Senior Damon Jackson of Durant, Okla., ranked ninth in the latest NAIA poll, won the "most outstanding wrestler" award with his four victories to claim the 165-pound championship. Three of those wins were over opponents from NCAA Division I member Missouri, including a 13-10 decision in the finals over sophomore Jordan Gagliano.
Also taking a title with four victories was senior all-American Paulie Hansen of Turner, Kan., No. 11 at 125 pounds. He pinned his first two foes and beat the Affliction Wrestling Club's Effrain Aguilar with a 13-5 major decision for first place.
Freshman Willie Essex (133 pounds) got three wins before reaching the championship round, where he dropped an 11-8 decision to Oklahoma freshman Cody Brewer -- a three-time Missouri state champion at Oak Park.
The 133-pound class led the Vikings in medal count with three, sophomore Brian Bitney reaching the semifinal round before being nipped by Essex, 4-3, and finishing in fourth place and freshman Logan Welch winning three of his first four -- the loss being a 15-9 decision to Brewer -- and eventually coming in sixth.
Sophomore Carl Lawrence moved smartly through the 285-pound bracket with four wins, including two major decisions, to reach the finals against Oklahoma State freshman Austin Marsden -- a former Illinois state champion -- where he was pinned with 13 seconds left in the first period.
The Open was an opportunity for some of Valley's redshirts to shine, like freshman Todd Brackett (141 pounds). He blew away the competition during the preliminaries with three pins and a major decision, and battled two-time Florida state champ Dalton Dennis -- an Oklahoma freshman -- to the end of an 11-6 loss in the title bout.
Also entered as unattached, freshman Shaidai Lariviere won a pair of major decisions before being hurt in the 125-pound semifinals against Aguilar and having to forfeit the rest of his matches to place sixth.
Two more ranked Vikings medaled: No. 7 junior Jesse Alter (197) taking four straight wrestleback victories for third place and second-rated senior Shay Shive taking four of his first five contests and eventually fifth place.
Seventh-ranked Valley (8-3) notched a 25-15 dual victory Wednesday against visiting McKendree (Ill.).
The Vikings have 10 days to prepare for the NAIA Central Region tournament, to be held Feb. 18 at Des Moines -- site of the NAIA Championships two weeks later.
COLORADO SPRINGS -- Valley junior Randi Beltz will make her second career appearance for Team USA in the FILA Pan American Championships, Feb. 23 at Colorado Springs.
Beltz qualified for the event by winning a wrestle-off Saturday during the Dave Schultz International Open at Colorado Springs. Beltz (59 kilograms) pinned the New York Athletic Club's Jenna Burkert, ranked 12th at 63 kilograms among U.S. Senior Women by TheMat.com, in 1:50 of the first round to land the spot.
The previous day, Beltz had taken third place in the Open with a 4-3, 3-1 decision over third-ranked Othella Feroleto of the U.S. Army team, while Burkett lost in the title bout against Canada's Jazzie Barker.
Former Lady Viking Stephany Lee won the 72-kilogram class in the Open and Valley alum Leigh Jaynes lost her wrestle-off at 55 kilograms.
Beltz went to the Pan Am meet in 2009, following her third-place showing in the 112-pound weight class at the MSHSAA Class 2 Championships as a senior at St. Clair. At Guadalajara, Mexico, she dominated her 63-kilogram division to win a gold medal.
The Valley men's volleyball team won three of four matches over the weekend at the Lindenwood Tournament in St. Charles.
The ninth-ranked Vikings opened Friday with a 25-20, 25-18, 23-25, 25-20 decision over No. 8 Clarke (Iowa) behind 19 kills by freshman Caio De Souza. Sophomore Will McCracken set 48 of the team's 59 successful attacks and dropped in three aces.
Valley swept the next two opponents, starting with a 25-14, 25-16, 25-22 win over St. Xavier (Ill.) behind sophomore Peterson Silva's 12 spikes. Junior Tom Jerrom had nine kills Saturday during a 25-9, 25-20, 25-13 victory against Rust (Miss.).
The Vikings' only loss was to top-rated St. Ambrose (Iowa) in the finale, 34-32, 29-27, 27-25. De Souza knocked down 12 shots and sophomore Jesse Ochoa got in on six blocks.
Valley returned home Sunday to post its second win of the season against Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.). Pederson and McCracken each had 15 kills, with De Souza adding 14 and senior Stephen Valdez coming up with 11 digs.
The Vikings (10-2) will be on the road Friday to face No. 10 Grand View (Iowa).
Track and Field
WARRENSBURG -- Freshman Billie Pipes of Salado, Texas, to become the second member of the Valley track and field team to qualify for the NAIA Indoor Championships next month at Geneva, Ohio.
Pipes made the cut with a second-place time of 25.90 seconds in the 200-meter dash Saturday during the University of Central Missouri's Mule Indoor Relays at Warrensburg. Sophomore Tyler Davis had qualified for nationals in the long jump at week earlier at the Principia (Ill.) Relays, and finished ninth (6.20 meters) at UCM.
Pipes also ran a leg in the Lady Vikings' fifth-place distance medley (13:49.30), along with freshmen Tia Rider, Amanda Buhr and Sarah Niemeier -- who came in eighth in the 800 (2:29.47).
Also medaling was freshman Ignacio Franco with a third place in the men's 800 (1:59.05). Valley had two more ninth-place finishes besides Davis: sophomore Sara Stafford in the shot put (11.92 meters) and sophomore Matt Leonard in the 5,000 (15:48.16).
The MVC Invitational schedule for Saturday has been cancelled, so next up for the Vikings will be the Heart of America Conference Championships hosted by Graceland on Feb. 17-18.