Pipher pleased with Walker’s fifth-place finish at Div. II nationals

Chase Walker’s dream of a national championship ended Friday.

The Mesa State College wrestler placed fifth Saturday in the NCAA Division II Championships in Houston. He became the first Division II All-American in school history.

“I’ve trained all year,” Walker said. “You don’t train all year for fifth place.

“You still want to win to finish out the season.”

Mesa State’s other national qualifier, Rhett Breed, was eliminated Friday and did not place. The 133-pound freshman was 1-2 in the tournament.

“Having an All-American is a stepping stone in the right direction,” Mesa State coach Chuck

Pipher said. “Chase did a good job for us.”

The Mavericks tied for 25th with 10.5 points. Nebraska-Omaha easily won the team title with nine All-Americans and 146.5 points. Nebraska-Kearney took fourth place and Adams State placed fifth.

Walker (33-7) defeated Danny Grater of Fort Hays State (Kan.) University 5-2 in the 157-pound fifth-place match.

“A lot of guys don’t realize what it means for a program to (have a wrestler) get over a loss and place as high as they can,” Pipher said. “Chase had a tough match (in the consolation loss to Lanscusa). He was bummed, but I told him he’s got to bounce back. Grater will want to get back at you.”

Walker, a junior from Morgan, Utah, scored two takedowns in the third period for the victory.

“We were both tired and going slow,” Walker said. “I chose down and escaped. I knew he had the advantage with riding time, so I took him down. The last takedown I scored he was going for broke.”

Walker wanted to win the national title, but lost a 13-5 decision in the quarterfinals Friday to eventual champion Todd Meneely of Nebraska-Omaha. It was Meneely’s third national title.

“Meneely is one step ahead of everyone right now,” Walker said.

Walker responded to that loss with an 11-5 decision over second-ranked Noomis Jones of Adams State, then defeated Nebraska-Kearney’s Keenan McCurdy 2-1 before losing to Mercyhurst (Pa.) College’s Andy Lamancusa 11-4 in the consolation rounds.

Lamancusa took third place with an 8-6 victory over Mitch Smith of West Liberty State (W.Va.) College.

Despite Walker’s disappointment of falling short of a national title, he is already talking about reaching that goal next year.

“I have one year left,” Walker said. “I want to come back and win it. I want to look like Meneely did this year.

“There are a lot of things I need to improve on for next year, but I’m not going to look down on this year.”


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