from McKendree University. In this low-scoring match, Kenny came out on top with a late takedown, advancing him to the semifinals.

Closing in on the title round, Kenny said he focuses on himself and his mindset before each match.

“Winning was of course the biggest thing, but to do so, I just have to have fun,” Kenny said. “I choose to go into each match without hate, but instead I trust in myself and just try and dominate. I wrestle because I love to do so and for no other reason.”

Kenny would next claim a 17-2 win by technical fall against eighth-seeded Brody Hemauer from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. This win advanced Kenny to the final round. Kenny, a native of Grandville, Michigan, was the first Lakers to do so since 1988.

In the title match, Kenny faced Anthony Des Vigne, the second wrestler that a GVSU player faced from UCO. The first period would end up scoreless, with both wrestlers putting everything they had left into this match. Kenny went on to score four points early into the second period that put him narrowly ahead. As the second period was closing out, Kenny pinned Des Vigne to win the NCAA DII National Championship.

Kenny ended the season with a 32-5 record, as well as earning All-American honors on top of winning the national title in the 174-pound class.

After reaching the pinnacle of success, Kenny said he aims to continue to have high goals going forward.

“I definitely want to make it back next year, but I mainly want to focus on helping others,” Kenny said. “I have hit my biggest goal, so it is now my responsibility to try and help others hit their goals, and hopefully that is them winning a title. We are a team first and I will always put myself second to that.”

Kenny became GVSU’s first wrestler since 1988 to become a National Champion, when 118-pound Roger Singleton did so. The GVSU wrestling program, which had been disbanded in 1992, added another National Championship under their belt in its first season returning. 

Still, two more Lakers were yet to compete for a title of their own. The unseeded Konyenbelt was up next for GVSU, representing the 184-pound class. He began his portion of the tournament against Cole Casilio from Gannon University. After a tough few minutes, Konynenbelt fell to Casilio, bumping him into the Wrestleback Bracket. He then took on No. 6 seed Bryce Fitzpatrick from St. Cloud State University for his second match. With another slow start, Konyenbelt also fell to Fitzpatrick, knocking him out of the tournament.

As the only senior on the roster for the Lakers, Konyenbelt wrapped up his career with a 27-16 record on the season.

The final wrestler representing GVSU was the 197-pound Wyatt Miller. In his first match, he faced No. 5 seed Dakota Rodgers from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he lost 4-3 in a low-scoring battle.

Courtesy GVSU Athletics

Being bumped down to the Wrestleback Bracket, Miller first wrestled against No. 4 seed Caden Steffon from Southwest Minnesota State University to stay. Miller quickly scored three points on Steffon and held this small lead until the end of the third period, where Miller pulled away for the win.

No. 6 seed Tereus Henry from Fort Hays State University was up next, where a late overtime takedown gave Miller another victory. Following back-to-back wins, Miller’s next opponent was Max Ramberg from Augustana University. However, Ramberg quickly outwrestled Miller into a loss by major decision. 

Miller, who finished in eighth place with a final record of 31-8, was also awarded as an All-American.

With four GVSU wrestlers competing in the tournament, head coach Joey Simcoe decided to bring along a few of the other members of the team who he thinks may also soon be competing for a national title. 

“We had a few of the guys travel down to watch us at nationals and it was a great experience for them to see what it is like to compete on the biggest stage,” Simcoe said. “My goal is to make sure that everyone is ready for nationals once they make it, regardless of if they had been there before or not. We are going to keep our high standards and guarantee that we will be prepared for any match.”

With their first full season of competition behind them, Simcoe looks forward to what this squad has to offer down the road.

“Nothing can describe how proud I am of these guys,” Simcoe said. “It was by far the most fun ride from start to finish. Once we began growing not as a team, but as a family, that was when we really started to see our best wrestling.”

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