Dana College captures first ever NAIA team title

By Tim Tushla | March 05, 2006, 8:38 a.m. (ET)
SIOUX CITY, IA - Dana College (Neb.) won it's first national championship in record fashion, scoring 193 points in the 49th Annual NAIA Wrestling National Championships in Sioux City, IA. They broke the previous tournament record of 180 points prior to tonight's championship matches. The previous record was set in 2002 by defending national champion and this year's runner-up Lindenwood University (Mo.).

"It really hasn't sunk in yet. The team has been so consistent all year - they did everything we coaches have asked them to do," noted championship coach Steve Costanzo of Dana, who was also named 2006 Coach of the Year for his team's performance. "The kids really bought in to what we coaches were telling them."

Costanzo's team also won the National Duals title earlier this season.

Finishing in the runner-up position was defending champion Lindenwood (MO) with 164 team points. The Lions actually had more champions (3) than Dana (2), but it was team depth that won out for the Vikings.

"It seemed we were always 20 points behind," said Lindenwood Coach Joe Parisi. "I am proud of my kids, we wrestled well. Hey we scored over 150 points and still didn't win the national tourney. Tell me the last time that's happened?

"We would win, they would win. We would pin, they would pin. We had an awesome tournament, they had a better one."

After falling in the championship match last year, Delrico Choates of the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) defeated Embry-Riddle University's (Ariz.) Richard Byrd 9-2. Choates finishes his junior season with a 30-1 record.

In the 133 lb. weight class, Jimmy Rollins of Dana won the national title when his opponent, McKendree College's (Ill.) Kyle Jahn had a medical default. Rollins fell in the championship match last year.

Joe Garcia of Menlo College (Calif.) captured the 141 lb. national title after a close 3-2 decision against Brad Cooper of Cumberlands (Ky.). Garcia finishes his senior season with a 30-5 record.

In the 149 lb. championship match, Lindenwood's (Mo.) Mark Dickman scored late in the match for a 7-2 win over Dana's Anthony Haukenberry. Haukenberry won the 2004 national title while he was competing for Montana State University-Northern.

Mike Rio of Lindenwood (Mo.) became the only wrestler to defend his national title when he captured the 157 lb. title over Hayden Harrison of Embry-Riddle University (Ariz.). Rio pinned Harrison late in the third period to capture his second national title; he also won the 149 lb. title last year. Rio pinned his way through the entire event this year, with his fastest pin of 23 seconds coming in the semifinals, and was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the 2006 national championships.

After finishing as a runner-up last year in the 157 lb. weight class, Jake Dieffenbach of Lindenwood (Mo.) captured the title in the 165 lb. weight class. He defeated last year's national champion, Tyson Springer of Dickinson State University (N.D.) 9-4.

After being tied at 5-5 at the end of the third period, Newman University's (Kan.) Curtis Chenoweth defeated Mike Kummer of the University of Great Falls (Mont.) 7-5 in sudden victory.

Dana picked up another individual title when Willie Parks had a 16-8 decision over Rick Story of Southern Oregon University in the 184 lb. final. With the win, Parks finished 36-1 on the season and he was named the NWCA-NAIA Outstanding Wrestler of the Year.

Parks, who was a two-time junior college national champion, also spent two years at Iowa State before transferring to the Vikings.

"It has been a long time between titles but I got a lot out of the experience," stated Parks. "We just decided to have fun and be ourselves this year. We all trained hard and individually we wrestled hard and were able to live up to our potential. This is the best feeling yet."

Last year's third-place finisher, Justin Schlect of Dickinson State won the 197 lb. title after a 7-1 decision against Eric Flinchum of the Cumberlands (Ky.). It was the first loss of the season for Flinchum in 24 matches.

In the final match, Mikhail Abdul-Latif of Simon Fraser University (B.C.) pinned Alex Becerra of Lindenwood (Mo.) in 1:10 for the 285 lb. national title.

Cumberlands (Ky.) finished third in the team race with 105 points followed by Dickinson State (N.D.) with 95.5 points. Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) and Southern Oregon finished fifth and sixth, respectively, with 83 and 82 points.

Dana had all 12 wrestlers finish no lower than seventh place in their respective weight classes.

Northwestern College (Iowa) was given the Team Sportsmanship Award and Morningside College (IA), from host city Sioux City, received the inaugural Character Award. The top four finishers in each weight class earn all-America honors while the fifth through eighth place finishers receive honorable mention status.