Junior Trey Hicks placed fifth at 184 pounds to become the lone All-American of the Running Eagles’ inaugural season, and Life scored 15 points to finish 21st of 37 teams.
Also earning All-America honors was Campbellsville’s Brandon Westerman. The former McEachern star, who claimed four state championships as a member of the Indians, finished third at 141 pounds and helped the Tigers to a sixth-place showing with 69 points.
Grand View (Iowa) collected 159 points to edge Southern Oregon (153) and Montana State-Northern (104).
Life, which sent four wrestlers — Hicks, Dillan Schouw (141 pounds), Oliver Brukardt (157) and Jason Fraser (165) — to the national championship, posted the highest finish among NAIA programs in Georgia, beating out Brewton-Parker, which tied for 32nd, and Truett-McConnell, which tied for 34th.
“We sent four guys to nationals, brought home our first All-American and finished 21st in the country,” Life coach Mike Miller said. “Not too bad for a first-year program.
“I think the guys put forth a good effort and wrestled hard. Hicks did very well earning All-American, and to see our team do so well overall can only help with recruiting. As a first-year program, we have a lot of room to grow, and our ultimate goal is to be national champions. We want to be the first school in Georgia to win a national wrestling championship.”
It’s a goal Miller sees his team working hard towards.
“We’re setting high expectations here,” he said. “We’re here to improve and have guys step up to the challenge. We want to improve at all weight classes next year and accomplish our goal sooner rather than later.”
Hicks’ national championship goal was thwarted in his first championship match.
After receiving a first-round bye, he dropped a narrow 5-4 decision to Baker’s Jarid Price, which sent Hicks to the consolation bracket. There, he won three matches to qualify as an All-American before suffering his second loss. He beat Midland’s Jahsua Marsh 6-4 in the fifth-place match.
Hicks finished 31-10 on the season and was ranked 14th nationally.
The All-America honor was Hicks’ second straight. He did it on the junior college last season at Darton College in Albany, placing eighth nationally.
“(Hicks) wasn’t out-athleticized, he was out-techniqued,” Miller said. “I’m really proud of him. He can improve over the summer and work on his conditioning and come back stronger for that national title. We’ll have more guys in the room to challenge him next year, which will be a big bonus.”
Westerman, who was ranked 12th nationally entering the event, beat two wrestlers, including seventh-seeded Blake Fruchtl of Hastings, to reach the semifinals, where he suffered his first loss.
In the consolations, Westerman upset No. 4 Jake Williams of Cumberland via a pin in 1minute, 33 seconds. Next, he topped third-ranked Wismit Moinius of Lindsey Wilson 2-0 to earn third.
A transfer from Marion Military Institute in Alabama, where he won a National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championship title at 141 pounds as a sophomore in 2011, Westerman sat out last season at Campbellsville as redshirt and concluded his first season with the Tigers as one of four All-Americans.
“We knew him from high school and finally got him,” Campbellsville coach Franky James said. “He was in a tough weight class, but made our lineup and went 24-9 I think. He shows up big in big matches and knows how to win.
“I had confidence him that he would do well, and he did. He beat guys he lost to earlier in the season and had a good tournament. I’m happy with him and how he helped the team, too.”