Menlo wrestlers are heading to the NAIA national tournament


The Menlo College men's wrestling team is sending seven wrestlers to the NAIA national championships in Topeka, Kan., which begin March 6 at the Kansas Expocentre.

Troy Lakin, Joel Palabrica, Steele Escobedo, Christian Franks, Eric Lopez and Scott Brasil placed fourth or higher at the West National qualifying tournament in Havre, Mont. over this past weekend.

Brian Ha qualified at 133 pounds after finishing fifth, just behind Palabrica.

Lakin, Lopez and Brasil each finished second in their respective divisions. Lakin, at 125 pounds, beat Southern Oregon's Casey Coulter, 10-5, and Embry-Riddle's Chandler Strand, 12-5, to reach the championship final. Great Falls' Luke Schlosser edged Lakin, 5-3.

Lopez won two tight matches to reach the final at 165 pounds. He beat Embry-Riddle's Luke Riley, 3-2, and edged Southern Oregon's Garrett Urrutia, 5-4.

Brasil, at 285 pounds, toppled Simpson's Augie Alcantar, 6-2, and needed overtime to get by Southern Oregon's Clayton Burtis, 3-1. Brasil lost to Montana State Northern's Toby Cheff, 5-1, in the final.

Lopez and Brasil qualified for their third consecutive national tournament and are striving to become Menlo's first three-time All-Americans.

Escobedo, who received a bye into the semifinal at 141 pounds, dropped his first bout and then came all the way back to finish third by beating Embry-Riddle's Andrew Burr, 12-7.

For the second-consecutive season, six defending national champions -- Ryak Finch (125) of Grand View (Iowa), Bryce Shoemaker (133) of Baker (Kan.), Brandon Wright (141) of Grand View, Jake Williams (149) of Cumberland (Tenn.), Joe Cozart (157) of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and Brock Gutches (174) of Southern Oregon -- headline the field of 211 qualifiers, who were officially named Tuesday.

Grand View enters the championship searching for a fourth-straight national title. If the Vikings claim the banner, they will join former member Central State (Okla.) (1984-87) to win four in a row.

Each weight class will have at least one returning All-American in action, with the 157-pound event showcasing seven All-Americans, including defending national champion Cozart and runner-up Dallas Houchins of Grand View.

— Palo Alto Online Sports/Menlo Athletics

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