DES MOINES, Iowa – Kevin Hardy became Oklahoma City University’s first NAIA individual wrestling national champion, while the Stars’ Nik Turner took runner-up honors in the NAIA Championships on Saturday at the Jacobsen Exhibition Center.
Michael Brown and Derek Peperas each placed third as OCU had four all-Americans. The fifth-ranked Stars recorded their finest national finish, grabbing fifth with 94 team points.
Hardy, a senior from Solon, Ohio, seized the 165-pound championship with a 4-0 triumph over Brad Lower of Grand View (Iowa). Hardy avenged a loss to Lower in the NAIA Central Qualifying Group Tournament title match.
To take the crown, Hardy broke a scoreless tie by escaping 15 seconds into the third period. Hardy, ranked second at 165, grabbed a takedown on top-ranked Lower with 30 seconds remaining. Hardy accumulated riding time throughout the second period.
Hardy finished his career as a two-time all-American.
“He wrestled a great match, a great match,” OCU coach Archie Randall said. “It was an outstanding effort. It was really close. We wrestled a smart match. It was a great job.”
Turner, a senior from Norman, Okla., became 157-pound national runner-up after falling 3-2 to Charlie Pingleton of Lindsey Wilson (Ky.).
Pingleton secured the national title with a takedown with nearly a minute left in the bout. Pingleton, the NAIA’s second-ranked 157-pounder, caught top-ranked Turner in a front headlock to get the takedown. Pingleton took a 1-0 lead with a second-period escape, then Turner tied the match with a third-period escape.
Turner, the Stars’ team captain, finished his career as OCU’s first three-time all-American and the program’s all-time wins leader.
“He has done a great job all year long,” Randall said. “He did a good job keeping the team together and pushing them through the season.”
Peperas, a senior from Albuquerque, N.M., nudged past Ty Knowler of team national champion Grand View (Iowa) 3-1 in the 174-pound third-place match. Peperas advanced into the consolation finals by edging Jose Alvarez of Wayland Baptist (Texas) 2-1.
Brown, a freshman from Noble, Okla., won 7-1 over Andrew Ewers of Shorter (Ga.) to finish third at 285. Brown defeated Joe Kent of Missouri Baptist 7-1 to get to the third-place contest.
“They had outstanding tournaments,” Randall said. “It was a typical national tournament. It’s tough. We were disappointed in a couple of performances, but they will be back.”
OCU was named as the NAIA Five-Star Champion of Character Team Award winner for wrestling. Award winners are selected based upon their documented display of exemplary character and sportsmanship on the mat, on campus and in the community. Fulfillment of at least one of the NAIA’s core character values of integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership is taken into consideration.
“It shows what kind of team we had and what kind of character they have,” Randall said. “This was the best team I’ve ever had. They’re good, hard working kids. They get along. We support every other OCU athletic program in their competitions. We do all kinds of community service. It was great. Our athletic director Jim Abbott was a big part of us getting that award.
“We’re proud of our team and the program. We are a top program in the NAIA. It’s a different situation.”