No. 12 T-Birds finish third at Jet Invite

Cloud County freshman Quentin Jiner was one of three T-Birds to finish second at Sunday's Jet Invite. (Courtesy photo)
Cloud County freshman Quentin Jiner was one of three T-Birds to finish second at Sunday's Jet Invite. (Courtesy photo)

WICHITA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College wrestling team took home some hardware Sunday, earning a third-place finish at the Reece Wright-Conklin Jet Invite hosted by Newman University.

The No. 12 ranked T-Birds scored 32.5 team points, trailing only NCAA Division II foes Fort Hays State University in second (43) and Newman (84), en route to posting the best finish of any NJCAA program in a field that also included KJCCC rivals Pratt Community College, Labette Community College and Neosho County Community College.

"It was a big confidence booster as we get close to the end of the semester," said Cloud County head coach, Cody Cole. "We really wanted to come down here and score team points because I think it's a great way to build comradery. The guys were behind each other and everyone wanted to win every match they were in because we knew it was going to be a tight race."

Cloud County had three wrestlers earn runner-up finishes on the day in freshman Blayne Harris (125), freshman Blake Leiszler (133) and freshman Quentin Jiner (157).

Harris' day was highlighted by a 9-8 decision win over Broderick Green from Fort Hays to get the morning started for the T-Birds

Leiszler finished 2-1, earning victories over FHSU's Payton Sadowski in the quarterfinals (12-7 decision) and another convincing 12-5 decision over Labette's Dillon Prutch in the semifinals.

Prutch, who wrestled up a weight on Sunday, is currently the No. 1 ranked NJCAA wrestler at 125 pounds.

"I thought Blake wrestled really well there," Cole said of the match against Prutch. "He was never in any trouble, finished his shots well. (Prutch) is very, very talented and an All-American last year so it was a big confidence boost for Blake."

Jiner, ranked No. 6 at 157 pounds, also went 2-1 on Sunday as he pinned Labette's Cordell Hunt in 1:39 in the quarterfinals before earning a tight 8-7 decision win over Conrad Vajnar from Fort Hays in the semis.

It was a revenge win for Jiner after falling to Vajnar a week earlier at the Bob Smith Open in Hays.

"Quentin wrestled really well and smart," Cole said. "He finished shots on his feet and moved really well when he was on bottom. Overall, it was a much better day for him than last week."

Cloud County also received strong performances from sophomore Cameron Young and freshman Matthew Cruickshank on Sunday.

Young finished 2-1 on the day and earned placed third at 184 pounds. He defeated Drury University's Dylan Ballew by a 7-2 decision in the third-place match.

As for Cruickshank, he placed fourth at 197 pounds, highlighted by a pin of Neosho County's Jordan Goff (Fall 4:35) in the consolation semi-finals.

Cloud County will prepare for back-to-back home duals this week to close out the fall semester. T-Birds square off against Ottawa University at 6 p.m. Thursday before turning around and facing Oklahoma Wesleyan University at 6 p.m. Friday.

"I want to see the guys really assert their dominance in these matches before we head off for Christmas break," Cole said. "I think these duals are good duals for us to go out there, open up and wrestle hard. They are at the end of Finals Week, so the pressure of school will be gone and we can just focus on getting two good matches in before the break."