Newman wrestlers excel, honor Reece Wright-Conklin

Junior Dustin Reed
Dustin Reed

The Newman University annual invitational wrestling tournament traditionally attracts some of the top collegiate programs from the region. This year the Jets made their best showing in the history of the event, winning two individual titles and placing four wrestlers in the top four.

In addition to the competition, the highlight of the day was a dedication ceremony. Family members of former NU wrestler Reece Wright-Conklin, the senior who died earlier this year from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident, were on hand as the crowd paid tribute to their son and brother with a moment of silence for a "final match."  School officials also announced that the name of the tourney has been changed to the Reece Wright-Conklin Jet Invitational.

On the mats Junior Dustin Reed won his second consecutive Jet Invite title and  freshman Heath Gray captured his second individual championship of the season.

Reed was a one-time roommate of Wright-Conklin and admitted he had extra motivation coming into the tournament.

"I won this tournament last year against a top seed in the nation ... but this year I had a little bit more to fight for ... a national title is the end goal but Reece was a big part of this one. It means a lot to the team."

With his championship at 125 pounds, Reed kept his flawless record at the event intact. He beat regionally ranked Lawson Ludwin of Fort Hays State in the finals 10-2.

Gray won the 174 pound division title, the same weight class Wright-Conklin won in 2013, with a hard fought 3-1 victory over Central Oklahoma's Mason Thompson.

Sophomore Dalton Weidl downed Fort Hays State's Micquille Robinson 6-3 to clinch third place at 184.

Freshman Garrett Whitson  (141) senior Colton Duhr  (157) and junior Noel Torres (165) each placed fourth.

It was the best Jet Invite showing for Newman wrestlers in the tournament's six years of existence. The Jets' two champions, six place winners, 16 bout wins and 59.3 percent individual winning percentage all established new standards, and the fifth-place standing as a team in the field of 10 tied a previous high, although the inaugural field in 2010 had just eight teams.

Oklahoma City University earned the team title with 118.0 points, just two better than second-place Central Oklahoma. Northeast Oklahoma was third and Fort Hays State fourth. The Jets' 57.0 team points put them just 5.5 points behind Fort Hays.

The Jets are off until Jan. 3 when they return to action at the UCM Duals hosted by Central Missouri.

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