Dec. 1, 2007
Hays, Kan. - With a pair of champions and a pair of second-place finishers, the Air Force wrestling team concluded competition at the FHSU-Bob Smith Open Saturday, hosted by Fort Hays State.
Senior Zach Valdez (Parker, Colo.) captured the first tournament title of his career, taking first at 125 pounds. Valdez, who entered the tournament as the fourth seed, opened with an 18-3 tech fall over Western State's Victor Sanchez before pinning Hastings' Josh Wilson in a time of 0:53. Valdez then registered a 10-0 major decision over Newman's John Hagan, followed by a forfeit victory over top-seeded Tyler Zukerman of Central Oklahoma. In the championship bout, Valdez took on second-seed Issac Wall of Newman, where he held on for a 2-1 decision to take the win.
"I felt like I wrestled a lot better than I have all year," said Valdez. "I went out there and I was a lot more relaxed, I didn't feel as much pressure. I think I was a lot more confident as well."
Also finishing first for the Falcons was junior Stephen Crozier (Monona, Iowa), who captured his first career tournament title, wrestling at 165 pounds. The unseeded Crozier began the day with a pair of tech falls, defeating Pima's Lance Roe, 18-2, and Hastings' Drew Sorenson, 15-0. He then knocked off the top-seed, pinning Oklahoma State's Kyle Griffin in a time of 3:22. After registering a 21-12 major decision over Colby CC's Delanno Palmore, Crozier met up with second-seed Taylor May of Nebraska-Kearney in the championship contest. Crozier pulled off the upset, picking up an 8-6 decision in overtime, to take the championship.
At 133 pounds, freshman Derek Gillespie (Chesapeake, Va.) finished as a placewinner for the third time in as many events this season, taking second place in the weight class. Following a pair of decisions over Northern Colorado's Brett Bahe and Danny Mainus of Colby CC, Gillespie picked up a 14-4 major decision over Elui Vigil of Labette CC. The third-seeded Gillespie then pinned second-seed Blake Fisher of Fort Hays State in a time of 1:36 to move into the championship bout. However, Gillespie dropped a 4-1 decision to Northern Colorado's Casey Cruz to finish second overall.
Meanwhile, unseeded heavyweight Anthony Stegeman (Cincinnati, Ohio) also brought home a second place finish for the Falcons. Stegeman registered a fall in 3:55 against Gabe Walz of Colby CC before picking up a 6-4 decision over second-seed Dustin Finn of Central Oklahoma. Following a 5-1 decision over sixth seed Lyndon Wagner of Fort Hays State, Stegeman met up with the top seed, Nebraska's Tucker Lane, in the championship bout. However, Stegeman dropped a 10-3 decision to Lane in the final contest to finish second.
"As a team, we did some things well," said Air Force head coach Joel Sharratt. "There's certainly still a lot of room for improvement, but as a whole, we raised the bar. The guys got a lot of competitive opportunities and I think the program moves forward today. We'll continue to work on moving forward throughout the remainder of the season and keep pushing these guys until they achieve their goals."
The Falcons open up their 2007-08 dual slate next weekend, Dec. 8, when they host Western State. The match is slated to take place at 2:00 p.m. in Cadet West Gym.