William Chrisman grad David Toese makes big leap to NAIA wrestling nationals

By Cody Thorn
The Examiner
Graceland University sophomore wrestler David Toese, right, used the motivation of just missing a berth for the NAIA National Championships last year to earn a spot in the 285-pound weight class this season. The former William Chrisman High School state champion was aided by training with his older brother Dominic, also a Graceland teammate.

In high school David Toese made a big improvement from his junior season to his senior year.

The former William Chrisman standout is hoping for a similar jump from his first year in college to the second. There is already one big improvement for the Graceland University 285-pound wrestler – qualifying for the NAIA National Championships this weekend after coming up short last year.

Toese is currently unranked heading into the finals that will be held March 5-6 at Hartman Arena in Park City, Kansas. Though the brackets haven’t been formally announced – they will be at 7 p.m Thursday at www.naia.org – Toese was matched up with No. 5 seeded Maleek Caton of Williams Baptist in the opening round in the preliminary bracket release.

That matchup, though, could change. Caton is 11-1 on the season, while Toese sports a 9-4 record. The winner moves on to face Jacob Telles of Concordia (Nebraska), who got a first-round bye and is 33-11 on the season.

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“I’m not looking at the bracket, I just have the mindset of whoever I face is just another match that I need to wrestle,” Toese said. “I will just take it one match at a time. I know this is the biggest tournament I have ever been in my entire life. I won’t rush through anything. I need to be the best wrestler I know I can be and my coach (Zack Mullins) knows I can be.”

Last year at this time his season was over, coming up a win shy of advancing to the NAIA Championships as a freshman. That close call has driven him and this year for the Yellowjackets. Graceland went 9-2 this season — with three wins against nationally ranked foes — and are ranked No. 10 in the NAIA.

Graceland sent five to nationals last year and will have eight at this year’s championships.

Toese said he was motivated by the near-miss last year and immediately set a goal to get to nationals.

“It made me work 10 times harder,” Toese said. “I am feeling great and I am feeling confident.”

At William Chrisman, Toese was a fourth-place finisher at the state championships as a junior but bounced back by winning the Class 3 285-pound title as a senior – and doing so with a 15-2 major decision over Warrensburg’s Tanner Karnes.

During his final two seasons at Chrisman, Toese posted a 100-12 mark.

When he walked into the wrestling room on the campus in Lamoni, Iowa, he knew things were going to change. He was just one of many former high school stars looking to make a mark at the collegiate level.

“I knew right from the start a state championship wouldn’t even matter,” Toese said. “State is just state. College wrestling is kids from all over the nation so I knew it wouldn’t matter up here in college. There are tons of two- or three-time state champions. I wanted to improve my skills as a wrestler as I did in high school. If you underestimate people it won’t be a good look.

“Obviously when I first came here I was a small fish in a bigger pond. I knew it would be a challenge. I had to widen my moves and adjust to the college level. Today, I feel like I’m 10 times better than I was at high school.”

Graceland has been idle since competing in the Heart of America Athletic Conference championships on Feb. 13 at William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The Yellowjackets were third overall in the team standings and Toese picked up three wins and finished fourth overall.

Since then he has been in the wrestling room preparing for his first trip to the national finals. To get ready for that venture, Toese has been practicing with a very familiar face during drills – his older brother Dominic.

Both are sophomores in eligibility, though Dominic is three years older. His path to Lamoni actually started before David, as Dominic signed to play football for Graceland when his brother was still in high school. Dominic's first year of college football ended due to a concussion and the lingering effects kept him off the gridiron another year.

When David arrived on campus, he talked to Dominic and then Coach Mullins about the possibility of his brother joining the team.

“He is having a good time and he is one of my big motivators; we have a closer bond than we did before,” Toese said of his brother, who also wrestles in the 285-pound division. “We have been practice partners all year. It is kind of cool to know he will be with me for the rest of my college career. He is not going anywhere and I will not be going anywhere.”