Kearney, Neb. – Junior Keith Surber became Nebraska-Kearney’s 22nd national champion wrestler and the Lopers finished in the top four at the NCAA’s for an unprecedented sixth straight season Saturday night in Birmingham, Ala. The NCAA Division II Championships were part of the “Winter Sports Festival” this year and held at the Birmingham CrossPlex. UNK tallied 55.5 points to trail national champion Notre Dame College (103.5), St. Cloud State (67.0) and California Baptist (56.6). This marks the 16th straight year UNK has finished in the top 10 at nationals. A three-time All-American, Surber (Sparta, Ill.) entered the championships ranked sixth at 149 pounds.
He outscored his first three NCAA opponents by a 22-2 margin, pushing his winning streak to 14 in a row. Surber competed at 141 pounds each of the past two years, finishing third in 2015 and eighth in 2016. UNK was hoping to add another national champion but senior Destin McCauley (North Sioux City, S.D.) ran in to “Cinderella Man” DeAndre’ Johnson of Limestone College (S.C.). The 10th-ranked Johnson upset top-ranked Cody Law (Pitt-Johnstown) and third-ranked Ryan Scope (McKendree, Ill.) to reach the finals. A three-time All-American and the defending champ at 149 pounds, McCauley (34-7) came into the meet ranked second. He used the patent twister in the first period but Johnson countered the move to take a 2-0 lead. The score was tied at five all in the third period when both tried an upper body throw. Johnson won that battle and scored a takedown and 4-near fall points off the move. He added two more near fall points 18 seconds later and went on to win 14-5.
A five-time high school champ in Minnesota, McCauley joins Suber as two of the 11 Lopers to be three-time All-Americans. Earlier on Saturday, junior Calvin Ochs (4th/165 lbs.) and sophomore Zach Stodden (7th/184 lbs.) earned All-American honors. McCauley was UNK’s only senior starter this year as the regional line up featured four juniors, three sophomores and two true freshmen.