Looking over the 10 weight classes for the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) I, along with the Portillo Brothers (Justin & Josh) & Aaron "Swayz" Sweazy have decided to pick who at each weight I think will win the GPAC title & why. Here are our picks & our opinions.
NOTE- Portillo picks are sleeper picks!
JT#1: Daniel Vargas Doane
Portillo Bros: Evan Shell Morningside
Swayz: Daniel Vargas Doane
JT#1: No doubt in my mind our GPAC champion at 125 will be Daniel Vargas of Doane. The Tiger is already a two time NAIA All American with finishes of 5th & 6th the past two seasons.
Portillo Bros: Evan Shell, Morningside. We don’t complain hardly ever about anything. But we will definitely complain that GPAC takes just one 125 automatically and that one will be very hard to beat, #3 by the Open Mat, Daniel Vargas. But Shell is a 2x qualifier who just beat #15 Diago Hernandez. This conference lost a bid here to the AMC/Sooner conference but I’m optimistic the runner up gets a wild card.
JT#1: CaRon Watson Briar Cliff
Portillo Bros: Devin Avedissian Doane
Swayz: Taylor Vasquez Morningside
JT#1: You know what? Screw it, I'm not playing it safe here. The past three seasons Briar Cliff's CaRon Watson has brought home GPAC bronze & this season I say he brings home GPAC gold. Some may say that I've lost it, but I don't think so. He gave Taylor Vasquez of Morningside a very respectable 5-3 match earlier this season. I think he can win this thing. I really do.
Portillo Bros: Devin Avedissian, Doane. His best win this season is probably a pin over Juco #3 Thaddeus Long, but he’s also beaten two of my other sleeper picks: Hayden Williams and Cooper Mahaffey.
Swayz: This might be the first of many weights where a coach tries to really push for a 3 seed since Morningside right now has the 1 and 4 and would set up a semi-finals battle. Briar Cliff may see this happen at 125 in quarters with the 4 and 5 potentially. It gets pretty entertaining when coaches aren’t paying attention and their guys get placed on same side when they could fight for them, but sometimes you can’t deny that you both should be on same side (especially if only seeding top 4). Enough of a rant. The top 3 here are solid. The semi-finals here could be fire with Watson and Avedissian of Doane locking horns. Avedissian has some impressive wins on the season, but I think Vasquez stays composed against a familiar foe. Very slight edge for Vasquez, but Watson may steal the top spot on the podium.
JT#1: Baterdene Boldmaa Doane
Portillo Bros: Creighton Baughman Concordia (NEB)
Swayz: Baterdene Boldmaa Doane
JT#1: Sign the check on the dotted line, this one is signed, sealed and delivered. No one is keeping Baterdene Boldmaa of Doane from his fourth conference title. In fact, no one is keeping him from his fourth NAIA title either. Swayz and I are both on the "Boldmaa for Hodge Consideration." I can't see him winning it, but just to see him acknowledged would make my day. What he's already done & what he'll continue to do is history, and because he's not DI, so few are unaware of it. That isn't right. Dude is super talented & deserves to be recognized for it.
Portillo Bros: Creighton Baughman, Concordia. Hold your horses, I’m not picking Baughman to avenge his tech fall loss to Boldmaa. But I am predicting him to close the gap and make some noise at nationals. He’s beaten #13 Donte Lopez twice.
Swayz: Swayz: Dan Gable. Heard of him? Well Bateredene “Baagi” Boldmaa is tied with him for most college wins in a row for I believe 5 th all time. At the GPAC I expect to see him put on a show for the home crowd as a swan song. A 4x AA (3 rd in Juco, 3x NAIA Champ, 2x NAIA OW), There are a few challengers at Nationals that could upend one of the most amazing wrestlers at any division recently. Watching Boldmaa compete is what I call Swan Lake Wrestling…elegant, breathtaking, and will have you begging for an En Core. Boldmaa by a billion.
JT#1: John Diener Morningside
Portillo Bros: Aric Williams Dakota Wesleyan
Swayz: Aric Williams Dakota Wesleyan
JT#1: A GPAC champion last season & 8th in the NAIA, I believe John Diener of Morningside will win title #2.
Portillo Bros: Aric Williams, Dakota Wesleyan. A lot of his best wins came back when he started for D1 SDSU, including over eventual D2 national champ Lukas Martin and NAIA studs Wenberg and Asa Garcia. He lost to Diener 2-1 and will look to upset him for a shot at Lendt.
Swayz: Although he doesn’t have a lot of matches under his belt, I think his ability to keep thingsclose and more times than not pull out a win has me picking Aric Williams of Dakota Wesleyan.
JT#1: Tristan Zamilpa Doane
Portillo Bros: Tommy Wentz Concordia (NEB)
Swayz: Tristan Zamilpa Doane
JT#1: He was injured here a while back & I'm not sure if he'll be cleared by Friday for the GPAC or not. Even if he is cleared, will Tristan Zamilpa of Doane be 100%. I'm gonna stick with him as my pick for right now. If he does not enter the tournament though, going with Noah Styskal of Morningside.
Portillo Bros: Tommy Wentz, Concordia. After the top two, this weight is anyone’s game. Wentz has a pin over Tyson Johnson, the 3 seed who he could see in the third place match.
Swayz: Zamilpa was down 5-2 from what I see when he had to injury default to Styskal in the dual which then ultimately gave the title to Morningside. Styskal will bring it again to prove that he is in control, but I feel that we will see Zamilpa bring the thunder. Zamilpa in a close match.
JT#1: Caleb Connor Morningside
Portillo Bros: Garrett Arment Briar Cliff
Swayz: Caleb Connor Morningside
JT#1: If my Iowa school bias isn't showing by now, I'm sure that it will eventually. Going with Morningside's Caleb Connor on this one. He was 3rd in last year's championships.
Portillo Bros: Garrett Arment, Briar Cliff. Amongst Arment’s best wins this season are #16 at 157 Michael Lucas, D2 stud Rylee Noble, and the 2 seed here, Zander Ernst. There’s only four spots here for 6 quality athletes, but I think Arment is a title contender.
Swayz: Connor in this one, may face teammate Ernst, but Dobler of Doane may have something to prove with the home crowd.
JT#1: Chinges Tsermaa Doane
Portillo Bros: Lane Miller Dakota Wesleyan
Swayz: Jakob Francksen Small Northwestern (IA)
JT#1: I believe we're gonna see an all Doane final in this one. Last year's GPAC championship was Chinges Tsermaa Vs Michael Scarponi, with Tsermaa taking the title & I think this year's will be an exact replica. Maybe a different score for the match of course.
Portillo Bros: Lane Miller, Dakota Wesleyan. I hadn’t heard much of Lane Miller until this year, but he has wins over most of the lower seeds in this bracket making him likely to qualify for nationals this year.
Swayz: It will take a potentially monumental weekend for him to pull it off, but I’m going with a super-dawg here. Jakob Francksen-Small from NW.
JT#1: Luke Jenness Northwestern (IA)
Portillo Bros:Luke Jenness Northwestern (IA)
Swayz: Hayden Wempen Morningside
JT#1: Gonna catch some flack for this homer pick, but I gotta go with Northwestern's Luke Jenness. You can't ask me to do a GPAC pick em' contest & expect me to not pick at least one Red Raider. I'm well aware of Missouri Valley transfer Hayden Wempen's presence at Morningside. He was 8th in the NAIA last season. Yet Jenness who was a GPAC champion last year, I do believe will be Northwestern's next NAIA All American. Going with the white & red on this one.
Portillo Bros: Luke Jenness, Northwestern. I first encountered the humble beast Luke Jenness when I coached him at Disney Duals in 2019 and he went 10-0 in the all-star division. Since then, without a redshirt, he has qualified for three consecutive NAIA national tournaments but hasn’t had his luck there, yet. This is one of the finals matches I am most excited about: Jenness vs. Wempen.
Swayz: Logan Davidson was a surprise addition to the Bulldogs roster in mid-December following football season. The Goddard Kansas product is the younger brother of the 285lb starter for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. I think he will win a GPAC crown, but not sure if it is this year…I think he crashes the finals, but Wempen defeats him there.
JT#1: Bradley Antesberger Doane
Portillo Bros: Matthew Montgomery Briar Cliff
Swayz: Bradley Antesberger Doane
JT#1: For 197 & HWT, I think we're gonna see brother champions from Doane. Bradley Antesberger who was a GPAC runner-up last season & 4th in the NAIA is my pick here.
Portillo Bros: Matthew Montgomery, Briar Cliff. He earned the 2 seed and an auto bid thanks to wins over #20 Liam Swanson, NQ Jacob Brandt, and previously ranked Logan Davidson.
Swayz: Bradley Antesberger is the older but smaller brother of the Antesberger combo. He was 3 rd in NCWA at Dixie State (now Utah Tech) in 2020. He was 5th at Sophomore Nationals in 2017, I’m sure he’s had many wins in between and other National accolades. Jake Rau from Jamestown is an interesting addition to the conference slate as he was a NQ at 285 last year for NJCAA Itasca where he lost 4-2 to Kawaun Deboe (Indian Hills) and Micah Lieberman (Labette) 2-0 who are both ranked in the Top 4 or 5 in Juco. I think his style is good and we may see a battle early on and a handfight delight, but Antesberger is my pick as well.
JT#1: Brandon Antesberger Doane
Portillo Bros: Hunter Dejong Morningside
Swayz: Jakob Jerabek Morningside
JT#1: Like his smaller brother, I see Brandon Antesberger who was a GPAC champion last season, winning the 2023 GPAC title.
Portillo Bros: Hunter Dejong, Morningside. I’ll take the 4 seed to win this bracket. He was an All-American last year at 197 and has wins over #5 Jacobs, #10 Figueroa, and #20 Jarvis. He lost 4-3 to 1 seed Antesberger and will have a chance to avenge that in the semis.
Swayz: When Morningside wrestled Doane in the dual, Hunter DeJong was thrown out to represent vs. Antesberger and wrestled him close. I think this is a weight with a lot of different power. Antesberger has wrestled some freakishly tough guys this year like NJCAA #1 Devon Dawson of Pratt (whom he beat 4-3) and defending NAIA Champ Gage Braun of Southeastern who picked him apart 26-10. He also has faced NAIA Runner up Hagan, Juco AA Hahn, and many other sharp wrestlers. I think this weight could get screwy but I’m going to go with Jakob Jerabek from Morningside in a squeaker.
There you go GPAC Fans!