Chance Helmick, a junior from Beatrice, will strive to become Chadron State College’s first national wrestling placewinner since 2013 this weekend at the NCAA Division II Tournament in the Crossplex at Birmingham, Ala. The competition will be Friday and Saturday.
Helmick has a 31-4 record after placing third at 174 pounds during the West Regional Tournament the final weekend of February. He was ranked seventh in the weight class entering the postseason. This is Helmick’s first trip to nationals.
Helmick had won 21 consecutive matches against collegiate opponents before he was defeated by Nolan Kistler of Cal Baptist during an unlikely 16-1 technical fall in the semifinals at the regional tourney. During his winning skein, Helmick was pinned on New Year’s Eve at the Midland Open in Fremont by a 29-year-old assistant coach for one of the competing teams, but had breezed past nearly everyone else.
His other losses were by decisions at open tournaments early in the season. He was 30-9 as a sophomore.
A two-time Class B state high school champion for the Beatrice Orangemen, Helmick won his first two matches at West Regionals 17-0 and 9-2 and recovered from the setback dealt by Kistler to win his final two encounters 14-8 and 9-1.
Kistler went on to win the weight class at regionals and is now 22-9. He finished seventh at 165 pounds at last year’s national tourney. Helmick pinned the Cal Baptist senior in the final second when they met during a dual in Kearney in January.
Helmick’s first round opponent Friday will be Clayton Jennissen, a senior from top-ranked and defending national champion St. Cloud State of Minnesota.
Jennissen is 27-8 this season after finishing second at 174 pounds at the Central Region Tourney. He has a 111-24 career record and placed seventh at last year’s national tourney, also at 174.
This year’s 174-pound bracket also includes last year’s two top finishers. Nick Becker, a junior from Wisconsin-Parkside, is 21-0 and ranked No. 1 this year. Blaze Shade of North Carolina Pembroke is 25-3 and No. 2 in the rankings. Becker won 9-3 when they met in the championship match last year.
Helmick is on the top side of the bracket that also includes Becker. If both win their first two matches they will meet in the semifinals. The Helmick-Jennissen winner will initially take on the winner between Dalton George of Ohio Valley and Huston Evans of Newberry of North Carolina.
Evans was sixth, one notch ahead of Helmick, in the latest rankings. George was not on the 12-deep list.
The top side of the bracket also includes Brandon Supernaw of Western State, who finished second at the West Regional Tourney. Helmick defeated Supernaw twice this season, once by a 13-4 major decision.
The fourth 174-pound representative from the West Region is Bruno Nicoletti of Colorado Mesa. Helmick beat Nicoletti 7-2 when the teams dualed in Chadron on Jan. 12 and 9-1 in the match to decide third place at regionals.