GVSU wrestlers place fifth at National Duals

GVSUs RJ Smith

Courtesy / Katie Haynes

GVSU’s RJ Smith

Mark Washburn

Battle cries between mat rats echoed in the Northwest Georgia Trade & Convention Center over the weekend at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) National Duals in Dalton, Ga.

Members of the Grand Valley State club wrestling team were on a mission with their minds set not only on performing well individually, but also in taking home the team title. The Lakers were seeded fifth entering the tournament, but that is exactly where they finished in the National Duals. Liberty University finished first.

GVSU started hot by decimating their first two opponents in pool play. In round one on Friday, GVSU topped Ohio State, 48-6. In the second round, the Lakers fought off Maryland-Baltimore County 48-11 to win pool C. With that, the Lakers were able to head into bracket play undefeated.

“Being ranked number five going in we were set up to do well the first day of wrestling. We were pretty confident we could put those teams away early,” said junior Eric Dietz (184).

In the championship bracket, the Lakers squared off against Toledo and were able to grapple confidently, earning a 49-3 victory. The Lakers claimed 10 weight classes in that dual.

Next up was the toughest battle of the weekend: University of Central Florida. UCF came ready to compete, and finished off the Lakers 34-10. Just three Lakers were able to claim victories in the dual.

Lukas Klein (141), Bailey Bischer (157) and Gabe Stepanovich (165) all won their individual contests against UCF.

“We knew going in we would be in a real battle in our quarterfinal. We’ve carried a healthy rivalry with UCF for years and looked forward to the match,” said GVSU coach Rick Bolhuis. “We were not able to create enough opportunities and make enough breaks to come out on top.”

Following the loss, GVSU had a chance to fight for fifth place in the tournament. The Lakers got hot once again, toppling the University of North Florida. GVSU won eight of 11 weight classes in that victory. Then in the fifth-place dual, GVSU topped the Marion Military Institute soundly, 41-14, again winning eight weight classes.

With that, the Lakers left the mat in fifth place.

“(We) refocused very well and dominated the remaining teams to prove we are one of the elite teams in the NCWA — and not far from the teams who placed top four,” Bolhuis said.

Stepanovich had a great individual weekend for the Lakers, leading the squad with a 3-0 record. Luke Klein, Bailey Bischer, Bobby Tymes, R.J. Smith, and Miguel Correa went undefeated with two or more wins. Derek Desloover went 4-1 in his debut for GVSU.

“Overall, I thought the team did amazing. Having a young squad, I see a bright future for this team,” said Tymes (157).

Regarding the youth of the team, six of the 11 starters for the Lakers are freshman, and many more freshmen got to compete in matches this weekend.

“We knew we were going to need some huge performances out of some of those guys and they all really stepped up,” Dietz said.

GVSU will now have 20 carry-over points that will help them when individual nationals come around in March. Those 20 points are the equivalent of adding an extra All-American wrestler to the team.

Despite some technique and situational improvements for the Lakers, their conditioning and aggressiveness showed on the mat. Dietz said the team will certainly bring that to the table again in March.

“Hopefully that is something we can use as fuel for the fire in the coming months and we can go down to Texas and show everyone we aren’t here to mess around.”