Sophomore C.J. Pestano became the first Central College wrestler since 1994 to reach the NCAA Division III national finals.
Unseeded, Pestano knocked off three of the top seven seeds before taking second place at 125 pounds in the national meet in Cedar Rapids, closing with a 25-3 record. Top seed Lucas Malmberg of Messiah (Pa.) took the title match, 14-6. Pestano became the 46th Central wrestler to earn all-America distinction.
Pestano was among four Central NCAA qualifiers—also a program high in the past 20 years as the Dutch took a huge leap forward in their steady return to national prominence under coach Eric Van Kley. All four are underclassmen. Junior Ryan Vandall qualified at 165 pounds, junior A.J. McBroom competed at 184 and junior Matt Seabold made the trip at 197.
All four won at least one match as Central climbed to 20th in the team standings, its best showing since 1994. “It’s just more positive steps forward,” Van Kley said. “We’re keeping the momentum of the program going.” Central was 9-3 in dual action and 4-3 in Iowa Conference matches, finishing fourth, yet another 20-year high-water mark.