Young grapplers ready to show out at NAIA National Championship
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – In what has been a season of firsts, the Shorter University wrestling team isn’t about to let their inaugural season end without making the most of their first appearance in the national spotlight.
When the 2011 NAIA Wrestling National Championships begin today for its three day run at U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the nine Hawks who etched their names as the first Shorter wrestlers to compete in the season-ending event are determined to extend their historic year last as long as possible.
“It’s nice to be out here with all the top teams,” said head coach Josh Henson, whose wrestlers hit the mats today in the three-day championships that include more than 300 individuals that represent 39 NAIA teams. “It’s a great experience for our young team, but we’re definitely here to compete. All of them are determined to place in the top eight.”
The event will see one Hawk cap his season of firsts at Shorter with another first for the program as junior transfer Raleigh Abbott of Powder Springs, who was the No. 9-ranked wrestler in the nation in the 165-pound weight class, is the No. 12 seed heading into today’s opening round of matches.
Abbott, who secured a third-place finish at this year’s Mid-South Conference Championships, is considered the Hawks’ favorite to make a run at All-American honors with a top-eight finish.
Joining Abbott on the national stage are Nate Galloway, a 133-pounder from Atlanta; Clint Jones (133) of Lilburn; Jesse Miller (141) from Lilburn; Colby Rinehart (141) of Marietta; Robbie Collum (149) of Effingham County; Jake McClure (174) from Dahlonega; Josh Cook (174) of Dallas; and Joe Hinchman (184) from Douglasville.
Collum, one of many freshmen who dot the Hawks’ roster, became Shorter’s first-ever individual conference champion by winning the 149-pound weight class at the Mid-South Tournament. He was also named the conference’s Freshman of the Year.
“It’s a good group we have and they seem to be relaxed and ready to go,” Henson said. “But with a young group like this, you just don’t know what’s going to happen until they get out there on the mat.”