The Olivet wrestling team capped off the 2016-17 season on Saturday, March 11 at the 2017 Division III Wrestling Championships in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Three members of the Comet wrestling team qualified for nationals: Junior Davon Jackson and Seniors Jesse Judge and Austin Kelley.
Coach Brandon Brissette, in his eighth season leading the Comets, was proud in the way his team came together this season. “It was a big year because we had a big group of seniors and from a team perspective you’re always a little bit closer when you have a large group of guys who spent that much time together,” Brissette said in a sit-down interview,
“We had a really good leadership year and it was leadership not just from the supposed captains it was also leadership from other guys as well.”
Fifth in the 125-pound weight class; senior Curtis Blackwell finished sixth in the 141-pound bracket; and sophomore Tyler Grimsley placed sixth in the 174-pound weight class according to olivetcomets.com.
Jackson entered the championships unseeded in the 165-pound weight class. On the first day, he suffered a 23-8 technical fall loss to No. 3 seed Stephen Jarrell out of Johnson & Wales University (Rhode Island) in the opening round. Jackson then had consecutive pins in the consolation bracket to earn himself All-American status, defeating both Nick Herring from the College of New Jersey and Zach Zupan from Cortland State (New York) according to olivetcomets.com.
After posting a 2-1 record on March 10, Jackson started March 11 off with a 16-0 loss to Lucas Jeske from Augsburg College (Minnesota) and was matched up against No. 8 seed Andrew Steiert from Wartburg College (Iowa). Steiert would prevail 11-3 over Jackson in the seventh-place match, placing Jackson he was wrestling, particularly that second half of the year,” Brissette said.
Brissette said of Jackson, “What we always talked about when you have a bad match, it’s a sport where you never always feel 100 percent on any given day and we both always had this saying that ‘Give me 100 percent of whatever percentage you have now.’ It didn’t matter if he felt 100 percent or not at that National Championship, he went out there and was going to throw it out on the line and find a way to win it and guess what? He did.
”Judge entered the championships also unseeded in the 285-pound weight class and won his first match over John Georges from Rhode Island College 4-3. In the first round, he was defeated 9-5 by No. 8 seed Austin Bellile out of Milwaukee (Wis.) School of Engineering, but then pinned Sam Weinger from Rochester Institute of Technology (New York). Judge was ultimately eliminated from the championships after being pinned by Jacob Evans from Waynesburg College (Pennsylvania) according to olivetcomets.com.
“The constant support I personally received from my team during my National tournament performance was uplifting throughout the whole experience,” Judge said via email reflecting on the past season. “Wrestling has made me better as a person, contributing to my hard work and accomplishing goals on and off the mat. It has brought an astounding group of people in my life and gave me an experience I will never forget.”
Kelley entered the first day as No. 6 seed in the 149-pound weight class. He fell to Aaron Engle from Cornell College (Iowa) in the first round in a 9-7 decision. Kelley was eliminated from the championships after getting pinned by Cole Erickson from Coe College (Iowa) according to olivetcomets.com.
“This year meant the turning of a page. This was my final season of wrestling, so I was glad I got to spend it with my teammates, many of whom have been with me since [my] freshman year,” Kelley said via email reflecting on his senior season. “From an individual perspective this season taught me a lot about myself and the man I have become. I was able to accomplish some goals, but at the same time fall short, but how I handled those shortcomings is something that I will keep with me forever.”
“The thing I am most proud of is that everybody won matches, everybody contributed to the score and we just looked good like the guys really focused on peaking at the right time and we did that really well. We ended up overall better than what we were seeded or as good as we were seeded in the majority of the weight classes and that’s always your goal as a coach and to finish the year stronger than you were supposed to,” Brissette said of one of his highlight moments of the season in regionals.