DES MOINES — Early this season, Dan Williams and Zak Benitz didn’t like each other much.
Williams, a sophomore, was a returning national qualifier at 165 pounds. Benitz was a member of Iowa Western’s highly-touted freshman class and was intent on claiming that spot in the lineup for himself.
“We both had intentions at 165,” Benitz said. “As it turned out, neither of us ended up at 165.”
And both ended up becoming NJCAA All-Americans — the first in Iowa Western’s brief wrestling history.
Benitz and Williams both won consolation-round matches Friday night at the Jacobson Exhibition Center to advance to the second day of the NJCAA championship.
Seven other Reivers came up short in their All-America bids.
Iowa Western also fell well behind in the team race on an up-and-down day. The Reivers enter Saturday in 17th place with 31 points, well behind leader North Idaho’s 81.
All but two of Iowa Western’s nine qualifiers made it through Friday’s first session. But some tough losses and an untimely injury left the Reivers short of coach Josh Watts’ expectations.
He was hoping for a top-five finish in his program’s second season. Those hopes are gone.
“When we came back, the guys felt good and we felt good about it,” Watts said. “It was just a bad round in that second session.”
After Peter Stewart (141 pounds) and Kasey Einerson (149) lost their consolation-round matches, Benitz became Iowa Western’s first All-American with a 16-7 win at 157.
He was tied with Drake Lovvorn of Colby (Kan.) at 7-7 after giving up a takedown in the third period. Benitz then got an escape and a takedown before scoring six straight near-fall points.
“I tired the guy out and just kept frustrating him,” he said. “I felt pretty safe once I had that three-point swing on him.”
Williams joined Benitz in the All-America rounds when he beat Kalvin Argueta of Harper (Ill.) 10-5 at 174. The sophomore scored four points off an early throw and never gave up the lead.
The win meant a great deal to Williams, who was beaten in the same match a year ago.
“It feels great to work all year to get here and do this,” he said. “I missed out by one round last year. It feels great to do it finally. I’m just happy that I made it.”
Williams was stunned that his win came because of a throw, saying he had never scored with one before. However, he said he did practice them with Benitz early in the season.
The freshman was a national Greco-Roman champion while in high school.
Benitz, Williams and Devin Peterson (184) began Friday night in the quarterfinals. Benitz lost 4-3 to Justin Cash of Rend Lake (Ill.) while Williams fell 6-2 to top-ranked Trent Noon of Clackamas (Ore.).
Peterson injured an ankle in the first period of his match and had to default out of the tournament. The regional champion had a good chance to advance to Saturday before getting hurt.
Adrian Lozano (125) and heavyweight Aaron Satterwhite were both eliminated earlier Friday night. Seth Stender (133) and Sean Dulom (165) were bounced Friday morning. Every Reiver who qualified won at least one match at the tourney.
Iowa Western results: 125: Adrian Lozano (1-2): Lost to No. 4 John Pellegrino, Nassau, 7-0. Pinned No. 5 Carson Henry, Rochester, 4:21. Lost to No. 11 Michael Nguyen, SW Oregon, 12-0. 133: No. 11 Seth Stender (1-2): Dec. No. 10 Charlie Huff, Gloucester, 5-4. Pinned by No. 5 Eric Hughes, Labette, 2:55. Pinned by Tyler Reiste, Iowa Central, 3:29. 141: No. 6 Peter Stewart (2-2): Pinned Darius Henderson, Lincoln, 4:28. Lost to No. 2 Steven Ruppert, Labette, 2-1. Pinned Braxton Owens, Darton, 7:34. Dec. Terrence Moore, Neosho, 5-1. Lost to Cody Fobes, Gloucester, 12-6. 149: 6 Kasey Einerson (2-2): Lost to No. 4 Beau Roberts, Clackamas, 6-4. Pinned Robert Lanno, Gloucester, 3:24. Maj. dec. Michael Anderson, Kennedy King, 17-8. Lost to No. 2 Sencer Rutherford, Labette, 10-9. 157: No. 5 Zak Benitz (2-1): Dec. No. 3 Colton Thornton, Northwest, 5-4. Lost to No. 7 Justin Cash, Rend Lake, 4-3. Maj. dec. Drake Lovvorn, Colby, 16-7. 165: Sean Dulom (1-2): Dec. Juan Diaz, Nassau, 3-2. Lost to No. 5 Dillon Francisco, Muskegon, 3-0. Pinned by Parker Sturges, NIACC, 2:56. 174: Dan Williams (2-1): Dec. No. 12 Blaine Hill, Nesosho, 6-1. Lost to No. 1 Trent Noon, Clackamas, 6-2. Dec. Kalvin Argueta, Harper, 10-5. 184: No. 10 Devin Peterson (1-2): Maj. dec. Austin Warren, Rend Lake, 17-6. Lost to No. 6 Caleb Rivera, North Idaho, injury default. Lost to Reid Chivers, SW Oregon, by injury default. HWT: Aaron Satterwhite (1-2): Lost to No. 8 Mike Williams, W. Wyoming, 9-6. Dec. Jeff Erickson, Iowa Lakes, 6-4. Lost to No. 7 Xavier Fisher, Colby, 12-1.