NORFOLK, Va. – SIUE freshman Colton McKiernan used an overtime fall over Missouri's Zach Elam to move into the Mid-American Conference Championships heavyweight finals at the Ted Constant Convocation Center Friday.
With his advancement into the finals and the MAC's four automatic spots at heavyweight, McKiernan has guaranteed himself a spot at the NCAA Championships later this month in Pittsburgh, Pa.
"I give Colton a lot of credit," said SIUE Head Coach Jeremy Spates. "He won the wrestle-off to start the year, and he came to us after the first few matches and thought he could compete at this level now and help the team."
McKiernan was a No. 6 seed at the MAC Championships after winning 19 matches during the regular season. He first upset Buffalo's Jake Gunning, a former MAC champion, in the opening round with a 5-3 victory. Gunning was ranked No. 16 nationally (coaches rank) and 15th (RPI).
He then bounced back in the semifinals against Elam, riding the No. 2 seed the whole third period to take a 2-2 tie into overtime. He gained the takedown and continued on for a fall at 7 minutes, 30 seconds. Elam was ranked No. 23 nationally (coaches rank) and 19th (RPI).
"He (McKiernan) has gotten better and better as the year has gone on," said Spates. "To come out and knock off the No. 2 and No. 3 seed to put himself in the finals, what a tournament for him."
SIUE has four other wrestlers remaining looking to advance to third place.
Tyshawn Williams, an NCAA qualifier last season, defeated McCoy Kent of Northern Illinois 7-4 but dropped a 7-1 decision to Missouri's Brock Mauller at 149 pounds.
Freshman Justin Ruffin lost in his opening match 8-1 to Logan Parks of Central Michigan. He bounced back by blanking Kent State's Richard Jackson 6-0 in the first round of the consolations.
Nate Higgins, also an NCAA qualifier last season, scored a takedown in the closing seconds of his quarterfinal match and another one in overtime to best Northern Illinois' Kenny Moore 7-5. He was then decisioned by Buffalo's Troy Keller 5-2 at 165 pounds.
Christian Dulaney, the No. 2 seed at 197 pounds, recorded a major decision in his opener over Kent State's Shane Mast 16-4. Brett Perry bested Dulaney in the semifinals 8-3.
"I thought we wrestled hard," said Spates, "I was not upset with our effort. Our guys came to wrestle."
Missouri leads the team scoring with 127.5 points. SIUE is in seventh with 59.5 points.
The MAC Championships continues Saturday with the consolation semifinals at 11 a.m. CT followed by seventh-place matches at 12:05 p.m. CT. The championship, third-place and fifth-place matches take place at 1 p.m. CT.