ROANOKE, Va. -- For the first time in five years the Mount St. Joseph University wrestling program had a wrestler qualify for the NCAA DIII National Championship. Antonio McCloud (Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder) qualified for nationals by winning the central regional championship at 197. He would finish the tournament in eighth place, good for The Mount's first All-American nod since Wayne Black in 2014.
McCloud came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed at 197, the highest ranked freshman in the tournament. In his first match on Friday, he quickly disposed of a unranked Michael Curtis from WPI, with a 9-3 decision. The win set up a quarterfinal matchup with fourth seed Keajion Jennings from Millikin. Jennings was responsible for one of Antonio's two losses during the regular season. Depsite wrestling an outstanding match Antonio fell 13-10 to the eventual National runner-up.
The loss moved Antonio into the consolation bracket, where he would need one more win to qualify for the top-8. Finishing in the top-8 at the NCAA National Championship earns a wrestler the honor of being named an All-American.
In his All-American match, Antonio would face off with Travis Ogden of Lycoming. He wrestled his best match of the tournament, defeating Ogden 14-7. After the match McCloud, overcome by emotion, Antonio fell to the mat in tears of joy.
"It was just an amazing experience man, being the only freshman in a weight class full of seniors" Antonio said. "I was just overcome with joy in that moment. After the heartbreaking loss in the quarter finals, I knew I had to come back and wrestle to the best of my ability."
Next up McCloud would square of with the No. 1 seed, another senior. Depsite another valiant effort he fell 3-2, putting him into the seventh place match. Again he would have to face off with a senior, this time a senior he defeated just two weeks ago in the regional final. This time though McCloud had run out of gas, dropping a 6-2 decision.
"This has been a great start of the rebirth, I am super proud of the growth of Antonio and the entire team this season" said coach Mason. "This is just the beginning, we plan on being back at the National Championships next season, with a few more wrestlers."
After the final championship match on Saturday, during the awards ceremony Lions head coach Charles Mason received the biggest honor of his young coaching career. Coach Mason was awarded the NWCA Division III National Rookie Coach of the Year award.
"This award is a great honor, I hope to build off this award in the coming years" said coach Mason. "This award is not just about me, this about our entire program from our coaching staff and entire team to our athletic training staff and the Mount Community as a whole."
BELOW IS A VIDEO OF THE MOMENT ANTONIO MCCLOUD BECAME AN ALL-AMERICAN