TOPEKA, Kan. – Bo Bettinson, D'Monte Aursby and Angel Gomez closed out the season, battling for the Waldorf College men's wrestling team in opening-day action of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Championships on Friday.
"It's a tournament where a lot of things happen," Waldorf coach Brad Stockton said. "Everyone at this tournament can get beat. There were a lot of huge upsets the first day and it's a grinder of a tournament."
Bettinson (125 pounds) entered the tournament ranked No. 10 in the final NAIA poll and turned in the top performance for the Warriors. The four-time national qualifier won two of four matches to reach the Round of 12 and finish one win shy of All-American honors for the third consecutive season.
Following a first-round bye, Bettinson (17-9) lost by fall to Lindsey Wilson College's 11th-ranked James Flint (36-11) in 6 minutes, 4 seconds.
"He ran into a little trouble in his first match, but he bounced back and did really well," Stockton said.
Bettinson battled in the consolation rounds. Coming off a first-round consolation bye, the senior from Reno, Nev. claimed a 6-5 decision over Southern Oregon University's Casey Coulter (11-13).
Refusing to go down without a fight in his final national tournament appearance, Bettinson knocked off the University of Great Falls' second-ranked Luke Schlosser (30-8) in an 8-7 decision during a third-round consolation match.
"He wrestled that match really smart," Stockton said.
Bettinson's tournament run came to an end as he was edged in a 5-3 decision by Life University's 14th-ranked Devane Dodgens (26-7) in a fourth-round consolation bout.
"He kept working and kept going," Stockton said. "Unfortunately, things didn't come out the way we wanted in the last match."
With Bettinson finishing his career as a four-time national qualifier, Stockton hopes to see him remain active in wrestling.
"I told him after his match, 'I know it's not what you wanted, but the world doesn't stop spinning,'" Stockton said. "There's still a lot to do with the sport that he can be involved in. I'm hoping that's what he'll continue to do is go on and coach and help others use his lessons."
Facing tough competition, Aursby (165) and Gomez (285) battled for Waldorf while finishing with 0-2 tournament records.
Aursby, a junior from Columbus, Ga. ranked No. 14, received a first-round bye and fell short in a 6-1 decision to Grand View University's second-ranked Jimmie Schuessler (34-5). The four-time All-American was challenged by Aursby.
"He wrestled a great match," Stockton said.
Morningside College's ninth-ranked Corey Sornson (24-10) pinned Aursby (15-11) in 3:44 in a second-round consolation match. Aursby re-tweaked a knee injury in the tournament, but didn't let it slow him down.
"He went for broke and the other kid came out on top in the second match," Stockton said.
Returning to the national tournament for the second straight season, Gomez (18-12) looked to start strong. The junior from Las Vegas lost by fall to Missouri Valley College's 12th-ranked Daniel Mueller (30-16) in 6:25 during the opening round.
Gomez trailed 1-0 heading to the final round with Mueller, who went on to upset Montana State University-Northern's top-ranked Toby Cheff (20-1) by fall in the following round.
"He's a big, tough kid and Angel was right there with him until the end of the match," Stockton said. "We need to execute things a little bit cleaner and that'll be the difference in a lot of his matches."
Southern Oregon's ninth-ranked Clayton Burtis (22-11) ended Gomez's season for the second straight year behind a 6-0 decision in a second-round consolation.
Advancing from the opening round is no easy task when competing on a national stage. Aursby and Gomez look to build on the experience as they return as seniors to set the tone for Waldorf.
"With a lot of guys, the biggest is hurdle is getting things going right away," Stockton said. "We look forward to both of them having really solid years."