The Jayhawks traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa to compete in the NJCAA National Championships at the Mid-American Center. The Jayhawks qualified 5 individual wrestlers for the tournament and were led by sophomore Benny Gomez (Holt, MI/Holt HS) who finished 2nd and was named an All-American. Gomez made the finals with 4 consecutive wins. He is the first Jayhawk to make the finals since Chad Friend did it in 2010. Sophomore Baker Hadwan (Dearborn, MI/Livonia Churchhill HS) also became an All-American for the Jayhawks by winning the consolation bracket and placing 3rd. “I’m very proud of these guys, both have been great leaders for our team and wrestled great tournaments,” said Head Coach James Tietema. ”I talked to the guys all season about how to wrestle a good national tournament. You have to stay offensive and push the pace of the match. You want to be the aggressor. Guys that shut down and wrestle conservatively don’t wrestle well. Both Benny and Baker stay on their offense the whole tournament. They controlled the ties and attacked their opponents.”
Gomez started his day with a fall in 2:20 against Mark Gonzalez of North Area Iowa Community College. He then beat the #3 ranked Boo Dryden of Northeast Oklahoma A&M 3-1. In the Quarterfinals Gomez beat Mohammed Dhillon Middlesex by a fall in 5:20. In the Semifinals he won 9-4 over Dillon Prutch of Labette Community College. In the National Finals Gomez fell to Nodir Safarov of Northwest Wyoming 11-7. Nodir was an Uzbekistan National Team Member and was a Bronze medalist at the Junior World Championship and represented Uzbekistan by placing 8th at the Senior World Championships.
Hadwan started his day with a win over Jareth Hoernemann of Ridgewater Community College 13-8. In the 2nd Round Baker suffered his only lost 5-4 to National Finalist Wade French of Western Wyoming. Baker when went on a roll winning 6 straight matches. One of his wins was over the defending National Champion Tim Young from Ellsworth Community College 3-2. In his match to become an All-American Baker avenged his North Central District finals loss to Ryan Cone of Triton by a score of 6-1. “This tournament was the best Baker has wrestled at Muskegon Community College,” said Coach Tietema. “When you get to the National Tournament you can tell the guys that want to win and those that hope to win, Baker wanted to win.”
Freshman Dren Bartrum (Greenville, MI/Greenville HS) wrestled a great tournament, losing his last match of the day in the All-American round 9-4 to Mark Voss of Ridgewater Community College. “Dren wrestled great,” added Tietema. “He is only a freshman, so he has another chance to be an All-American. Dren works extremely hard and I looking forward to his growth in the off season.”
Other national qualifiers for the Jayhawks were Sophomore Corey Robinson (Whitehall, MI/Whitehall HS) and Freshman Sage Gonzales (Alma, MI/Alma HS). The Jayhawks finished the National tournament in 14th place with 42.5 points.