Sawyer Miller and Erique Early each won their first national titles and become the second and third wrestlers in program history to stand atop the podium at the national meet, joining Mitch Pawlak (2016) on the exclusive list. Early became just the second grappler in program history to make it to back-to-back finals, etching his name next to Pawlak again.
Miller kicked off his day with a first round fall in the semifinals, pinning 11th-ranked Koby Millner of Reinhardt University in 60 seconds to earn a spot in the national title bout. The South Adams High School product needed extra time in the finals as he was tied 2-2 with Life University’s Randy McCray. The second-ranked wrestler at 125-lbs. would not be deterred though, as he took down Millner 14 seconds into extra time to score first and come away with sudden victory at 4-2.
Early, the defending national runner-up at 133-lbs. started his day off with a 10-7 victory in the semifinals to secure a matchup with top-ranked Shiquan Hall of Grand View University in the finals. After battling to a 1-1 draw through three periods, the top-two wrestlers in the division need two extra sessions to decide a champion. Trailing 2-1 with under 15 seconds to go, Early recorded a takedown to take a 3-2 lead with six seconds in the second overtime and held off advances from Hall in the third overtime to prevail 4-2 and claim his first national title.
Gaige Torres fell to top-ranked David Berg in the semifinals of the 141-lbs. division and suffered an 11-8 setback in the consolation semifinals before ending his tournament on a high note by defeating Oklahoma Wesleyan’s Dayton Marvel, 6-4, to finish in fifth place.
Justin Atkinson started off his day with a 9-8 decision over teammate Robert Humphrey before falling to top-ranked Tres Leon of University of the Cumberlands and fourth-ranked Terrill Sidner of Menlo College to finish in his fifth place and cap his career with All-American honors. After falling to Atkinson, Humphrey dropped the seventh-place match to sixth-ranked Latrell Davis of Lindsey Wilson College to finish in eight place and add an All-American plaque to his mantle.
It is the fourth straight season the Warriors have finished inside the top-10 at the NAIA National Championships while it is the second time in the last four years they have recorded top-five finishes.