TOPEKA — Bethany College's Colby Crank has had one goal all year — it can be summed up as "finals or bust.”
The junior from Hutchinson reached the NAIA wrestling finals at 149 pounds this weekend, but came up short of capturing his dream of winning it all against Cumberland’s No. 1-ranked Jake Williams.
Crank jumped out to an early advantage, scoring a takedown to take a 2-0 lead. Williams escaped before the end of the period to earn a point, but Crank still had the lead 2-1.
In the second period, Williams went to work scoring points. He chose to be in the down position and he earned another escape point to tie it at 2-2. Crank shot for a takedown midway through the period, he wasn't able to successfully get points and Williams reversed to earn two takedown points for a 4-2 lead. In the third period, Williams added to his lead by scoring a takedown early in the period. He also earned two back points, and a riding time point to take the match over Crank, 9-2.
This was the third time that Crank has been to the NAIA wrestling national championship. This time, however, he was on a whole new level. Not only mentally and the way in which he wrestled, but also in weight class. Crank dropped a weight class, moving from 154 down to 149. He was undersized in the bigger class and the move was more of a natural fit.
He had his eyes on making it to the finals since he left the tournament at the end of last year.
"It was definitely a championship or bust mentality for me,” he said. “I had been here two years in a row and not winning it left a bad taste in my mouth, it was a feeling I wanted to avoid for the third time. I knew I had the potential to do it this year."
He started his quest to the finals with an opening-round win against Kyle Gerlach, a familiar foe, from Dakota Wesleyan University. The two had met last year in the tournament. Last year Gerlach gave Crank some trouble controlling a good portion of the match. But this year, however, he learned from their previous meeting and put the pressure on early. Crank won the match by decision, 10-4. He won his second round by decision as well, 4-1 decision Jason Ladd from Menlo College.
Then came the round that has given Crank the most trouble. He had been beaten the past two years in the same round by the same school, Lindsey Wilson College. Once again he would face a Lindsey Wilson wrestler. This time, he would survive and advance. It was the first time he had beat someone from the school and it was in the back of his head before the match. Crank won a thrilling match in extra time 6-4.
The win set him up with Ryan Martin. Martin had already gotten the best of Bethany's Courtney Strauss in the first round. Crank, however, would even the score with the Great Falls wrestler. Colby was in control the whole match and beat Martin by pin in the first round. The win put Crank into the finals and a matchup with Williams.
Crank credits his team for his success this year and in this tournament. He knew that every day he had to come to practice ready to go.
"We were really close-knit as a team. They really pushed me, I knew I had to be ready to go at practice every day or I would get beat up on," Crank said. "Someone I have really looked up to is coach Cody Garcia. He went to the same high school as me and he's been a really good source of motivation for me. I've seen him do it all and it has been nice to pick somebody's brain who has been there, and he's helped keep me on the right track."
Crank was the first wrestler in Bethany College history to be a finalist at the NAIA Championships. He finished the year with a record of 35-5 and 16 technical falls.