LEBANON, Tenn. – Sammy Rosario, Nate Croley, Orlando Nawade, Kyle Delaune and Dustin Harris all finished second and Peter Donchev and Matt Carroll both placed third, with all seven automatically qualifying for the national tournament in two weeks. Their efforts helped Cumberland claim its first-ever Mid-South Conference Wrestling Championship on Saturday in Marietta, Ga.
Cumberland tied for the team title with Campbellsville University with 142.5 total points, with Saturday’s NAIA East Region Qualifier serving as the Mid-South Conference Championships. Ten of the 11 teams participating are members of the league.
Rosario, a junior from Cartersville, Ga., pinned Brewton-Parker’s Omar Ruiz at 4:11 in his first bout at 133 and received an Injury Forfeit from Life University’s 13th-ranked Stephen Ireland to reach the finals. He lost a 3-2 Decision to Campbellsville’s second-ranked Davion Caston in the finals.
Croley received a bye in the first round at 157 and registered an 18-0 Tech Fall at 4:23 versus Mike Krzyston from the University of the Cumberlands. The junior from Pigeon Forge, Tenn., then won a 9-1 Major Decision over West Virginia Tech’s Conrad Lacey before losing by Fall at 6:17 to Brewton-Parker’s 15th-ranked Nathan Pristavec in the finals.
Nawade started his run at 165 with a 13-2 Major Decision over Brewton-Parker’s Wilder Elliott and posted an 11-3 Major Decision against Steven Traylor from the University of the Cumberlands to reach the semifinals. The junior from Lawrenceville, Ga., squeaked out a 3-2 Decision against St. Catharine College’s Shelby Floyd before dropping a 3-1 Decision in Sudden Victory to Campbellsville’s sixth-ranked Sean Black in the finals.
Donchev got a bye in the opening round at 165 and lost a 12-6 Decision to Black in his first bout, but the junior from San Diego, Calif., rebounded with a 15-0 Tech Fall at 6:01 against Elliott. He won a 9-0 Major Decision over Truett-McConnell’s Blaine Bird and pinned Floyd in 35 seconds to reach the third-place match. Donchev collected a 7-5 Decision over Life’s 11th-ranked Tyler Button to earn his automatic berth into the national tournament.
Delaune pinned Truett-McConnell’s Tyler O’Rear at 2:07 in his first match at 174 and won by Tech Fall, 18-0, at 6:27 over Denzel Leggett from St. Andrews to reach the semifinals. The junior from New Orleans, La., posted a 9-8 Decision against Campbellsville’s 10th-ranked Chuck Sharon before dropping an 11-3 Major Decision in the finals to Lindsey Wilson’s eighth-ranked Matt Walker.
Harris, who hadn’t wrestled in a month because of injury, pinned Life’s Matt Mannino at 2:42 and then won by Fall at 2:49 over Truett-McConnell’s Joey Cable in his first two bouts at 184. The redshirt sophomore from Oakdale, Calif., then pinned teammate Carroll at 5:57 before losing by Fall to Life’s fifth-ranked Jacob Dempsey at 4:53 in the finals.
Carroll received a bye into the quarterfinals and won a 12-3 Major Decision versus Zach Sullivan from St. Andrews before the pin by Harris. The junior from Cumming, Ga., edged Campbellsville’s Miguel Santis with a 3-0 Decision and posted a 12-7 Decision in the third-place match against Southeastern University’s Aris Knight for his automatic berth.
Sophomore Sean Nguyen won his opening match at 125 over West Virginia Tech’s Denis Robles Gomez by Tech Fall, 22-3 at 5:59 but dropped a 7-4 Decision to Southeastern’s Olson Delisca in the semifinals. The Spring Hill, Fla., native posted an 8-3 Decision against St. Andrews University’s Brennan Patton and won by Tech Fall, 18-0, at 5:29 over Truett-McConnell’s Devonte Upshaw before losing a 6-5 Decision to Life’s eighth-ranked Devane Dodgens one bout shy of the third-place match. Nguyen lost an 11-7 Decision to Campbellsville’s Christian Clary in the battle for fourth place.
Sophomore Austin Meyn put forth one of his best efforts of the season, registering a 6-1 Decision over Dashon Eure from St. Andrews and an 8-5 Decision versus Campbellsville’s David Sparks at 141. In the semifinals he lost a 10-2 Major Decision to Lindsey Wilson’s seventh-ranked Daniel Leonard and then dropped an 8-2 Decision to Life’s fifth-ranked Garrett Webb. In the battle for fourth place the New Orleans, La., native collected a 9-1 Decision over Southeastern’s Aaron Wiechel.
Sophomore Evan Cole received a bye into the quarterfinals at 149 and dropped a 4-2 Decision to St. Catharine’s Garrett Carter. The Cartersville, Ga., native lost a 3-2 Decision to Life’s 10th-ranked Dallas Brown as well.
In the heavyweight division, junior Tommie Turner received a bye and won his opening bout, a 2-1 Decision versus Quandre Chisolm from the University of the Cumberlands before dropping a 2-1 Decision in Sudden Victory to Lindsey Wilson’s fifth-ranked Chico Adams. The junior from Dacula, Ga., then lost a 5-4 Decision to Devin Morrow from the University of the Cumberlands in the wrestleback.
Senior Tyler Smith also got a bye into the second round and won a 9-3 Decision against Lindsey Wilson’s Ameer Daniels before an 11-9 overtime loss to Life’s Tracy Jewett. The redshirt senior from Calhoun, Ga., posted a 7-4 Decision over Life’s Deandre Sims and pinned Chisolm at 4:52 before losing a 3-2 Decision to Adams.
The 59th Annual NAIA Championships are set for March 4-5 in Topeka, Kan.