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Steeped in Tradition

Photo by Alex Eller Jarrod Hinrichs competes against Chase Miller of Central Missouri. Hinrichs won by decision 5-1.

Lopers looks for another NCAA title run to reach success in 2019

By: Alex Eller

Few programs in Division II have had the success that UNK has had in the sport of wrestling. Looking to add to that storied tradition is the 2018-2019 squad.

“We’ve had a great tradition here over the last two decades, with three national titles since 2008,” UNK wrestling coach Dalton Jensen said. “Having been a part of a couple of those titles, once as an athlete and once as a coach, it makes you realize how everything has to fall into place during that two-day national tournament. There is no doubt in my mind that this team if they perform to the best of their ability during the national tournament, can win.”

The Lopers sit at No. 2 in Division II behind defending national champions St. Cloud State. UNK is led by a senior and two sophomores in Calvin Ochs, Matt Malcom and Josh Portillo. Ochs and Malcom are rated first in their 165- and 157-pound weight classes. Portillo is second at 125.

Signing quality transfers is one of the keys to why this team is so strong. Of the 10 wrestlers competing, four transferred to UNK from other colleges in the Midwest. The schools they’ve come from range from Division I powerhouse Iowa all the way down to the junior college level. 

Jensen, who was a starting wrestler at Iowa State before joining the Lopers and winning an individual national championship in 2012, knows exactly why transfers choose this school over others in Division II.

“How UNK has done over the last decade makes us attractive,” Jensen said. “We’re a high-level Division II school and a part of the University of Nebraska system. We compete at a high level not just in Division II, but we also go and challenge ourselves at some big Division I tournaments.”

UNK put the talent they have on display in a home dual against MIAA foe Central Missouri Jan. 29. The Lopers had an advantage over the Mules up and down the board at every weight class, and as result blanked them 50-0.

“Shutting out a team like Central Missouri is an important step in achieving our goals,” said heavyweight wrestler Jarrod Hinrichs. “Being national title contenders, it is important for us as a team to fight for every single point possible, while also giving up minimal damage. Having the only points scored on you be escape points should speak for itself that we are a team that wants to dominate and put points on the board.”

At the 125-pound weight class Portillo (22-5) was looking for a bounce back after a loss to No. 3 ranked Carlos Jacquez of Lindenwood in his last outing. He did just that getting a major decision over Justin Mitchell by a score of 18-5 three minutes into the match.

At 285 No. 5 Hinrick (23-6) faced off with a familiar foe Chase Miller. The match went the entirety of three periods with Hinrichs winning 5-1. 

“Chase Miller was an opponent that I faced earlier in the season where I bested him by fall in about 2 minutes, so on paper it looks like I didn’t wrestle him very well,” Hinrichs said. “It has been the case with a lot of matches this year that people that I wrestle are simply trying to hold me to as few points as possible instead of winning.”

This weekend UNK competed in duals at both No. 18 Central Oklahoma and No. 23 Newman University. The Lopers will be back home again on Feb. 10 for a dual with No. 12 Fort Hays State at the Health & Sports Center. 

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