From Shorter University Athletics:
He has become Shorter University’s winningest wrestler. Wally Figaro, however, wants to make sure that his storied career doesn’t end any time soon.
This weekend, the senior wants to make sure he gets a shot at winning an NCAA national championships when the Hawks head to Indianapolis, Ind., on Friday and Saturday to compete in the NCAA Division II Super Region II tournament that is being held at the University of Indianapolis’ Nicoson Hall, where they will be seeking to qualify for the 2016 National Championships on March 11-12 in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“You have to wrestle well and perform well to qualify,” said Hawks head coach Josh Henson, who last year – it was Shorter’s first year being eligible for NCAA postseason competition – saw four Hawks qualify for the national tourney with Terrence Smith become the program’s first NCAA All-American.
“It’s a challenging region,” the coach said, “but the guys are healthy and in good shape. All we need to do is to go out there and perform.”
All four of last year’s national qualifiers have since departed, but Henson feels that this year’s Hawks are in a position to keep the door to the national tourney, a door that Figaro found hard to open last year when the native of Puerto Rico and became one of Henson’s top signees in 2011 from Brandon (Fla.) High was unable to finish among the top four in his weight class – he was the No. 2 seed – and qualify for the NCAA championships.
“I’ve been thinking about that all week – that I’m in the same position as I was last year,” said Figaro, the Hawks 174-pounder who enters the weekend with a record 102 wins at Shorter, “and that has made me anxious and tentative.
“I know I just have to go out there,” he said, “with the same mentality I’ve had all year – just go out and have fun. But at the same time I have to wrestle to win and, as I always do, wrestle to glorify God.”
Despite the bump in the road last year, Figaro has – in addition to his winning record – still glorified the Lord throughout his career.
As freshman, Figaro became the 2012 Mid-South Conference 165-pound champion and qualified for the NAIA National Championships along with his current teammate, Dalton Lane, who is also seeking to cap his career this weekend earning a national qualifying spot.
In 2013, when he was red-shirted when Shorter was not eligible for postseason tourneys, Figaro shifted his attention to the international mat and as a member of Puerto Rico’s national team, was a bronze medalist at the 2013 Pan American Games.
Figaro returned to competition in 2014, Shorter’s final year of its transition to the NCAA, and recorded a second-place finish at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association National Championships and earn NCWA All-America recognition.
“It’s an honor to have the record for wins,” Figaro said, “but I’m humbled by it. I will continue to help the program any way I can in the future and I hope that someone beats me.”
“To have someone come in as a freshman and record that many wins – that’s big,” Henson said of Figaro. “He’s the best wrestler we’ve ever had. But he knows that there are still things to accomplish. In wrestling, it all comes down to the postseason.
“He was disappointed last year,” said Henson. “But in this his senior year he knows he has to be more businesslike to get it done. Wally and Dalton both have that mentality.”
Joining Figaro and Lane, who will wrestle at 184 points, in Indianapolis includes junior Ben Smith (133), sophomoreKalvin Harris (141), sophomore Stephen Corasaniti (149), junior T.J. Duncan (157), freshman Kade Kitchens (165), freshman Marlon Morales (197) and Christian Flavin (285.)
Henson said that the team will find out just who will be seeded for the regional Thursday, but feels that Smith, Kitchens, Figaro, Lane and Flavin have the credentials to earn a seed.
“They should be seeded,” the coach said, “but again, you still have to perform.”
“I totally believe more than half of us can qualify,” said Figaro, “if we go out with the same mentality we’ve had all year and stay focused.”