The No. 8 Pratt Community College wrestling team competed in the Bob Smith Open hosted by the No. 16 ranked NCAA DII school in the country, Fort Hays State University. Many wrestlers for the Beavers triumphed over nationally ranked opponents from the NJCAA level including members from in conference. Every bout that a PCC wrestler competed in was against a member of a nationally ranked school or 4-year university.
141-pound sophomore Justin Hershberger had the most successful day of all competing Pratt wrestlers. Hershberger's found himself on the short end of a 6-4 decision to Kyle Cisneros from No. 24 Northeastern Junior College in his first bout of the open. The second-year Beaver wrestler bounced back with 3-straight wins to begin action in the consolation bracket. He started with a pin fall victory over fellow Jayhawk Conference wrestler Bryce Gfeller out of No. 12 Cloud County Community College. The highlight of Hershberger's day came in his second match of the backside when he earned another win by fall over the No. 1 NJCAA wrestler in the nation, Sammy Eckhart. Hershberger managed to finish the day by splitting competition against two opponents from NAIA schools. His last win came by way of decision (22-15). After making it to the consolation semifinals, Hershberger received his second loss by a mere 7-6 decision that took him out of competition. Shortly after the conclusion of the open, Hershberger's efforts against several nationally ranked opponents and 4-year university wrestlers including the dethroning of the top ranked junior college wrestler landed him the No. 1 spot in the NJCAA rankings at the 141-pound weight class.
PCC sophomore Brayan Balderrama wrestled in the 125-pound bracket at the open. Balderrama made it all the way to the championship semifinals before taking a single loss. The Pratt, Kan. native leaped out to 2-straight decision victories to begin the tournament, including a win over Jayhawk opponent Jacob Roberson from No. 12 Labette Community College. He continued to wrestle in the backside after receiving a loss to conference foe Jordan Marshall out of No. 6 Northwest Kansas Technical College. His day ended after falling by a 5-2 decision to Jacob Fontanez from NCAA DI No. 4 ranked Oklahoma State University.
Also representing the blue and white was 197-pounder Chris Henderson, who drew a challenging bracket containing matchups with only wrestlers from NCAA DII schools. He went on to lose his first contest of the day to a wrestler from the University of Central Oklahoma. The tables turned for Henderson after putting Joe Bencomo from Adams State University on his back in period two of the second round consolations. Jordan Davis from Fort Hays got the better of Henderson to end his day of competition with a 12-4 decision.
"It was a great competition coming out of the break. We just need to get more comfortable with our style against other levels of competition. We can't wait to get back to work for the next competition," said Head Wrestling Coach Ken Kepley.
PCC wrestling will return to the mat when they travel to compete in the Doane Open in Crete, Neb. on Dec. 12.