FHSU wrestlers roll past CSU-Pueblo

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Colorado State University-Pueblo is no longer a conference opponent, but the post-season implications remained the same in the minds of Fort Hays State University wrestlers heading into Saturday's dual at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

FHSU, now in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, still competes at the NCAA Super Regional 4 against teams from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, so for the Tiger wrestlers, they needed wins for seeding just as they did when they were in the RMAC last season.

"It still does (have implications) because we have to face them at our regional," said senior 157-pounder Derek Koehn. "... These matches still mean something."

It wasn't a complete rout, but it nearly was as the Tigers won eight of 10 matches against Pueblo wrestlers, including a Thunderwolf forfeit at 125 pounds.

It resulted in a 29-6 win for the Tigers, now ranked No. 19 in NCAA Division II, as they improved to 4-2 in duals this season. CSU-Pueblo dropped to 1-1.

The dual was a significant victory for FHSU, especially considering the Thunderwolves defeated FHSU 18-15 at Pueblo last season.

"They beat us last year, and we knew that," said FHSU head coach Chas Thompson. "We wanted to make sure we didn't put ourselves in a position where we could win, because they are a good dual team."

It was the first dual since winter break, so both squads had significant weight to lose prior to the dual. For CSU-Pueblo, this was disastrous.

The Thunderwolves' best wrestler, senior Jesse Hillhouse, who is 11-3 and ranked No. 1 at 125 pounds, failed to make weight and had to sit out, giving FHSU a forfeited victory at that weight class.

"I think the kids waited too long to cut the weight, and the results showed," said CSU-Pueblo head coach Dax Charles.

Thompson said it was disappointing, because FHSU junior Garrett Jones (15-3) wanted a shot at him.

"We needed that match," Thompson said. "That's going to kill us, because we'd like to see if we could get the upset. You've got to think that way. Garrett Jones is a two-time All-American at junior college, and that kid was a two-time junior college All-American."

Instead, FHSU piled up decisions and major decisions against CSU-Pueblo's unranked lineup.

Redshirt-freshman Symon Seaton (11-6) started it off for the Tigers with a 6-5 win at 133 pounds, and FHSU junior C.J. Napier (13-3), ranked No. 6 at 141 pounds, won 5-2. Redshirt-freshman Noah Killip pulled off a 12-7 decision at 149 pounds.

Koehn, ranked No. 4 at 157 pounds, had the most nail-biting match of the afternoon. He trailed 3-2 late in the third period before wrapping up senior Nick Stahler (7-9) and slamming him down on the mat with 16 seconds remaining.

His late takedown propelled him to a 4-3 victory, improving to 21-4 and narrowly avoiding the upset.

"It's something you know you've got to get done," Koehn said. "You don't have that much time left. I just knew I had to get that last takedown."

Junior Sam Thoman (12-6), 165 pounds, also recorded a decision, winning 9-3. Redshirt-freshman Zach Grimes (14-9), 184 pounds, and junior Tanner Kriss (12-3), ranked No. 6 at 197 pounds and a graduate of Colby High School, each recorded major decisions, winning 10-1 and 10-2, respectively.

FHSU only had two losses. Senior Travis Budke (13-7), 174 pounds and a Thomas More Prep-Marian alumnus, and junior John Close (12-12), 285 pounds, each lost via decisions, 7-4 and 3-2, respectively.

"We all could have won our matches," Koehn said. "Everyone wrestled well -- even in the two losses."