T-Birds place two on the podium at Oklahoma City University Open to begin the season

Cloud County sophomore Benny Hernandez finished second in the 285-pound class at Sunday's Oklahoma City University Open.
Cloud County sophomore Benny Hernandez finished second in the 285-pound class at Sunday's Oklahoma City University Open.

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma — The Cloud County Community College wrestling team got its 2018-19 season underway on Sunday at the Oklahoma City University Open, with two wrestlers finding the podium in a field that included NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II, NAIA and NJCAA programs.

"I think this was a much better opener than last year. I think everyone understood what it's going to take and our sophomores did a good job getting us ready to compete at an open," said Cloud County head coach Cody Cole. "We still have a lot of stuff to improve on, but we had some guys wins a lot of matches and were doing the things we practice. We just need to make some minor adjustments and keep pushing."

Highlighting the afternoon was sophomore heavyweight Benny Hernandez as he was 4-1 on the day, with the lone loss coming in the championship match Julian Sanchez out of New Mexico Highlands.

Hernandez was leading in the match but was unfortunately tossed to his back and pinned in a fall time of 4:13, settling for runner-up in 285-pound class.

"Benny wrestled really well all day," Cole said. "He was moving well and started his day with a pin in his first two matches. He had a real nice win in the quarterfinals with a takedown in overtime and 10-5 win in the semi-finals, but just made a mistake in the finals."

Freshman 133-pounder Dakota Miller was the second T-Bird to reach the podium as he went 4-1 on the afternoon and finished third wrestling unattached.

Miller punctuated his day on the mat with an 11-5 decision win over Barton's Gage Gomez, a national placer from a season ago.

"I thought Dakota wrestled really well after having to take some time off and just getting him back," Cole said. "Getting him back in shape and getting his offense going will help him out tremendously. He beat the guy who placed third at nationals for Barton in that third-fourth place match, which was a really nice win and good way for him to end the day."

Cloud County also received some good performances from its lower and middle weights. Redshirt freshman Austin Eldredge (149) was 5-1 to reach the consolation semi-finals before he was forced to forfeit his last match due to collegiate rules limiting competitors to six matches in a day.

"It was just too big of a bracket and Austin's loss was too early for him to place," Cole said. "He would have gotten fifth or sixth if he could have wrestled one more."

Freshmen Blayne Harris (125) and Blake Leiszler (133), redshirt freshman Bryce Gfeller (141), and sophomore Noah Aziere (165) all provided bright spots on the afternoon, as well. Harris went 4-2 in his six matches, while Leiszler, Aziere and Gfeller were each 3-2.

Gfeller's 9-6 decision win in the second round of the consolation bracket came against Barton's Keaton Sanders; another national qualifier from last season.

"I thought a lot of our lower weight guys showed a lot of heart," Cole said. "I was really happy with how those guys competed."

Cloud County will look to build off Sunday's performances when it heads off to Colorado this week for a pair of duals against NCAA Division II teams in Colorado Mesa University (7 p.m. Thursday) and Western State Colorado University (5 p.m. Friday), respectively.