On Sunday, a life-long dream for El Paso native Isaiah Delgado came true.
Delgado, a redshirt junior wrestler at Utah Valley, qualified for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The Eastwood High School graduate placed 7th in the 149-pound weight class at the 2023 Big 12 Championships at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I remember I used to watch it [NCAA Wrestling Championships] on TV when I was little and to have the opportunity to be there on the mat, it’s just it’s exciting.” Delgado said.
A 7th place finish was enough for Delgado to secure a trip to the NCAA Championships. The Big 12 Conference was allocated seven NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships spots at the149-pound weight class, which is the one Delgado competed in. NCAA championship spots for each qualifying event are awarded at conference tournaments based solely on place-finish.
“I feel good. It’s something I’ve been working for, for a long time,” Delgado said. “It feels good to go, but seventh place, is still seventh place to me. I want first place. I’m happy, but I’m not satisfied.”
Delgado didn’t get off to an ideal start in the Big 12 Championships on Saturday. Delgado lost to Chris Sandoval (Northern Colorado) by a 4-0 decision in the first round of the Championship bracket.
That put Delgado on the back foot as he was sent to the consolation bracket. Delgado then rallied off two close wins to help his chances at coming out of the Big 12 Championships with a ticket to the NCAA Championships.
In the first consolation round, Delgado beat Alek Martin (South Dakota State) with a 5-4 decision.
In the second consolation round, Delgado secured an 8-7 decision win over Sam Hillegas (West Virginia).
In the third consolation round, Delgado suffered a loss by fall in overtime to Kellyn March (North Dakota State).
That led to Delgado being placed in the 7th place match where he was expected to face off with Chase Zollmann (Wyoming). Delgado walked away from the match with a win without even stepping on the wrestling mat. Zollman was disqualified during his previous match against Mitch Moore (Oklahoma). Zollman did not wrestle in the 7th place match, so that led to Delgado winning by forfeit, which awarded Delgado a ticket his first NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
“It’s something I’ve been working for, for a long time. I’ve had my own setbacks and had to overcome a lot of things to get to where I am at today,” Delgado said. “I am happy, but I am not satisfied. The job is not finished yet.”
Delgado is one of thirty-three, 149-pound wrestlers across the country that will compete in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships later this month. The brackets will be announced Wednesday, March 8.
The 2023 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships take place March 16-18 at BOK Center in Tulsa as the event returns to Oklahoma for the first time since being held in Oklahoma City in 2014.