Marshall, Mo. (Press Release)- The No. 2 Missouri Valley College men’s wrestling team is preparing for the 2016 NAIA Wrestling National Championships, presented by USA Wrestling-Kansas, which takes place Friday and Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka, Kan. The Vikings will send 10 student-athletes to the championship event, featuring one defending National champion.
Leading the men’s wrestling team is No. 1 Senior Gabi Musallam (San Diego, Calif.), the defending National champion at 285 pounds. Musallam enters the National championship with a 16-2 record on the season. He owns an 11-1 career record at the National event, earning the National title in 2015 and a third place finish in 2014. Musallam will try to become just the second Viking in program history to earn multiple National championships. The only other member of the men’s wrestling program to earn multiple individual National titles was Bobby Lashley, who won three-straight titles from 1996-98.
No. 1 Senior Jake Ekster (Houston, Texas) will be making his fourth appearance at the National championships, and will compete in the 141 pound weight class. Ekster enters the weekend with a 6-2 record on the season. He is a three-time All-American, placing as the National runner-up in 2015 with a pair of third place finishes in 2014 and 2013, all in the 149 pound weight class. Ekster holds an 18-2 career-record in the National tournament, and could become the program’s seventh individual to earn All-American status in all four years of competing. The most recent was Darion Terry from 2003-06.
The third top ranked individual, No. 1 Senior Riley Boomer (Hubbardston, Mich.), will make his second appearance at the National tournament. Boomer finished with a 3-2 record in his appearance at the 2014 National event. Boomer enters this year’s tournament at 174 pounds with a 26-2 overall record, and he was named the 2016 Heart Wrestler of the Year.
No. 13 Senior Ryan Stearns is set to compete in his fourth National championship tournament, wrestling in the 125 pound weight class. Stearns takes a 12-6 record into this year’s National event, and owns a 2-6 career record in the National competition. His best showing at the National championships was a 2-2 record in the 2014 event.
No. 7 Junior Andrew Simmons (Palmdale, Calif.) will make his second-career appearance at the National tournament, and takes a 12-7 record this season into the 157 pound contest. Simmons qualified for the National competition in 2015 and finished with a 1-2 record.
Senior Brett Bader (Farmington, Mo.) enters his second National tournament in the 184 pound weight class and takes a 10-6 record into the event. Bader qualified for Nationals in 2014 and finished with an 0-2 record.
The four remaining Vikings competing this weekend are making their first-career appearances at the National tournament. No. 6 Freshman Kenny Boyd (Hollywood, Fla.) is 19-7 on the season at 149 pounds, No. 11 Freshman Dalton Tipton (Smithville, Mo.) carries a 23-10 record into the 165 pound competition, No. 10 Junior Donovan Fouchey (Oscoda, Mich.) enters the 197 pound event with a 21-9 record and No. 9 Sophomore Justin Smith (Hollywood, Calif.) brings a 17-8 record into the 285 pound competition.
The men’s wrestling team has a current streak of top ten finishes at the National tournament that stretches 21-straight years, dating back to 1994-1995 season.
The National championships begin with the first two championship rounds and two consolation rounds Friday at 10 a.m. The Friday night session begins at 6:30 p.m., and features the championship quarterfinals and two additional consolation rounds. Saturday’s morning session begins at 10 a.m., with the National championship matches beginning Saturday at 7 p.m. This year’s National championship matches can be streamed online at ESPN3.