photo courtesy of Laken Detweiler
In just seven years in NCAA Division II, James Kisgen’s McKendree Bearcats have arguably one of the best levels of success the division has seen. Over the past seven seasons, 43 Bearcats have qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships, with 35 of those earning spots on the podium as All-Americans. Two have earned national titles for McKendree: Michael Pixley (184) in 2019 and Darren Wynn (141) in 2016.
“Our goal isn’t to get wins, our goal is to maximize our potential both on the mat and in the classroom,” Kisgen said. “If we can maximize our potential, we can have a good program and build good people.”
The Bearcats, winners of their second-straight NCAA Super Region 4 championship, were poised to make a run at a first Division II team championship in 2019-20. McKendree, ranked #2 as a team, ahead of the cancelled 2020 NCAA Division II National Championships, had eight qualifiers for the event, including three who earned the top seeds at their respective weight classes. Marcus Povlick (125), Nick Foster (165) and Ryan Vasbinder (197) were all voted as the top wrestlers in their brackets heading into the event, with all three winning Super Regional championships two weekends before. Juwan Edmond was also a regional champ at 149, while Dan Filipek (184) and Caleb Gossett (285) finished as runners up in their respective regional brackets.
All eight of the McKendree National Qualifiers earned NWCA All-American status for the 2020 season. Four of those eight return for Kisgen next season, highlighted by the now two-time All-American Vasbinder who also led NCAA Division II in tech falls. Edmond and Filipek will also be back, and will be joined by Josh Jones (174). With the Bearcats adding an incoming recruiting class, they will boost their roster to around 50 for the 2020-21 season.