The Mustangs' national qualifiers and coaches discuss their season and the upcoming National Tournament
Western Wyoming Community College’s Mustang Wrestling squad heads into this weekend’s NJCAA Division I National Tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa tied for 14th in the nation, according to the latest Intermat rankings. But Head Coach Art Castillo expects to see his squad finish the season much higher.
“I think, certainly, if we’re outside of the top five, it wasn’t a very good situation for us,” Castillo said Tuesday, one day before his eight qualifying wrestlers and his coaching staff departed for Council Bluffs, Iowa, where they will compete on Friday and Saturday at the Mid-America Center. “I think fifth is probably a threshold for us.”
Not that Castillo doesn’t think his Mustangs can take the team title with eight wrestlers, six of them freshmen.
“We expect to win. We’re going out there to win,” he said. “I’ve seen it done before with seven guys.”
Western's national qualifiers include sophomores Aspen Naylor and Cole Verner, both making their second nationals appearance. Verner, of Green River, is ranked first in the nation at 125 lbs. and was the Rocky Mountain District Region Champion this year. He lost the national championship match by two points last season and hopes to come home with the title this year. Naylor. at 197 lbs., narrowly missed qualifying for All-American status at last year's tourney.
Western's six freshmen wrestlers competing in Council Bluffs this week include: Lane Hunt at 141 lbs.; Samuel Freeman at 149 lbs.; Kenny Astle at 157 lbs.; Ryan Winger at 165 lbs.; Matthew Hebel at 174 lbs.; and Wade French at heavyweight.
Eight national qualifiers ties the Mustangs' record. They also sent eight competitors to Nationals in 2012. This year's team is also in contention for an Academic National Championship with a collective team grade-point average of 3.17. In 2010, the Mustangs had the top GPA among NJCAA D-I squads with 3.16.