Alaska native Byers making name on mat (LINK)
While he can’t see Russia from his back porch, George Mason’s Cayle Byers can see a medal come NCAA tournament time in Philadelphia.
It’s not often you can say that about a former Alaska schoolboy wrestler.
Byers, a junior at the Fairfax, Va., school, increased his national footprint at 197 pounds by beating the then No. 1-ranked Dustin Kilgore of Kent State and then fell 5-4 to now No.1-ranked Cam Simaz of Cornell in the finals of last week’s Southern Scuffle in Greensboro, N.C.
Byers has moved up to No. 4 in the Intermat rankings and is a good bet to improve on the Round of 12 status he attained two years ago in the NCAA Championships. He sat out last year with a stress fracture of his foot.
So how does a wrestler from Chugiak (a suburb of Anchorage) end up in Fairfax, Va.?
Byers pretty much wasn’t on anybody’s recruiting radar until he won the 189- pound title at the 2007 Reno Tournament of Champions. James Torres, the assistant to coach Mark Weader at George Mason, started the recruiting process with Byers and the Patriots landed him after the two-time Alaska state champion turned down Boise State.
“I was kind of looking toward the East Coast and I liked the academics at George Mason,” Byers said. Byers, who is 18-2 this season, said he went into his bout with Simaz thinking he would win.
“After beating the No. 1 guy, I wasn’t going to change anything,” he said. “I’m pretty basic. I like to stay in position and push the pace a little bit and score in the third period. I want to peak in March.”
Of the match with Kilgore, Weader said Byers dominated the Kent State wrestler. Against Simaz, Weader said he thought Byers lost some concentration.
“He rode him hard but he needs to open up a little more,” Weader said.
It was his second runner-up finish in the Scuffle as he lost two years ago after finishing seventh as a true freshman. He went 37-10 his freshman year and qualified for the NCAA tournament where he went 1-2. He has a career mark os 85-19.
Byers said he wasn’t surprised at his success as a true freshman. “I expected to do well. I had been successful in the past and thought it would continue,” he said.
Weader said Byers is tall (6-3) and uses that to his advantage.
“He’s not a real funky guy and he’s always in good position,” Weader said. “Like any kid, when he got here he needed some technique refinement but he’s got a real feel for the sport.”