Walters Qualifies For NAIA National Championships

February 22, 2014

MARIETTA, Ga. - In a season filled with firsts for WVU Tech and a career filled with superlatives for senior John Walters (J-Dub), the NAIA East Regional was another example of the progress the WVU Tech wrestling program has made in the last year. Wrestling at 157 lbs., Walters finished in fourth place and qualified for his second trip to the NAIA National Championships in Topeka, Kan. This equals the highest placement of any WVU Tech wrestler at this notoriously brutal regional, where five of the top ten teams in the Nation compete, and ten of the 12 teams were either in the top 20 rankings or received votes for top 20 rankings throughout the year.

Walters opened the tournament with a dominant decision victory over Truett McConnell's entry, scoring a takedown, reversal, and a display of riding like very few can match. In the semi-finals, Joey Cozart of Lindsey Wilson, who was the topped ranked wrestler in the NAIA throughout the year, stopped Walters. In the consolation matches, the senior faced an opponent from St. Andrews whose tall frame and outside style of wrestling is a challenging style for the shorter stockier Walters. In a match where there were a number of leg attacks by both men that ended up in twisting and turning scrambles, the climax of the action involved a sequence where J-Dub was in on a single leg attack, his opponent dove through his legs trying to counter by hooking the ankles. In this scramble position Walters' great strength and heavy hips were at their most useful. He stopped the St. Andrews wrestler's momentum and held him on his back, and for a long moment he had his opponent on his back before the official signaled the two points for a takedown and started looking for near fall points. At this moment Walters locked up a head and arm, sunk his chest low, and scored the fall, earning him a guaranteed spot at the National tournament.

A number of other Tech wrestlers were within striking distance of placing but fell short. Freshman heavyweight Wyatt Norfolk earned a first period fall over an opponent from Calumet College of St. Joseph, scoring a takedown off of a high crotch takedown. While scrambling, Norfok hooked his opponent's leg, rolled through and scored the fall. At 165 lbs., Dirk Ponchak scored his team leading and program leading single season record for wins with a 7-1 decision win over a ranked opponent from Campbellsville. Ponchak converted a whip over for a takedown with back points to open the match, and then put on his best display of tough rising of his career and piled on nearly five minutes of riding time as he earned his 29th win of the year.

"I'm very happy for John. His goals are high, and few people work as hard. He has a very specific style of wrestling, and if you cannot break his style he's going to beat you. He's a tremendous example of what is possible for our younger guys. We brought ten freshmen to this tournament and it showed. This was a big step up in competition, and we will upgrade our scheduling next year to be better prepared for this competition. I'm proud of this team, as we've set or broken a number of records for this program. A solid foundation has been set, and we are now a realistic choice for higher-level recruits to consider, because our guys have shown you can win, and win big at Tech. The future of our program is bright, and even though as a whole we weren't our very best on this day, these young guys have proven themselves to be true winners in every sense of the word," states head coach Samuel Gardner.

Walters will be representing WVU Tech wrestling at the NAIA National Championship to be held in Topeka, Kan. March 7-8.

Team Results
1st Place: Indiana Tech- 149.5 points
2nd Place: Lindsey Wilson- 142.0 points
3rd Place: Campbellsville University- 134.5 points
4th Place: Cumberland University- 93.0 points
5th Place: Life University- 66.5 points
6th Place: Brewton-Parker College- 65.5 points
7th Place: Missouri Baptist University- 62.5 points
8th Place: University of the Cumberlands- 54.0 points
9th Place: St. Andrews University- 39.5 points
10th Place: Truett McConnell College- 30.0 points
11th Place: West Virginia Tech- 15.5 points
12th Place: Calumet College of St. Joseph- 3.0 points

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