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Pacific University wrestling coach Frank Johnson doesn't mince words when describing the style of sophomore 165-pound wrestler Karl Jordan of Sitka.
``He's not the flashiest guy,'' Johnson said. ``But he's dogged. He really works extremely hard. He doesn't like losing. He pushes himself.''
Jordan showed that doggedness in the Great Lakes Regional Saturday in Elmhurst, Ill., which determined which wrestlers advanced to this weekend's NCAA Division III national championships in Ada, Ohio. Jordan aggravated an old leg injury just before his first match of the tournament, but fought through the pain to claim third place as Pacific won the team title for the second straight year.
Pacific won the team title, by a 146-135 margin over second-place Augustana College of Rock Island, Ill. But the Boxers only qualified two wrestlers for the national championships since only the weight class champions and one wild-card second-place wrestler voted on by the coaches advanced. Augustana had four wrestlers qualify for nationals.
``I finished in third place, which is what I was seeded, but I would have liked to have done better,'' Jordan said by phone Saturday from the regional. ``A couple of weeks ago I hit my right leg practicing and I got a knot in it. I'd been working through it, but last night it tightened up. I couldn't sleep, or even bend my leg.''
Jordan said Pacific, which is based in Forest Grove, Ore., brought one of its team trainers to the regional meet and Jordan spent most of Saturday morning working with him, trying to stretch out his leg. Jordan said the leg was still sensitive to the touch when he took to the mat for his first match and it was stiff, which hurt his mobility.
Jordan lost his first match, 13-9, to unseeded Eddy Rosencrants of tournament host Elmhurst College, which ended Jordan's dream of going to nationals. But then he rebounded in the consolation bracket to claim a 10-0 major decision over seventh-seeded Mike Nickel of Lawrence University, followed by an 11-1 major decision over fourth-seeded Nathan Albaugh of Wheaton College and a 9-7 decision over sixth-seeded Dave Stein of Marantha Baptist Bible College in the third-fourth place match. Jordan ended his season with a 25-9 record.
``I got beat by a guy I should have beat in the first round,'' Jordan said. ``After that, I could have either forfeited the rest of my matches or dig down deep and keep going. It was the end of the season and I didn't want to let down my team, so I decided to keep on going. I figured I'd be sitting out the rest of the year to get over it (the injury).''
There was another Southeast Alaska wrestler at the regional meet - Pacific Lutheran University 197-pounder Jasen Bennie of Ketchikan.
Bennie, who played on PLU's NCAA Division III national champion football team this fall, took fifth place in his weight class, one place better than his sixth seed. Bennie beat third-seeded Justin Seaman of Lawrence 5-3, lost a 2-0 decision to second-seeded Ryan Dannhorn of North Central College, lost a 19-7 major decision to Nick VandenBerg of Elmhurst, and won an 8-1 decision over Chad Krnac of Augustana in the fifthsixth place match.
Before the regional tournament, both Johnson and Jordan thought the Sitka wrestler might have a chance to upset eventual champion and top-seeded Darren Linton of Augustana College, who is ranked third nationally at 165 pounds. Earlier this season Jordan lost a 6-3 decision to Linton and he lost an 8-3 decision to defending NCAA Division III national champion Andy Krueger of Buena Vista College. Since those back-to-back losses in a Florida tournament, Jordan had claimed several victories over wrestlers from NCAA Division I schools. But Jordan's first round loss Saturday meant he never got a rematch with Linton.
``If you ask most of the people out there, they'd think Linton had a sure shot (to nationals),'' Johnson said before the meet. ``But they don't know Karl. He's made tremendous strides.''
``This year we had dual meets against seven (NCAA) Division I teams, and it raised the level where we had to be on our toes,'' Jordan said. ``I did pretty well against Division I wrestlers (4-4). I kind of got up for those matches. We wouldn't have had many matches without them.''
Pacific is only in its second year at the NCAA Division III level after moving up from NAIA competition. Johnson made a big recruiting push two years ago, and Jordan was one of nine sophomores (with one senior) competing for Pacific in the Great Lakes Regional. There is another Southeast Alaska wrestler from that recruiting push at Pacific - 141pounder Josh Bonk of JuneauDouglas High School - but Bonk, a redshirt freshman, missed most of the past two seasons with a shoulder injury that may require surgery this summer.
``I believe we'll win the national title with these guys,'' Johnson said. ``Not this year, but before they all graduate.''
Johnson said Jordan has improved tremendously since arriving from Sitka. But Jordan, who carries a 3.5 cumulative GPA in economics and political science, said there's still room for improvement.
``His improvement is on the accelerated track,'' Johnson said. ``He's done it quicker and he's picked up things a lot faster than I thought he would. But he's put in the extra hours. He's going to run you into the ground and he's extremely aggressive. But he's still developing his skills.''
``I'm a totally different wrestler than when I came out of high school,'' Jordan said. ``Technically, I was a lot more raw than I am now. I've got a lot of mental toughness. But I haven't really developed my key go-to move for when I'm on my feet yet.''
Even though she set two individual and was part of three relay team school records at the Western Athletic Conference championship meet this past weekend, Fresno State sophomore Jesie Lewis (Juneau-Douglas) missed out on qualifying for the NCAA Division I national championships. Lewis broke the school record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 23.76 seconds from her preliminary heat (she took seventh place in the finals at 23.82). She also broke the 7-year-old 100 free record, taking sixth place in 51.58. Lewis was a member of the record-setting 200 free relay, 400 free relay and 400 medley relay teams. In addition to her school-record swims, Lewis also posted a 16th-place finish in the 200 free as Fresno State took fourth place in the meet. Lewis was Fresno State's top event winner on the season, claiming 16 first-place finishes and 22 top-three finishes on the year.
Britta Toleman (Juneau-Douglas), a senior at Davidson College, took second place in the 200-yard breaststroke and added a thirdpace finish in the 100 breast (after posting the top time in preliminaries) as the Wildcat women won the team title in the Southern States Swimming and Diving Championships Feb. 16-19. Toleman also took 11th place in the 200 individual medley event. In addition to her individual events, Toleman was a member of Davidson's winning 400-yard medley relay team, was on the third-place 200 medley relay team, was on the fifth-place 200 freestyle relay team,
Also at the Southern States meet, Western Illinois freshman Ty Westre (Petersburg) was a member of the Leathernecks' secondplace 400 yard freestyle relay team, which helped WIU claim the men's team title. Westre took 13th place in the 50 freestyle and the 100 free. Westre's coach, both at Western Illinois and in Petersburg, Jerry Champer was named the men's coach of the year.
Linfield College sophomore Carly Van Aart (Ketchikan) and junior Chelsea Colliver (Sitka) helped lead their Wildcats to third place in the Northwest Conference swimming championships, while Pacific Lutheran University freshman Jennifer Gilson (Ketchikan) helped lead the Lutes to fifth place. Colliver took sixth place in the 1,650-yard freestyle, was 10th place in the 500 free and the 400 individual medley, and was a member of Linfield's third-place 800 free relay team. Van Aart took fifth place in the 200 breast, was sixth place in the 100 breast, 15th place in the 200 IM, and she was a member of Linfield's second-place 400 medley relay team. Gilson took 10th place in the 200 butterfly, 15th in the 400 IM, and 18th place in the 1,650 free.
Despite having to wear a heavy knee brace, Whitman College senior Heidi Reifenstein (Juneau-Douglas) still managed to improve her giant slalom standing from 14th place to ninth overall with a fourth-place second run in the U.S. Collegiate Snowsports Association West Region Championships Feb. 23. ``Heidi's performance was awesome,'' Whitman coach Tom Olson said. ``She has a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in one of her knees, but she had it in a brace and had her doctor's permission to ski. It's frustrating for her because she knows she could ski faster if she was healthy. But she has one good leg and one bad leg that she's holding together with a brace, and she's going to do the best she can.'' Whitman, which also features sophomore snowboarder Lindsay Bloom (Juneau-Douglas), will defend its U.S. Collegiate Snowsports Association national championship March 8-11 in Stratton Mountain, Vt.
University of Alaska Anchorage senior guard Chris Hamey (Juneau-Douglas) was named to the Pacific West Conference's Pacific Division second team Tuesday. Hamey, a fifth-year senior, was the Seawolves' leading scorer with 14.6 points a game, plus he led the team with 91 assists and 29 steals. He finished sixth on UAA's all-time scoring list, with 1,168 points, and is second on the career 3point goals made list (158) and seventh on the assist list (260). His 106 games played are a the fourth-most in school history. UAA ended its regular season with a 17-9 record and, although it didn't make the four-team Pac West Conference playoffs, there is still a chance the Seawolves might make the NCAA Division II tournament.
University of Alaska Fairbanks senior guard Matt Carle (Juneau-Douglas/Hydaburg) didn't make the all-tournament team like his former teammate Hamey did, but Carle did earn some bragging rights as UAF claimed its first victories over UAA in Carle's career and even swept the two-game season series. Carle averaged 12 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists this season for the Nanooks, 14-13.
As of Tuesday, the NCAA still hadn't taken action on Montana State University-Billings' self-imposed suspension of sophomore forward Nate Strong (Tenakee Springs), whose transfer to MSU-Billings from Skagit Valley Community College raised questions and threw the Pacific West Conference playoffs into disarray. Strong, who briefly attended UAF five years before going to Skagit Valley, had been ranked among NCAA Division II's top 20 scorers this season with 21.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists a game. When questions were raised about whether or not Strong should have been required to sit out a year before his transfer from Skagit Valley to MSU-Billings, MSU-Billings suspended Strong for the final game of this season and the first six games of next year. The NCAA may decide to accept the self-imposed suspension, or it may require MSU-Billings to forfeit the 25 games Strong played in this year.
Biola University senior guard Josh Lockhart (Juneau-Douglas) scored six points and dished out seven assists Saturday as the Eagles lost its final regular-season game 84-74 to Point Loma Nazarene University. Biola, which posted an overall record of 24-5, slipped from fifth to seventh place in the NAIA Division I poll with the loss, but should be guaranteed a berth in the NAIA playoffs. Lockhart finished the season averaging 9.1 points and 2.6 assists a game.
George Washington University walk-on senior guard Mark Lund (Klawock) scored one point and dished out an assist in one minute of action as George Washington beat Rhode Island 99-81 Feb. 19.
Duke freshman center Carlos Boozer Jr. (Juneau-Douglas) will be in action this afternoon as the No. 4 Blue Devils take on Clemson in a game televised at 3 p.m. Alaska time on ESPN. Duke will also be televised on ABC at 11 a.m. Saturday when the Blue Devils host North Carolina. Last Saturday, Boozer scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Duke in an 83-82 upset loss to St. John's University.
Davidson College senior guard Meagan Gleason (Juneau-Douglas) was one of three seniors honored Saturday when the Wildcats closed out their regular season with a 76-59 loss to Tennessee-Chattanooga for a 9-16 record. Gleason, who led the Southern Conference in 3-point field goal shooting percentage this season, scored nine points and dished out four assists Saturday. She closed out the season averaging 9.0 points this season, and carried an 11.1 point-per-game average in conference play. On Feb. 15, Gleason scored a career-high 21 points as Davidson upset Furman 80-70.
Santa Clara sophomore guard Caroline Gruening (Juneau-Douglas) scored nine points Feb. 16 as the Broncos claimed a 72-65 victory over San Francisco. Three days later, Gruening scored four points and dished out three assists as Santa Clara won a rematch with San Francisco. Gruening averaged 3.2 points a game this season for the Broncos, who posted a 20-7 record.
Southern Oregon University freshman Jaime Stanford (Mount Edgecumbe/Haines) is part of what the Raiders call their ``three-headed freshman center.'' Stanford, who has been starting at the position since recovering from a broken jaw that sidelined her for 10 games, teamed up with former Valdez player Ashley Nunley and Emily Wiley to post a combined 12.9 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game. Stanford averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds for the season.
Seattle University freshman center Christina Capacci (Juneau-Douglas) had four starts late in the season for the Red Hawks, scoring 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds a game as Seattle posted a 7-18 record. Her best game was against St. Martin's University Feb. 10, when she scored five points and grabbed 10 rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.
Fairmont State University senior forwardguard Rachel Franceschini averaged 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds a game as Fairmont posted a 16-7 record in NCAA Division II play. Franceschini scored nine points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out six assists as FSU claimed a 75-63 victory over West Virginia State on Feb. 21 and she had 10 points and five assists on Feb. 14 as FSU beat Carlow 61-41.
The Juneau Empire's College Corner feature is compiled by sports reporter Charles Bingham and runs about twice monthly. If you know of a college athlete from Southeast Alaska who should be included in this feature, please fax the information to 1-907-586-3028 (attention sports) or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.