CRAWFORDSVILLE, IND. – When the dust had settled on the 2015-16 season at Wabash College’s Knowling Fieldhouse Saturday, Feb. 27, Manchester University head coach Kevin Lake wasn’t looking at a fifth-place awards’ podium mark from senior 133-pounder Kalib Jackson (Angola, Ind.) that led individual finishes or 17 points that left the Spartans’ 12th in a rugged NCAA Division III Midwest Regional field.
He was seeing a group of 10 men that represented a university and the wrestling program in a top-flight manner.
“Hey, we knew coming in that the first round would be very difficult … so many ranked individuals went up against our guys, but we battled every chance we got,” he said with a smile. “It went from the seniors on down. We had fantastic efforts throughout the day. I’m happy with what happened here. There’s a lot to look forward to, too, as the future for Spartans’ wrestling is very bright.”
Lake’s optimistic outlook began with Jackson. Taking momentum he gained from a weight class title at the MidStates Conference meet two weeks prior, the senior battled back from a hard-fought 8-6 loss to top-seeded Nick Koch of UW-Whitewater in the quarterfinals to find himself two wins shy of a top three finish and national meet ticket punching. Jackson worked through the wrestleback topping the University of Chicago’s Louis Demarco 9-4 and then pinning Trine University’s Caleb Maddock in the rubber match between the two rivals in the consolation quarterfinals. Facing off against Wabash College’s Devin Bourkel for a slot in the consolation championship, he got an early takedown before the Little Giants’ wrestler used a late second period flurry to gain an 11-2 victory. Jackson wound up fifth in the 13-individual field due to gaining a medical forfeit win in the fifth-sixth place match.
MU’s highlights didn’t end there. Sophomore 141-pounder Chase Wilson (Peru, Ind.), amongst a field of largely ranked opponents, fell a win shy of the consolation semifinals; senior heavyweight Dustin Kult (Lafayette, Ind.), getting his first opportunity of the year after working through an injury, brought the Spartans’ faithful to their feet with a pin in the wrestlebacks before being side-stepped 2-0 a match from the consolation quarterfinals; junior 197-pounder Brian Clark (Milford, Ind.) claimed a win in the wrestlebacks and got an early takedown against Wabash’s Brett Thumm before his opponent reeled off eight points to reach a similar slot; senior 149-pounder Josh Juarez (South Bend, Ind.) got a win on the back side; freshman 157-pounderRichard Osha (Washington, Ind.) got a 36-second fall in the second round of consolation action and nearly punched a ticket to the consy quarters holding an early lead against Ohio Northern University’s Clayton Davidson before being stopped with a late fall; and junior 125-pounder Alan Mock (Denver, Ind.) was just a match short of the wrestleback quarterfinals, too.
“There were so many things to be positive about individually,” Lake noted. “(Brian) Clark is a great example. He’s made so much progress over the last three weeks … it showed today. The young guys were the same way, and you could see what with what (Richard) Osha did after being hurt but coming back to this point and wrestling very hard this afternoon.
It’s time to move forward (from what we did here),” he added. “We’ll get some time now to reflect on this effort and honor the seniors for what they meant to the program as things will slow down a little. I know, though, the team is hungry and wants to get going towards the future which is exactly what myself and (assistant coach Chad) Cook want to see.”