The Ellsworth Panthers were back on the mat again this past weekend, but this time the stakes were much higher. Each of the 10 Panthers were competing for positions at the 2016 NJCAA National Tournament on February 26th and 27th in Council Bluffs, IA. In order to receive an automatic invitation the wrestlers needed to finish in the top five in their respective weight class. Each wrestler was able to do so making Ellsworth the lone team in the North Central District to qualify all weights.
As a team, the Panthers were in a tight battle all day long with rival conference school Iowa Central. Going into the placement matches the Panthers were down by 2.5 points. Although the Panthers were able to win two of the three head to head match ups against the Tritons in the finals they were unable to close the team score gap. The top three teams were Iowa Central 159, Ellsworth 153, and Iowa Western 128.5.
When asked about the teams overall performance Head Wrestling Coach Cole Spree had the following to say, "It was great to see three of our sophomores win district titles. As a team though we had two expectations going into the tournament. First we wanted to make sure we got all 10 weights into the National Tournament. We felt it was crucial to have 10 guys at the tournament scoring points if we wanted to make something great happen. We accomplished this and we were the only team in the region to do so. Second expectation was to win the regional title. We did not accomplish this and I think the guys see where this may have happened. Do I think it was due to us wrestling poorly—absolutely not. We just need to make adjustments before the national tournament and we will be fine."
133 - Tepra Wright - Milwaukee, WI - 4th Place
141 - Bobby Alexander - Schaumburg, IL - Runner-up
149 - Lerch Oremar - Miami, FL - 5th Place
157 - Matthew Kirkland - Miami, FL - Champion
165 - Sadarriss Patterson - Hanover Park, IL - Champion
174 - Jordan Gundrum - West Bend, WI - 3rd Place
184 - De'Andre Jones- New Bern, NC - 3rd Place
197 - Atavion Oliver - Durham, NC - 5th Place
285 - Dalonte Holland - Huntingtown, MD - Champion
Photo Caption: Matthew Kirkland in an earlier meet against Iowa Central.