National Champions! Lopers, Matt Malcom win NCAA Division II titles

The No. 1-ranked University of Nebraska at Kearney wrestling team picked up its fourth national title in dominating fashion, scoring a program-record 127 points, having eight All-Americans and three national finalists.

The two-day NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships was held in St. Louis with the action starting Friday morning and running until late Saturday night.

UNK’s point total bests the previous record of 108.50, set in 2007 and in again in 2008. The Lopers placed first that season as well as in 2012 and 2013. This is Dalton Jensen’s first national title as a head coach; he was a member of the 2012 team.

The 127 points is also the most for a national championship winning team in 12 years. Three-time defending national champion St. Cloud State and second-ranked Central Oklahoma were supposed to be the competition but both suffered key losses each day. UCO came in second (86.0) with the Huskies fourth (67.0) and West Liberty of West Virginia third (75.5). 

Coming first was super senior Matt Malcom (165 lbs.) with super seniors Josh Portillo (125 lbs.) and Sam Turner (149 lbs.) national runners up. Next, super senior Wesley Dawkins (133 lbs.) and redshirt sophomore Billy Higgins (184 lbs.) came in third, with redshirt junior Austin Eldredge fourth (174 lbs.). Finally, redshirt junior heavy weight Lee Herrington and redshirt sophomore Nick James (141 lbs.) each finished fifth.

Malcom (Glenwood, Ia.) capped off a five-year All-American career by going 30-2 this year and winning his second national title (2019; 157 lbs.). The top-seed at 165 pounds, he had to beat second-seed Shane Gantz of Wisconsin-Parkside. Malcom’s escape to start the second period was the lone point scored in the match as Gantz went neutral to start the third. Malcom fought off every shot attempt and mat return to go unbeaten vs. D2 competition this winter.

Turner (Colorado Springs) saw his luck run out as he fell in sudden victory to third-seed Noah Hermosillo of Adams State, 3-1. Turner had won his two previous matches in overtime. To start the night, Portillo (Clarion, Ia.) fell to returning national champion Cole Laya of West Liberty, 9-0. This was Portillo’s second national finals appearance (2019 runner up).

In the semifinals to start the long day, Portillo slipped past Tyshawn White of Shippensburg, 5-4, in the closing seconds with Turner taking down top seed Isiah Royal of Newberry (SC) eight seconds into OT, 3-1. Malcom recorded another tech fall, 16-0, with Eldredge (McPherson) falling in OT and Higgins (Omaha Skutt) losing 8-2.

Photos by Brayden Wills

Session III: Championship Semifinals, Consolation and Medal Rounds