The Ellsworth Community College wrestling team had a successful trip to the National Dual Tournament in Ft. Wayne, IN, this past weekend. On Jan. 8-9, the Panthers wrestled all the way to the Semi-Finals, where they had an eventual loss to Clackamas Community College by criteria.
The tournament field boasted the 16 best teams from each DII, DIII, NJCAA, NAIA, and Women's division. Going into the tournament, the Panthers were 5th seed overall in the NJCAA division, opening up competition with Labette Community College.
Against Labette, the Panthers only dropped one of the 10 matches contested in the dual, winning by a final score of 38-4. This pushed the Panthers into a Quarterfinal match-up with Western Wyoming. During the Western Wyoming dual, Ellsworth put together another dominating performance, dropping only three matches and securing a 31-9 victory to close out day one of the tournament and secure a Semifinals birth.
In the Semifinals, the Panthers ran into conference rival and #1 seed Iowa Central. In a tightly contested battle, Iowa Central pulled out to a 6-0 lead after winning the first two weight classes. At 141, Ellsworth's Bobby Alexander faced off against returning national champion JJ Alfau. Midway through the first period Alexander secured a takedown and took Alfau directly to his back for the fall. This pin evened the dual score to 6-6. Ellsworth dropped the next match at 149 before securing victories at the next two weight classes (157-Matthew Kirkland and 165-Sadarriss Patterson), bringing the dual score to 12-10 Ellsworth. Ellsworth and Iowa Central exchanged wins at 174 and 184. At 197 Ellsworth surrendered a pin to Iowa Central, putting the Panthers in the hole 19-15 going into the final match of the day. In what was the most exciting match of the tournament for Ellsworth, Dalonte Holland secured a pin and team victory for the Panthers. After a team point was deducted, Ellsworth was awarded a 21-18 victory over Iowa Central and a birth to the National Dual Finals.
In the finals Ellsworth wrestled another familiar foe in Clackamas Community College of Oregon. The Panthers met the Cougars for the third consecutive year at the National Duals. The past two years, however, it has been in the Semifinals, with the Panthers dropping a 19-18 dual meet. Once again, the match up was an entertaining dual until the end. The Panthers and Cougars traded matches throughout the dual before going into the final match of the tournament. Again the Panthers called on Dalonte Holland for a victory to close out the dual, and Holland prevailed over the #1 wrestler in the nation. With the dual score then tied at 18-18, the final results were determined by criteria. Clackamas ended up securing the victory after the third criteria, leaving the Panthers with a National Runner-Up finish.
ECC Head Coach Spree said, "Going into the duals we believed that we belonged in the finals and could win the National Championship. The way things played out was humbling, but I believe it will fuel our guys for the rest of the season. I believe the guys saw that we belong at the top of the Junior College ranks, but we have to make some adjustments before the end of February to ensure this doesn't happen again. Overall, though, it was a great experience for our guys and great to see our program reaching new heights."
ECC will return to the mat on Wednesday, Jan. 13, at home against Iowa State Club Team in a scrimmage. The Panthers are then on the road Thursday, Jan. 14, against Iowa Lakes. Both matches will begin at 7 pm.