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The Long Grind to Glory at the NCAA Division II Championships

A long season comes to its conclusion this weekend at the 2024 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships in Wichita, Kan. and Central Oklahoma will be one of the leading contenders for the team title.

The top-ranked Bronchos are searching for the program’s 17th national championship – and the second in a row – behind eight individual qualifiers, all of them seeded in the top six at their weight.

“It should be a great tournament,” eighth-year head coach Todd Steidley said. “There are several teams that have a chance and we’re one of those if our guys wrestle like they’re capable. It’s going to be a big challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Preliminary- and first-round action begins at 10 a.m. at  Hartman Arena, with the quarterfinals and two rounds of consolations at 5 p.m. The tournament resumes Saturday at 10 a.m. with the semifinals and conclusion of all consolation matches, then concludes with the championship finals at 7 p.m.

“We need to focus on each round and not look ahead,” Steidley said. “It’s about staying in the moment and taking each match as it comes. The only thing we can control is our effort, so go hard for seven minutes and deal with the results.

“Our guys are ready. We’ve been training for this since September. Now’s the time to cut loose and go have some fun.”

ABOUT THE TOURNAMENT: Six teams have at least eight qualifiers, led by No. 2 Lander with nine.

Third-ranked St. Cloud State — which has won five of the last eight titles – along with T-No. 4 Nebraska-Kearney, No. 5 McKendree, No. 24 Gannon and the Bronchos all have eight.

No. 7 Wisconsin-Parkside advanced seventh, while T-4 West Liberty, T-No. 8 Augustana and T-No. 8 Pittsburgh-Johnstown qualified six apiece.

There are 18 individuals at each of the 10 weights for a total of 180 qualifiers.

UCO IN THE NATIONAL TOURNAMENT: The Bronchos have long had one of the most successful programs in the nation, having claimed 16 national championships —  eight in NAIA (1979, ’81, ’82, ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87 and ’89) and eight since joining NCAA Division II in 1990 (1992, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’02, ’03, ’07 and ‘23).

UCO has also had nine national runner-up finishes in four different divisions – AAU (1935), NCAA Division I (1936), NAIA (1974 and ’88) and NCAA Division II (1990, ’91, ’96, ’00 and ’22).

Central has had 39 top-four national tournament finishes in its 71-year history, including a string of 21 straight from 1984-2004..

The Bronchos had two champions and a school-record nine All-Americans last year in outpointing Lander 121-78 for their first championship since 2007.

ABOUT THE BRONCHOS: UCO finished a perfect 15-0 in duals this season in winning a fourth straight Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association title and the NWCA Division II National Duals crown for the second time in three years.

The Bronchos captured their fourth consecutive Super Regional IV championship March 2 in Indianapolis, edging McKendree 160-151.

UCO had seven individual regional champions for the second straight year along with one runner-up and two fourth-place finishers. The Bronchos went 27-5 on the day with 12 bonus-point wins.

Central has five All-Americans returning from last year – 197 Dalton Abney (champion), Hvy Shawn Streck (champion), 141 Dylan Lucas (third), 157 Gabe Johnson (seventh) and 174 Anthony DesVigne (seventh). Dylan Brown (149), Hunter Jump (165) and Garrett Wells (184) are all making their national tournament debut.

The eight qualifiers enter the final weekend with a combined 168-31 record, including 104 bonus wins.

Here’s a look at each of UCO’s eight qualifiers:
141 Dylan Lucas, Jr. – Seeded third with 28-5 record and team-high 19 bonus-point wins (eight technical falls, six major decisions, five falls) … Will meet Fairmont State’s Colton Stoneking in the first round … Captured second straight regional title in qualifying for national tournament … Went 3-0 in that event, capped by 4-2 finals victory over previous No. 2-ranked Ronan Schuelke of McKendree … Is 5-4 this season against national tournament qualifiers … Drury Open champion, lost 4-3 finals decision to top-seed Zack Donathan of Tiffin in Midwest Classic finals and won consolation title at Lindenwood Open … Won regional title at 133 last year, then went 4-1 in earning All-America honors with third-place national finish … Has 51-11 career record with 36 bonus wins in two years with the Bronchos.

149 Dylan Brown, Jr. – Seeded sixth with 19-3 record that includes 11 bonus-point wins (four technical falls, four falls, three major decisions) … Wasn’t tested in winning regional title, opening with 10-0 major decision and second-period fall before claiming 8-2 finals victory … Enters national tournament riding a 10-match winning streak and will face James Ryan of Gannon in the first round … Is 6-0 against national tournament qualifiers this season … Won Drury Open title … In first year with Bronchos after earning junior college All-America honors twice at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.

157 Gabe Johnson, So. – Seeded third with 22-4 record and 14 bonus-point wins (nine technical falls, four major decisions, one fall) … Nine tech falls is tied for third on UCO’s single-season list … Cruised to second straight regional championship with 19-1 technical fall, 8-1 decision and 15-3 finals rout … Has won 13 of his last 14 matches, including 11 straight … Is 5-2 against national tournament qualifiers, losing to the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, and meets Ben Durocher of Wisconsin-Parkside in the first round … Midwest Classic runner-up, falling in finals to second-seeded Jack Haskin of Lake Erie … Finished fourth in Lindenwood Open with losses to two Division I wrestlers … Making third national tournament appearance … Went 0-2 as true freshman in 2021, then had 3-2 record in finishing seventh last year to earn All-America honors … Has 61-15 career record with 27 bonus wins at UCO.

165 Hunter Jump, Jr. – Seeded fifth with 21-7 record that includes 10 bonus-point wins (six major decisions, three falls, one technical fall) … Has won 12 of his last 13 matches, including nine in a row … Captured regional title to earn first national tournament berth … Went 3-0 in that event, following first-round forfeit with 7-3 and 5-1 wins … Is 5-4 against national tournament qualifiers this season and opens against San Francisco State’s Kyle Botelho… Is 3-3 in six overtime matches this season … Drury Open champion … Has 46-15 career record with 22 bonus wins at UCO.

174 Anthony DesVigne, Sr. – Seeded sixth with 20-4 record and 14 bonus-point wins (nine technical falls, four major decisions, one fall) … Tied for third on school single-season list for tech falls … Won second straight regional title in qualifying for nationals, going 3-0 there with a 15-0 technical fall, 10-1 major decision and 7-2 finals win … Is 3-2 against national tournament qualifiers and set to meet Cole Glazier of St. Cloud State in the first round … Started season at 184, going 8-1 t

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