Sparks Earns Second Consecutive Conference Title

LA GRANDE, Ore. – For the second consecutive year, Hunter Sparks topped the podium of the Cascade Collegiate Conference’s 125-pound division. Sporting an impressive 17-1 record on the season, Sparks dominated the competition to claim a first-place finish and contributed 16.0 total team points for the Mounties. After advancing to the semifinals yesterday, the No. 3 ranked wrestler in the nation then faced off against #17 Allan Hendricks from Embry-Riddle, winning by decision with a close score of 2-0. In the highly anticipated championship match, Sparks then demonstrated his control over #13 Nicolas Aguilar of Menlo College with a decisive 7-2 decision victory. With back-to-back CCC Championships under his belt, the senior will be one of the highest-rated contenders for the NAIA National Championship come February 29th.

Eastern Oregon’s second competitor reaching a CCC title match was A.J. Rockwell, representing the Mountaineers in the 149-pound division. Rockwell won his spot after defeating #15 Jalen Vladic of Providence in the semifinals before running into Bryant Avila of Vanguard in the championship round. The junior would ultimately be defeated in a 10-5 decision by Avila, but not before putting the CCC and NAIA on notice with this weekend’s display.

Kyle Knudtson and Jay Smith each achieved third-place finishes for the Mounties, responding after semifinal losses with victories over #20 Rylin Burns (Montana State-Northern) and #13 Hunter James (Menlo). Braden Carson also capped off an impressive tournament with a fifth-place finish, while Josh Collins, Darrian Hoobery, and Cole Cross ended the weekend in eighth. Cody Glenn rounded out the placements for EOU, finishing tenth in the 165-pound division.

The Mountaineers finished sixth in overall team standings, scoring 79.5 points. The Cascade Collegiate Conference was recently deemed the toughest conference in the nation by the NAIA, earning a total of 60 allocations standing as almost twice as many national tournament placements as any other conference in the country. Following this weekend’s performances, Hunter Sparks, Braden Carson, A.J. Rockwell, Kyle Knudtson, and Jay Smith will all have a chance to represent Eastern Oregon in the 67th Annual Men’s Wrestling National Championship, held in Park City, Kansas from February 29th to March 2nd.

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