DES MOINES, Iowa — The Montana State University-Northern wrestling program is guaranteed at least a pair of runner-up finishes as the NAIA National Wrestling Championships conclude Saturday at the Jacobson Exhibition Center.
No. 2 Brandon Weber will meet top-ranked Nosomy Pozo of Life University (Georgia) in a rematch of last year’s national championship bout. Pozo defeated Weber, who captured a 2017 national title, 4-3 to become Life’s first national champion wrestler.
Weber earned a 2-1 decision over Embry Riddle’s James Williams in the semifinals on Saturday, securing his spot in a third consecutive national title match. The former Forsyth standout, who entered the national tournament with a 25-5 record, according to TrackWrestling.com, won his first three matches of the tournament by scores of 4-0, 4-2 and 15-2, with the major decision pushing him into the semifinals.
“Brandon is doing what he does best, winning big matches at big moments,” said Northern head coach Tyson Thivierge. “He’s staying focused and looking for a bit of revenge from last year’s national finals match. To win, he just needs to wrestle his match, his positions and score points.”
Weber’s younger brother Matt, who also finished second at last year’s championships, won his first match Friday, but was defeated with a 2-1 decision in the consolation bracket. Matt Weber, a four-time Montana high school state champion, had battled injury throughout the season.
Lights’ 197-pound wrestler Isaac Bartel, also No. 2 in his weight class, secured his place in the national championship bout, also taking on the top-ranked wrestler in his bracket — Grand View’s Evan Hanson, the defending national champion.
Bartel, who placed third at last year’s national championships, captured a 7-5 decision in the quarterfinals to push past Baker’s (Kansas) David Dow. Hanson advanced to the finals via a 13-5 major decision.
“Isaac has been a hammer all season. He doesn’t get rattled or nervous in big matches, rarely shows any emotion and stays in great position,” said Thivierge. “It’s not a surprise to me having him reach the championship, he’s one of the most consistent wrestlers on the team.”
“We just need to have them ready for their finals matches,” he added of Weber and Bartel.
A year ago, Bartel won a 3-2 decision in the 197-pound consolation to capture all-American honors. His brother, Andrew, placed fourth and was one of five all-Americans for Thivierge’s Lights — Brandon and Matt Weber, Andrew and Isaac Bartel, Chris Nile).
Andrew Bartel wrestled in the 165-pound consolation semifinals Saturday, winning a 10-4 decision to advance to the consolation match. He meets Eastern Oregon’s Drake Randall later Saturday for a chance at a third-place finish.
Caleb Schaeffer and the University of Providence still have wrestlers competing, as well. Former Great Falls High standout Casey Dobson, who placed third last March, will wrestle for seventh place at 157 pounds, guaranteeing a second consecutive all-American finish.
Adrian Lyons-Lopez, a defending national runner-up, wrestles for for fifth place in the 165-pound weight class. Lyons-Lopez, who entered with the top seed in the bracket, dropped a 4-2 decision in the semifinals Saturday morning, then was pinned in the consolation semifinal by Eastern Oregon’s Randall. Lyons-Lopez earned two pinfall victories and an overtime win to plant himself in the semifinal match.
Former Sidney standout Gresh Jones, now wrestling at Dickinson State, advanced to Saturday’s semifinals, but fell in a 10-7 decision. Jones won the ensuing consolation bracket match 8-1 and will wrestle for third place at 133 pounds.