While high school section tournaments were being wrestled across the state, Rochester Community and Technical College hosted the NJCAA National Wrestling Tournament. This was the eleventh year for RCTC to host the National Tournament and is the last year before the tournament will be moved to Des Moines, IA. The Yellowjackets took full advantage of wrestling at home and were the National Runner-Ups among Division-III schools. â€œItâ€™s a difficult situation for D-III schools. There are only eight All-American spots in each weight and we are wrestling against NJCAA D-I wrestlers. These are guys that are being paid to wrestle. Our kids for the most part are local and wrestling for the love the sport,â€ said Head Coach Randy Rager.
RCTC had two wrestlers earn All-American honors. Devin Clark (Sioux Falls, SD) was a National Champion at 184 pounds, while Parker Brand (Rushford, MN) placed 2nd at 197 pounds. Ethan Hackbarth (Utica, MN) narrowly missed the All-American round, and lost a match that he was winning on an illegal hold call. â€œIn all my years of being involved with wrestling, I have never seen such a controversial call,â€ noted Rager.
Devin Clark came into the tournament ranked 8th according to the most recent NJCAA poll. Clark put together four solid wins before reaching the finals of the tournament. In the finals Clark faced undefeated George Hargrove of Springfield Tech. The match was a battle of defense with the exchange of escapes being the only points scored until the final seconds of the third period. In the closing seconds of the match, Clark went to shoot Hargrove off the mat on the edge. He found himself in a position to score and was able to peek out and get around Hargrove for two and win the NJCAA National Championship. Clark was the only National Champion who had all of his opponents throughout the tournament reach All-American status.
Parker Brand came into the tournament unranked and was a wildcard entrant from the regional. He was injured most of the season and only had ten matches coming into the tournament. Throughout the tournament he began to pick off the top ranked wrestlers. In his finals match Parker lost a hard fought battle to Phil Hawes of Iowa Central 15-6.
Also picking up victories in the National Tournament were Dan Anderson (Rushford, MN) at 125, Luke Evjen (Hayfield, MN) at 165, and Ethan Hackbarth (Utica, MN) at 174. The team finished the highest among Minnesota Junior Colleges. â€œAt the beginning of the year I knew that we had the kids to put something together. It is a tough sport and along the way we lost some kids, but for the ones that staid and remained focused, this was a great thing,â€ said coach Rager. Next season the team returns several of their starters including Brand and Clark. With another successful recruiting class, anything is possible for RCTC.