SIOUX CITY | Nate Garcia wasn’t going to carry that same feeling around again for another year.
Briar Cliff’s 19th-ranked sophomore scored the winning takedown in the third period to secure a 3-2 victory over Jacob Wiley and give the Chargers a 20-15 dual victory over No. 18 Morningside on Thursday. It gave Briar Cliff its first GPAC dual wrestling title in school history.
Morningside won last year's dual 19-18 as Derik Bailey clipped Garcia 3-2 in the final match. The Chargers were deducted one team point during the dual to help create the final margin.
“This time last year I was in this situation and I lost by one point, I was the reason we lost the dual,” Garcia said. “It feels good to give my coach what he deserves and pull out that win.
“I was a little nervous but all of my teammates helped focus me in on this guy and I went out there and wrestled a full seven minutes.”
In a dual where nearly every match was close, it was an intense final three matches that went to Briar Cliff to give the Chargers their first dual win ever over Morningside.
“This is a big step for Briar Cliff as a whole,” Chargers’ Zach Davis said. “Today we made history. We had never beat Morningside and first time being GPAC champs. A big part of it was just believing in ourselves and just knowing what we could do tonight. We had to execute and that is what we did.”
It looked like Morningside’s 20th-ranked Kyle Fowler was on his way to a victory at 157 as he was in on a shot on Davis, but Davis threw Fowler to his back as he tried to complete the takedown and turned a two-point deficit into the 7-3 win thanks to four nearfall points, bringing the Chargers within 15-11.
“Practice and we just work hard and I just had to know that I could do it,” said Davis. “Every day practicing with my partners prepared me for today. Just practice and hard work.”
BCU’s Chris Paulsen and Morningside’s Nic Madsen came out firing in the first period at 165, and it was Madsen leading 6-5 after Paulsen was whistled for a violation. However, when Madsen went for a shot on Paulsen he turned the tables and picked up a huge pin at the 4:36 mark to give the Chargers their first lead since early in the dual, 17-15.
That set up Garcia to put the finishing touches on in front of a sizable and loud crowd.
“It is heart really because you don’t win these matches on Thursday night,” Briar Cliff Coach Joe Privitere said. “You win them every day in the room battling as family. When it gets tough in the last seconds you have to grit it out, those guys gritted it out.”
Morningside looked like it had established momentum thanks to a pin from No. 4 Keegan Hessler at 125 and Alex Schmitz scored a takedown in the final seconds to earn a 10-2 major decision at 133 to build Morningside’s lead to 12-5. Both teams were docked one team point after the 125-pound match because of misconduct.
Morninside had a 15-8 lead after Briar Cliff’s No. 17 Nathan Ryan earned a 7-2 win at 141, and the Mustangs’ No. 6 Steven Garcia responded with a 6-4 win at 149.
Morningside has dominated the series between the two rivals, but the Chargers have been gaining in recent seasons. The Mustangs won 21-17 two seasons ago and 22-12 in 2015.
Briar Cliff (7-1, 7-1) and Morningside (5-5, 5-2) suffered their lone GPAC defeat to Northwestern -- by a combined three points -- coming into Thursday's dual.
Briar Cliff struck first in the dual as James Buckhanan scored off of a Keagan Putnam shot in the final 20 seconds to break a 2-2 tie and go on for the 4-3 victory at 184. Morningside would get those points back in the next weight with a similar scenario. Caleb Deemer would get out from bottom to start the third to tie the score at 1-1 with Josh Tapia before scoring the winning takedown out of a scramble with 25 seconds left to take the match 3-1.
The key takedown again went to the Chargers at heavyweight as Matthew Wilke scored the only takedown of the match in the second period and used the escape point in the third to win 3-2. Morningside’s Phil Rasmussen was in on a leg for the winning takedown on the buzzer but did not finish in time.
“It feels like the last two weeks we haven’t been able to finish the way we need to,” Morningside Coach Jake Stevenson said. “It is something as a coaching staff we have to figure out how to get our guys to finish that last 30 seconds and come out on top. We lost three four matches in the last 30 seconds.”