CLEVELAND – Earning his second straight appearance at the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships, sophomore Zak Hale dropped both his bouts to open the tournament, ending his 2014 tournament campaign Friday at Public Hall.
Hale began the day with a matchup against Kutztown’s Evan Yenolevich, who entered Friday with a 12-1 overall record. After Yenolevich jumped out to early lead, Hale fought himself back into the bout, and evened the match at 6-6, forcing the match into overtime. In the first sudden victory period, Yenolevich sealed the bout with a takedown to send Hale into the consolation bracket.
Looking for a podium spot through the wrestleback bracket, Hale faced familiar foe, Josh Kieffer of Indianapolis, who defeated Hale at the regional tournament two weeks ago. Kieffer and his brother Justin Kieffer were two of three different Division II wrestlers to defeat Hale this season.
In the consolation bout, Kieffer grabbed the opening points with a first-period takedown. Facing the deficit, Hale quickly evened the match to 2-2. As the bout progressed to 3-3, Kieffer notched a late takedown with seconds left on the clock to eliminate Hale for the annual tournament. The Shaftsbury, Vt. native finished her season with a 21-8 record.
“This was a tough way for Zak to end his season,” Anderson head coach Dock Kelly said. “Although he fell short of his goal of winning a national title, he had another very good season, overall. Zak lost two very close matches to quality All-American wrestlers and with that effort, he has proven that he is capable of beating anyone in the country. I’m already excited for next season with the dynamic recruiting class that will join us in the fall and I feel good about where the AU wrestling program is headed.”
With the trip to nationals, Hale is the third Trojan wrestler in the last four seasons to advance to the NCAA Championships.