Two Air Force Wrestlers to Compete at Nationals
March 17, 2004
Two Air Force wrestlers will be competing in the NCAA Championships this weekend (March 18-20) in St. Louis, Mo. Freshman Chris Nissen and sophomore Brandon Strong will both be competing for the first time at the national tournament. The two qualified for the event earlier this month by placing second at the NCAA West Regionals.
Nissen (Denver, Colo.), who missed several meets due to injury, is 14-10 overall. To qualify for nationals, he defeated nationally-ranked Jeff Harrison of Northern Iowa at West Regionals. In arguably the most exciting match of the tournament, Nissen notched an escape and a takedown with just a few seconds on the clock for a 10-9 upset victory.
At 133 pounds, Strong (Albuquerque, N.M.) had a similar route to the finals, defeating the top-seeded Patrick Garcia of Northern Iowa. Strong won handily, defeating Garcia by decision, 11-6. Strong, who holds an overall record of 13-15, was a surprise national qualifier, as he had missed several weeks due to injury.
"Both Strong and Nissen are very talented," Air Force head coach Wayne Baughman said. "Both have been hampered by injuries, but have been wrestling better as they have been getting healthier. They are young and will be an anchor for this team in years to come."
Strong will face Ed Gutnik of Wisconsin in the first round. Gutnik is 22-10 overall and is ranked 11th in the nation. Nissen will wrestle against a tough first-round opponent. He will take on Ryan Churella of Michigan. Churella, who is 27-3 overall, is ranked fourth in the nation.