Five Roadrunners head to NCAAs

Juan Rodriguez

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As the NCAA Wrestling Championships commence on March 16 in St. Louis, Missouri, CSU Bakersfield will have four members of the men’s wrestling team competing against the nation’s best.

After top performances in the recent Pac-12 Conference Championships, redshirt-sophomore Sean Nickell (125 pounds), redshirt-junior Coleman Hammond (149 pounds), redshirt-freshman Lorenzo De La Riva (165 pounds) and freshman-junior Matt Williams (197 pounds) have all punched their tickets to compete on the biggest stage in Division I collegiate wrestling.

All four qualified, but Nickell took down his competition on his way to earning first place.

Since graduating from Bakersfield High School in 2014,  Nickell said he always hoped to reach his goals of making it to the nationals.

 “The whole season, you just hope you put together what you do well enough to get into the tournament, and when you finally win the conference and you go to the tournament,” said  Nickell. “It really is cool. It’s a really good feeling.”

Nickell, who was the third seed at 125 in the Pac-12 championships, rolled past Oregon State University’s Kegan Calkins, 8-5.

He advanced to the championship match against Arizona State’s Josh Kramer. Nickell won 7-5.  

While winning was a big goal, Nickell admits he has higher aspirations.

“Winning the Pac-12 is good, but the ultimate goal is to be an All-American, and you have to get to the [NCAA] tournament to do that,” he said.

Nickell’s teammate Coleman Hammond is scheduled to also compete at the national championships after taking second at the Pac-12 championships.

“It feels good because you have so much hometown support here in Bakersfield,” said Hammond, who qualified for the nationals last year. “All of my teammates from high school are still living here, so there is a sense of pride [as] they cheer for me.”

De La Riva finished in second at 165 and Williams finished in third at 197. Hammond, Nickell, De La Riva and Williams will all be spending the next two weeks balancing the formula of rest and training.

According to CSUB head coach Manny Rivera, the approach is to focus on one match at a time, being excited to compete there and all the little things.

“We are staying consistent to what we have done throughout the season,” Rivera said. “It seems to have been working well.”

Although the conclusion of the season awards individual efforts, the Roadrunners understand it is a team effort that has allowed each of them to succeed.

“It’s not just me,” said Nickell. “It’s all the coaches, all the guys working out with me in the [wrestling] room, all the family and friends. They all are the reason why I was able to get to where I [am] and put me in the NCAA tournament”

On Tuesday, March 7, the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee announced that redshirt-freshman Russell Rohlfing was awarded a wildcard bid for the tournament at 141 pounds.

The championships are scheduled to run March 16 to 18.



CSUB redshirt-sophomore Sean Nickell pins an opponent in a duel in the Icardo Center earlier this season. Nickell earned a first place finish in the Pac-12 Conference Championships in the 125-pound division. Nickell is one of four Roadrunners going to St. Louis for the NCAA tournament which begins on March 16. Photo by Karina Diaz/ The Runner