Bradley Antesberger stepped on the medals podium of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships on Saturday in Allen, Texas.
There were unprecedented elements of the former North Pole High School standout’s third-place finish in the 197-pound class.
It was Antesberger’s first collegiate wrestling national tournament for the freshman mechanical engineering major at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah.
“It was good, I felt like I progressed througout the tournament,” Antesberger said by phone Saturday.
“The more I wrestled, the better and cleaner I got. It was just fun, I had a blast doing it. I’m happy I can represent my school and hometown good.”
The tournament at the Allen Event Center Arena took place despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Concerns about the coronavirus led to last week’s cancellations of other collegiate national tournaments — particularly the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Professional leagues around the nation and the globe postponed their seasons because of the pandemic.
National Collegiate Wrestling Association officials, according to a news release on the association’s website, decided to go ahead with the national tournament, which ran Thursday through Saturday.
The NWCA is comprised of nonprofit, or club, programs from 162 colleges, which range from junior colleges to NCAA Division I schools .
The NWCA officials took precautions to enhance established practices of preventing the spread of disease.
Among the measures for the wrestling nationals were:
• Three health officials were retained to address safety and hygiene at the tournament.
• The use of medical-grade disinfectant on all competition areas, surfaces and mats.
• Each score table was supplied with the proper commercial disinfecting wipes and spray.
• All wrestlers went through health screenings, including skin checks at daily weigh-ins.
Also, the referees didn’t make physical contact with the wrestlers, particularly skipping the tradition raising the hand of the winner of the match.
The audience for the tournament also was limited.
Antesberger was aware of the tournament’s safety measures but he also was determined to compete at the tournament.
“I wasn’t too concerned,” Antesberger said. “We all got here, and I was just eady to wrestle; I was willing to risk getting sick.
“We train all year, and kill ourselves and tear our bodies up to get ready for this one tournament.
“So we’re all here and ready; I don’t think any of us were really ready to just go home. We were willing to go until the end.”
The 18-year-old said he felt great after his first national tournament was over.
“I’m not coughing or nothing. Just a little sore, beat up,”’ Antesberger said.
Antesberger said he no plans of taking a test, if available, for the coronavirus.
“I just pray to God and ask for safety and healing; that’s all i really need,” he said. “I don’t think I need to take a test or anything.
“I have faith in God; it will all take care of itself.”
The 5-foot-11 Antesberger was seeded sixth in the national tournament and he earned third place for 197 pounds after recording a 6-3 decision over Liberty University’s Blake Barrick.
“It’s pretty cool, I had a lot of fun,” Antesberger said of placing in the top three. “That’s the most important thing, having fun ... because if I’m not having fun, why do it?
“That’s a big thing; I always tell myself to have fun.”
It was Antesberger’s second match of the tournament against Barrick, who beat Antesberger 3-1 in the quarterfinals Friday.
Antesberger started the tournament with a win by injury forfeit against Corbin Black, ot Treasure Valley Community College of Oregon. Antesberger was up 8-0 in early in the match.
“Going into every match, I just prepare myself because I know it’s going to be tough,” he said. “I just pray to God and ask for the strength to push through, and it’s meant to be, come out victorious.
And if not, learn from it and grow on and move on.”
His next match, an 11-9 win over Nick Childs, of Mott College, of Michigan, was educational. Antesberger had to rally from an 8-3 deficit.
“We were tied at the end and I got a takedown at the edge of the mat at the end,” Antesberger said.
The first loss to Barrick sent Antesberger into the consolation round.
Antesberger started his progression through the consolation round with Saturday’s 10-0 major decision over Shane Slater of the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
He followed with a 4-1 decision over Ryan Thomas, of James Madison University, of Virginia. Antesberger prevailed 4-3 over Kyle Slade, of the Ohio State Wrestling Club.
Antesberger was a three-time state champion for North Pole. He won state titles at 195 pounds as a sophomore and junior, and at 189 as a senior. His high school career record was 120-9, including 65-0 as a junior and senior.
“He was always humble,” North Pole head coach Junior Lambert said. “He showed up and worked every day, never missed practice, and he led by example.”
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.