photo courtesy of UNK athletics
The Nebraska-Kearney wrestling program just closed out its 60th year of competition in 2019-20, with the Lopers first taking the mat in 1960-61. UNK has been an NCAA Division II member since the 1990-91 season, and in that 30 year time, 189 Lopers have made the trip to the NCAA Division II National Championships. Sixty-seven percent of those national qualifiers have returned to Kearney as All-Americans, 127 in total.
Twenty-four Lopers have won D2 National Championships, with UNK winning three team National Championships. Two of those team titles came back-to-back in 2012 and 2013, with current Head Coach Dalton Jensen taking the 141 National Championship as a senior for the Lopers in 2012 under Jim Koch NWCA Division II Hall of Fame coach Marc Bauer, now the UINK director of athletics.
“The UNK wrestling program has had a rich tradition of success for many years and hopes to not only sustain that, but build on it by recruiting talent to central Nebraska,” Jensen said.
The 2020 NCAA Division II Super Region Six champions, UNK qualified seven to the 2020 NCAA Division II National Championships. Five were named NWCA All-Americans, including 2019 National Champion Matt Malcom at 165, and a trio of returning 2019 National Finalists in Josh Portillo (125), Wesley Dawkins (133) and Jarrod Hinrichs (285). Sam Turner also earned All-American honors, at 149. All of those Lopers return for Jensen next season, aside from Hinrichs, and will join four other returning starters for next season. Portillo and Malcom will enter their final seasons of eligibility as three-time NCAA Division II All-Americans, looking to be the seventh and eighth four-time All-Americans in program history. UNK gets another handful of redshirts back in its lineup for next season, and will also add a group of in-state recruits to the Loper roster, which will look to number 30 for 2020-21.