DES MOINES, Iowa – Midland University had a pair of wrestlers earn All-American honors in leading the Warriors at the NAIA National Championships this past weekend at the Jacobson Exhibition Center on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
Julian Gaytan captured second place at 125 pounds and David Berg brought home a third-place finish at 141 to earn their All-American honors. Overall, the Warriors finished in 14th as Grand View won its seventh straight title.
“Julian had a great run to the national finals,” Coach Dana Vote said. “He came in as the No. 10 seed and made the national finals. I know Julian had a national championship on his mind and he came up a little short. I am super proud of him and can’t wait to see what he can do next year with a full season under him.
“David had a huge Day 2 finish to the national tournament,” Vote added. “He dominated his way back to third place. He beat the returning national champion 13-2 and was trailing in the match 2-0 to start. I know he worked very hard this year and wanted to be a national champion, but I couldn’t be more proud of him. We always talk about facing adversity and if we get beat that we have to come back for the next best thing, and that is what he did.”
Gaytan, a junior from Fresno, California, entered the tournament with a 13-3 record. He received a bye in the first round and then scored a major decision over a returning All-American and two decisions – including defeating the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the nation – to move into the championship match with Cumberlands’ Hayden Lee.
Berg, a junior from West Point, Nebraska, came into the tournament with a 23-5 record and a No. 7 ranking. He opened by winning two decisions before losing his quarterfinal match. A technical fall, a decision, and a major decision led Berg to the third-place match where he scored a 13-4 major decision over Taylor Moeder of Kansas Wesleyan.
Gaytan and Berg were the only Warrior wrestlers to make it through the first day of competition.
“There were a lot of ups and downs on Day 1, and that is expected,” Vote said. “I am proud of the overall effort of our guys. We lost some really close matches today to some really good kids that will place high in this tournament. I feel bad for our two seniors, Aaron Rafalko and Jahwon Akui, who both lost their elimination matches in triple overtime.”
Rafalko, ranked No. 9 at 285 coming into the event, opened with a bye and then lost his second-round match. He pinned his second consolation round opponent in 39 seconds before losing to Matt Hopkins of Providence in the third consolation round.
Akui, ranked No. 4 in the NAIA at 157 entering the tournament, was pinned in his opening round and received a bye in his first consolation match before falling to Lindsey Wilson’s Bryce Hoffman in the second consolation round.
Also competing for the Warriors were Stephon Gray, who opened with a sudden victory win, at 157; Dominic Evans, who scored a technical fall in the second consolation round, at 165; Jake Wilson at 149; and Brandon Johnson at 285.
Midland, the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament champions, finished the season with a 7-4 overall record and 6-2 conference record in dual matches.