CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – York College freshman 141-pounder Greg Warner (Newville, Pa. / Big Spring) wrapped up his first trip to the NCAA DIII Wrestling Championships with a fifth place finish and the title of NCAA All-American. As a team, the Spartans finished in a tie for 20th place with 17.5 points with Warner as the lone place-winner.
Warner becomes the 26th NCAA All-American in program history and the first since 2013 (Vinny Pisani – 149). The Spartans earned their best finish as a team since 2012 when they finished 12th with 28 team points with three All-Americans.
Warner started his day with a 9-5 victory over eighth-seeded Jeremy Border of Mount Union in the consolation quarterfinals. The freshman got revenge over the two-time All-American senior who handed Warner his only loss at the Mideast Regionals two weeks ago.
In the consolation semifinals, Warner suffered a pin fall in the second period to third-seeded Nathaniel Behnke of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, which put him in the fifth-place match.
Warner ended his day with an exclamation point as he racked up a 17-7 major decision over seventh-seeded Chris Williams of Millikin to place fifth on the 141-pound podium.
In total, Warner compiled a record of 5-2 with wins over the sixth, eighth and seventh-seeded wrestlers and losses to the No. 1 and No. 3 seeded wrestlers in his weight class.
Warner's fifth win and final win of the weekend gave him 30 wins for the season as he finishes with a 30-9 record, joining Ryan Flynn and Mike Spencer as the three Spartan wrestlers to reach the 30-win mark for this season. Warner finished the season with a team-leading eight technical falls to go along with four pin falls, five major decisions and nine wins by decision.
Warner is the first All-American under the direction of third-year head coach Duane Bastress, who was a two-time National Champion for the Green and White in 2005 and 2006. Bastress has now had four national qualifiers in his short tenure at the helm of his Alma Mater.
When asked about Warner, coach Bastress was impressed with the progress the freshman made from beginning of the season to now.
"I'm so proud of how Greg has matured throughout the season. From going 8-8 in the first semester to 22-4 in the second semester was a great turn around," stated Bastress. "Greg bought into the program and once he got his confidence high, the sky was the limit. I knew from watching him wrestle in the room and first semester against competition that we had something special, we just needed to polish some things up and we could make a run at All-American status."
"Watching him this weekend make a run at All-American is something I will never forget. It was a great experience," said Bastress. "The goal still remains the same as we head into next season and that is to compete for an NCAA Championship, not only for Greg, but also Flynn. "Having our guys watch Greg achieve his goals will hopefully push our other guys to work to compete next season at the NCAA Tournament!"
Coach Bastress also positive words for his other Spartan wrestlers who competed this weekend.
"Flynn wrestled well but the breaks didn't go our way. He wrestled the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked wrestlers this weekend," stated Bastress. "I am extremely proud of how he has progressed from last season to this season. He will use the lessons he learned from this NCAA Tournament to help him stand on the podium next season and cap off his outstanding career on a high note."
"Big Mike is someone that I will miss a lot. It is hard to watch someone that you have invested a lot of time in and who also has invested a lot of time into becoming a champion," said Bastress. "Mike bought in to our program from day one. Having watched him mature over the last four years is something that I'm proud of. I wanted so bad for him to achieve that All-American status. I'm so proud of everything he has accomplished during his time as a Spartan."
Greg Warner photo courtesy of David Sinclair