Sparks Crowned National Champion – NAIA Outstanding Wrestler of the Year

PARK CITY, Kan. – History was made Saturday evening. A year after becoming the first Mountie to appear in a national championship since the program’s reinstatement, Sparks refused to let that be the end of his story. The senior avenged his 2023 loss with a victory over last year’s national champ in a dramatic triple overtime semifinals match. Then, on the biggest stage, Sparks delivered.

The national championship match turned into a CCC Championship rematch as Sparks once again met with Menlo’s Nicolas Aguilar. In the conference tournament it was all Sparks as he controlled the match on his way to a 7-2 victory.

When the lights shined brightest, so did the competition. Sparks fell behind early as Aguilar took an early lead with a snap takedown in the first period.The Roseburg native turned Mountaineer earned one point on the escape, but would trail after the first frame, 3-1.

A quiet second saw Aguilar add to his lead with an escape point to make it 4-1 going into the third. With a national title on the line Sparks answered. He gained two quick points off an escape and stalling call just 20 seconds into the period. With time ticking down Sparks created his own opportunity and etched his name in Mountaineer history with a quick shot and takedown in the final 15 seconds. After two challenges, the result stood and Hunter Sparks had his hand raised as EOU’s first national champion since the program’s reinstatement in 2016.

Sparks is Eastern’s first national champion in 55 years and is just the third in EOU history. The last national champion was Brick Woodward who claimed the title in 1969 at 160 pounds. Before that there was only one other Mountie to stand atop the podium, Rollin Schimmel in 1967 (157 pounds).

Not only did Sparks make history as a national champion. At the culmination of the evening, Sparks was also named the 2024 NAIA Outstanding Wrestler of the Year, marking the first time a Mountaineer has ever held the coveted award. Sparks finished the year 20-1 with his only loss coming to an NCAA Division I opponent. Out of his 20 victories, 6 ended in pins.

Sparks wasn’t the only Mountie to earn a prestigious honor on Saturday. Eastern Oregon’s Kyle Knudtson added to his resume once again earning his second NAIA All-American honor finishing eighth overall at the 2024 NAIA National Championships.

Knudtson, who finished fourth in 2022, returned to the podium in 2024 after another strong run. The junior worked his way back to the seventh-place match after an early loss. Saturday morning, he fell in a close decision to Grand View’s Jameel Coles, 8-6.

As a team the Mountaineers finished twelfth overall with 41.5 team points. Eastern’s highest ever team finishes came in 1968 and 1969 when they finished sixth overall both years.

The conclusion of the 2024 NAIA Men’s Wrestling National Championship marks the end of the 2023-2024 season. For all future EOU men’s wrestling updates, follow along at

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