Shane Stolz, Sports Information Director
WALNUT RIDGE – It has taken only three years for the Williams Baptist College wrestling program to transform from a new program into an NAIA powerhouse. Year three cemented the program’s place amongst the elite and culminated with a fourth place finish at the NAIA National Championships, three All-Americans, and an individual national champion, as well as many honors throughout the historic season.
The Eagles traveled to Topeka, Kan., on March 3 and 4, to compete in the NAIA National Championships. WBC came in as the 11th ranked team in the country, and had seven wrestlers ranked in their respective weight classes.
Williams exceeded the expectations of the rankings and finished in fourth place at the National Championships, with a team score of 61.5 points.
Demetrius Thomas swept through the 285 lb. weight class, winning WBC’s first ever NAIA National Championship. In the process, Thomas earned 25 points for the team, and the redshirt freshman earned All-American honors.
The next highest point getter was Tyler Fraley at the 141 pound division. He secured 16.5 team points on his way to a third place finish. He wrestled his way to All-American honors for the second straight season.
Josh Chiles became the first Arkansas high school graduate in wrestling history to earn All-American honors at the collegiate level. The Little Rock, Ark., native captured fourth place on his way to earning 12.5 points for the Eagles.
Other point scorers for WBC were Ryan Whittle 3.00, Keion McVay 2.5, Tyler Dibert 1.00, and Jeffrey Haley 1.00.
The fourth place finish is a remarkable accomplishment for the third year program. They were three points behind third place Campbellsville University and 13 points behind Lindsey Wilson College. Grand View University won the competition with a total of 234.5 points. There are 56 teams that compete in wrestling in the NAIA.
“It has been a season of ups and downs. We knew what we were capable of accomplishing all season. I think after National Duals we had a lot of teams start to doubt our ability. It took a lot of trust and faith in ourselves to rebound and end up with a fourth place finish. Regardless of our results, we give all the glory to God in all that we do. We have a team and staff that preaches this and succeeds in this. It means a lot and is fun to be a part of this process,” summed up head coach Kerry Regner.
Other accomplishments throughout the season include an NAIA National Player of the Week (Tyler Fraley), American Midwest Conference team championship, AMC Coach of the Year (Kerry Regner), AMC Wrestler of the Year (Tyler Fraley), and numerous AMC Wrestler of the Week honors.