In their first year of competition since 1981, the Vikings’ wrestling team was five points away from winning the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) Division-II State Championship, in Elma, Wash., Sunday, Feb. 23.
Western finished fourth with 18 team points, losing the overall competition to Central Washington University’s 23 points.
“If we had one more match and someone got a pin we would have taken first by one point,” said senior coach and co-captain Patrick Castelli.
Team points are awarded to the winner of each individual weight class, depending on the method in which they win. Points are also given to the overall second and third place winners of the divisions.
By pinning the opponent’s shoulders on the mat for two seconds, a team receives six points and the match is over.
The Vikings were led by junior Justin Korthuis, 197-weight class, and sophomore Jake Crawford, 133-weight class. Both won first place in their divisions.
Crawford was ranked No. 2 going into the State Championship but managed to beat John Morrison from Washington State University to win his weight class.
“There have been some pretty rough tournaments for us,” Crawford said. “So this tournament we were kind of ready for anything.”
If Crawford and Korthuis are able to repeat their performance Sunday, March 3, they will compete individually in the NCWA National Championships in Allen, Texas, on March 14. If the team wins first place on Sunday, they will be invited to the NCWA National Championships.
“Going by what I saw from teams at the state tournament, we have a good shot at winning the conference title,” Castelli said. “I don’t know, I’m just feeling it. I think we can be that Cinderella underdog story kind of team.”
The Vikings had two first place finishers, one in second, two in third and three in fourth in their respective divisions.
Even with limited resources as a first-year club team, Western is still able to compete with more well-established schools like Central, Crawford said.
“We’re going against these other college teams with scholarships and strength and conditioning coaches,” Crawford said. “We were just kind of a rag-tag team at the start [of the season], but things are changing as the season moves on.”