Tigers fall to UNK
By CONOR NICHOLL
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University wrestling coach Chas Thompson remembers the last time the Tigers defeated University of Nebraska-Kearney. Thompson was a FHSU redshirt on the 2000-01 team that delivered an 18-16 victory against the Lopers. Thompson vividly recalled the match turning when FHSU won at 174 pounds against the eventual national champion.
Since then, the Tigers have come within six points just once. On Wednesday, Thompson believed FHSU could end the streak.
But FHSU gave up three early pins, missed senior Mitchell Means because of illness, suffered an injury default with sophomore 197-pounder Zack Grimes and lost 33-12 to rival UNK at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"I am upset with our performance," Thompson said. "We could have wrestled better. We spotted them 18 points really. ... You are never going to win a dual when you give up three pins -- in most cases you won't, unless you are getting pins yourself."
FHSU, ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division II, moved to 6-4-1, 0-2 MIAA, while the fourth-ranked Lopers improved to 10-3, 2-0 MIAA.
Grimes (19-7) suffered the injury with 46 seconds remaining in the first period against sophomore Romero Cotton, ranked No. 1 nationally and a former four-time state champion at Hutchinson.
"He got folded up over his knee, and when you already have bad knees, that's not something that's going to feel very good," Thompson said.
Grimes was expected to go to Hays Medical Center last night.
"It might be a broken leg, it might be ligaments, but I am pretty sure that he hurt it fairly bad," Thompson said. "Zack is a tough guy. That was his knee that was already tweaked up, so we are just going to have to wait to hear what the doctors say."
Fort Hays won three matches. Senior C.J. Napier delivered an 8-7 victory against senior Brock Coutu, ranked No. 2 nationally. Redshirt freshman Jon Inman, the reigning MIAA Wrestler of the Week, won by fall at 184. Junior 285-pounder Trey Page, back from a skin infection, collected a 4-2 victory.
"C.J. didn't wrestle a good match, but he won the match," Thompson said. "Trey wrestled a great match. Jon wrestled a great match. We had two, what I consider for us good matches. They are ranked fourth right now - but they are better than fourth, I will tell you that. They are a very good team."
FHSU had opportunities in multiple close matches. At 125, sophomore Adam Ludwin, ranked No. 7, fell 3-2. FHSU believed Ludwin had a takedown in the final seconds, but it wasn't called.
After a fall at 133, Napier built a 7-3 lead with 74 seconds left in the match.
Napier, Means and Thompson were sick and Napier ran out of gas. Napier allowed two stalling points, but managed the victory against an opponent he has seen several times.
"Nothing matters until the end of the season," Napier said. "It's good to get that under your belt and get that confidence in your head. I know I can beat him. It's good to put it up on the scoreboard. Kind of just working for the end of the year -- trying not to get a big head or anything."
The illness for roommates Means and Napier caused a lineup change at the middle weights. Napier was cleared to wrestle earlier Wednesday, while Means couldn't compete.
"C.J. passed it on to Mitchell and now Mitchell has it," Thompson said. "Hopefully Mitchell will be ready by Kansas Cup (on Saturday)."
At 149, sophomore Joey Dozier gave up a fall. At 157, redshirt freshman Kregg Clarke faced Destin McCauley, a standout who had transferred in from University of Nebraska. McCauley had competed at an Olympic-caliber level earlier in his career, but hadn't wrestled a match this season.
Clarke, normally a backup, fell down 6-1 and then battled back for an 8-7 deficit. With 65 seconds left in the second period, McCauley collapsed on the mat, exhausted.
"His shape was clearly not where it needed to be," Thompson said.
After an injury timeout, McCauley pulled out what Thompson called "a desperation move." The move, called the "twister," was a move FHSU was aware of. However, it worked and UNK earned the fall.
"Kregg just fell right into it," Thompson said.
At 165, sophomore Bradley Little took another close loss with a 9-7 overtime defeat that gave UNK a 24-3 lead and effectively sealed the dual.