Sports

Three ThunderWolves advance to wrestling nationals

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Niko Bogojevic - Photo by Dustin Cox
Niko Bogojevic – Photo by Dustin Cox

Massari Arena hosted the NCAA Division II Wrestling West Super Regionals Feb. 27 and 28.

Fourteen teams competed in hopes of their wrestlers moving on to the national tournament set for March 13 and 14. The Thunderwolves finished sixth overall in the tournament and advanced three wrestlers who will be competing for a national title in St. Louis.

CSU-Pueblo has hosted national NCAA events in the past, including a wrestling championship in 2012 and consecutive outdoor track and field events in 2012 and 2013. The university was determined to put on another quality hosting with this weekend’s tournament.

“We are excited and honored to host the 2015 Super Region Four Wrestling Championship,” said Athletic Director Joe Folda back in 2013. “Our last wrestling championship was a huge success and our university and community is committed to putting on another first class championship event for the NCAA.”

CSU-Pueblo didn’t disappoint as the Massari Arena was filled this weekend with great competition from all 14 teams. Senior wrestlers Eric Hughes and Niko Bogojevic both performed well at the tournament.

“I think the kids did a good job at the tournament. All three worked hard this year. The two seniors have been with me for two to three years and they’ve remained coachable and done what we asked them to do,” said wrestling coach Dax Charles.

JaCobi Jones - Photo by Dustin Cox
JaCobi Jones – Photo by Dustin Cox

Senior Niko Bogojevic, a heavyweight wrestler, qualified for the national tournament for the second time in the last three years and finished fourth in his weight class. Bogojevic will be going to St. Louis with a 27-13 record.

Senior Eric Hughes qualified for nationals with a four win streak throughout the tournament. His only loss came in the semifinal match, where he finished third in the tournament. Hughes came into the tournament ranked eighth nationally and will look to bring home a title in two weeks.

“Anytime I get a chance to represent CSU-P is a great blessing,” Hughes said. “I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to compete at the national tournament.”

Coach Dax Charles expressed great pride in both of his seniors but stressed how competing at the national tournament isn’t enough for him, and shouldn’t be enough for his wrestlers.

“If Hughes or Niko do not make it to the podium we’ll look at that as failure,” Charles said. “It’s all about coming back with an All-American title. Winning the national championship. That’s what it comes down to.”

Charles attributes his senior’s success to how they’ve grown as people off the mat. He remarked that if his wrestlers “live their life in a good way then good things will happen.”

His wrestlers seem to think so as well.

“Coach Dax has given me this opportunity by never giving up on me. He’s always challenging me and my teammates to strive to be better on and off the mat,” Hughes said. “Dax has been an instrumental part of everything I’ve done thus far and I couldn’t have done it without him.”

Perhaps some of the biggest news from the West Super Regional tournament was the qualification of a third Thunderwolf wrestler, freshman Jacobi Jones.

Jones has been on a hot streak all year earning RMAC Freshman of the Year honors, earning fourth in his weight class, and boasting an impressive 20-9 record going into his first national tournament.

Eric Hughes - Photo by Dustin Cox
Eric Hughes – Photo by Dustin Cox

“The freshman that we had qualify, he’s something special and I look forward to coaching him the next 3 years,” Charles said. “We haven’t had a freshman qualify for the national tournament in 25 years so he’s pretty unique and pretty special. He’s a freshman phenom, good character kid, so I see him on the podium his freshman year at the national championship.”

All three wrestlers will get their opportunity to bring home a national title for the Pack March 13 to 14 in the NCAA DII Wrestling National Championship in St. Louis, Missouri.