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Central Oklahoma Eyes Historic Win at NCAA Division II Super Regional IV

Months of preparation boils down to the most important day of the season for top-ranked Central Oklahoma and that arrives Saturday when the Bronchos trek to Indianapolis, Ind. for the NCAA Division II Super Regional IV  Tournament.

First-round action begins at 9 a.m. (Oklahoma time) at Nicoson Hall on the Indianapolis campus and the 10-team tournament will run straight through, culminating in the placement matches at approximately 4 p.m.

The top-three finishers at each of the 10 weights qualify for the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships, which are set for March 15-16 at Hartman Arena in Wichita, Kan. Five other regional tournaments will also be held Saturday, with 30 qualifiers advancing from each of those.

“This is the biggest day of the year,” eighth-year head Toddy Steidley said. “You can’t do anything at nationals if you don’t get there, so the first order of business is qualifying. It all comes down to how we perform on this one day and the number one goal is to move everybody on to the national tournament.

“Our guys have worked hard and they’re ready. I just want them to wrestle hard for seven minutes every time they step on the mat. The guys have to take each match as it comes and be ready to respond if there’s some adversity. “

The Bronchos are looking for their fourth straight regional title and the 23rd since joining Division II in 1990. UCO crowned seven champions – its most since 2002 – and qualified all 10 individuals in finishing 38.5 points ahead of runner-up Indianapolis last year on its way to capturing the 16th national championship in program history.
ABOUT THE REGIONAL: Three of the 10 teams are ranked in the top 15 – No. 1 UCO, No. 5 McKendree and No.13 Indianapolis. Rounding out the field is Central Missouri, Drury. Kentucky Wesleyan, Maryville, Newman, Ouachita Baptist and Quincy.

“We’re in one of the toughest regionals,” Steidley said. “There are a lot of good individuals at each weight and we know it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

There are 19 ranked individuals in the tournament and five returning champions, all from UCO – 141 Dylan Lucas (133 last year), 157 Gabe Johnson, 174 Anthony DesVigne, 197 Dalton Abney and Hvy Shawn Streck.

Ranked individuals at each weight: 125 – Christian Mejia, McKendree (3) and Caden Howard, Drury (11); 133 – Ryan Ripplinger, McKendree (9) and Evan Binder, Maryville (12); 141 – Ronan Schuelke, McKendree (2), Dylan Lucas, UCO (4) and Blake Mulkey, Indianapolis (7); 149 – Dylan Brown, UCO (6); 157 –  Gabe Johnson, UCO (3); 165 – Cory Peterson, McKendree (2) and Jace Fisher, Newman (4); 174 – Trey Sizemore, Indianapolis (5) and Anthony DesVigne, UCO (12); 184 – Garrett Wells, UCO (5) and Damon Ashworth, Central Missouri (6); 197 – Dalton Abney, UCO (1), Derek Blubaugh, Indianapolis (2); Hvy – Shawn Streck, UCO (1) and Ryan Herman, Maryville (10).

ABOUT THE BRONCHOS: UCO put together just the fifth unbeaten dual season in the 71-year history of the program – and the fourth under Steidley – in finishing a perfect 15-0.

The Bronchos captured the NWCA Division II National Duals title with wins over four top-20 teams, beating No. 16 Upper Iowa (28-9), No. 5 McKendree (21-13), No. 4 St. Cloud State (24-10) and No. 3 Augustana (37-3).

UCO also went 5-0 to claim its fourth straight Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association dual crown, highlighted by a 20-13 road win over No. 9 Nebraska-Kearney in the next-to-last dual of the season.

UCO’s 10 regional starters finished the regular season with a combined 161-42 record, including 100 bonus-point wins.

Here’s a look at each of Central’s 10 regional participants.

125 Garrett Steidley, So. – Has seen limited action this season, bringing 3-5 record with one fall into the regional and will probably be unseeded … Is 1-2 against regional opponents this season … Missed first semester while recovering from injury, not making debut until the National Duals … Making first regional tournament appearance … Has 21-13 career record with the Bronchos.
133 Peter Rolle, Jr. – Junior veteran who has filled starting role most of the season after seeing back-up duty throughout his career … Is 13-7 with seven bonus-point wins (four falls, two technical falls, one major decision) … Is 5-1 against regional opponents and should be seeded third this weekend … Consolation champion at the Drury Open … Making first regional tournament appearance … Has 28-16 career record with the Bronchos.

141 Dylan Lucas, Jr. – Ranked fourth nationally with 25-5 record and team-high 18 bonus-point wins (seven technical falls, six major decisions, five falls) … Is 9-1 against regional opponents and should be seeded second this weekend … Drury Open champion, lost 4-3 finals decision to top-ranked Zack Donathan of Tiffin in Midwest Classic finals and won consolation title at Lindenwood Open … Went 3-0 with three bonus wins in claiming regional title…

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