COUNCIL BLUFFS — The first season of Indian Hills Community College wrestling is officially history.
History is exactly what the Warrior grapplers established this year, finishing as one of the NJCAA's top 10 teams in the program's inaugural year. Deron Pulliam paced five podium finishes for IHCC, resulting in five wrestlers earning All-American honors, by rebounding from a disappointing semifinal round loss to finish third at 184 pounds on the final day of the NJCAA Division I men's national wrestling tournament.
Pulliam, the top-seeded wrestler at 184, Indian Hills, lost 4-2 to Jacari Deal, Northwest Kansas Tech. Deal snapped a 1-1 tie by escaping Pulliam early in the final period before scoring what proved to be the decisive takedown against Pulliam with 1:07 left.
Pulliam came back to win a somewhat unusual consolation semifinal, scoring a pin against Michael Gasper of Clackamas in the 11th minute of the match. The two wrestlers could only manage escapes against each other in seven minutes of regulation and the first three periods of overtime. Pulliam countered a second escape by Gasper to extend the match before clinching the final after four extra minutes.
Pulliam finished off the day, and the season, with a 5-2 win in the third-place match over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M's Jackson White. Caleb Meekins came up one win short of matching Pulliam with a bronze medal finish at nationals, finishing fourth at 133 pounds for IHCC after dropping a 5-3 decision to RCTC's Parker Dobrocky in the consolation finals.
Both Meekins and Chris Busutil lost by falls in the national semifinals on Friday. Meekins was pinned by Zeth Brower of Clackamas in 2:35 before bouncing back to pin Cowley County's Ryan Smith in 2:02 while Busutil suffered an 18-2 tech fall in 5:25 against Pratt's Michael Spangler before bouncing back from a 4-3 consolation semifinal loss to Iowa Central's Aidan Harris, pinning Aseel Almudhala of Henry Ford to clinch a fifth-place finish at 125 pounds.
Victor Guzman and Khris Walton both clinched seventh-place All-American finishes at the national tournament for the Warriors. Guzman won a wild 11-10 decision over Pratt's Jacob Mitchell after being pinned in 6:15 by Western Wyoming's Caleb Nathan at 141 pounds while Walton bounced back from a 4-2 loss to Seth Sarasua of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, winning 4-2 over Ryan Murphy of Neosho County at 197 pounds.
Indian Hills finishes with 81 points scored in the program's first trip to the NJCAA national wrestling tournament, posting the second-highest total among all Iowa Community College Athletic Conference teams. Iowa Central, in contention entering the championship round for a top-three finish, led all Region XI teams with 123 points with four wrestlers competing for national titles.
Indian Hills can finish no worse than eighth and would finish seventh should RCTC's Gavin Christofferson fall in the 184-pound final. Iowa Western entered the final round in ninth with 75 while Western Wyoming (147) and defending national champion Clackamas (146.5) left to battle for the team title with Western Wyoming competing in one national final while Clackamas qualified two wrestlers for the finals.