For the first time in two decades, all three military service academies had a wrestler earn collegiate All-American honors at the sport’s annual NCAA championship meet. The three wrestlers — one each from the U.S. Military, Naval and Air Force academies, all seniors — earned All-American honors by finishing in the top 8 spots in their weight classes at the season-ending national championship meet this past weekend in Kansas City.

Wyatt Hendrickson of the Air Force Academy finished in third place as a heavyweight, while the U.S. Military Academy’s Ben Pasiuk and the Naval Academy’s David Key both finished 8th.

Additionally, Coast Guard Academy cadet Chase Randall was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Division III championships in Lacrosse, Wisc. The Army, Navy and Air Force wrestlers compete in Division I.

Air Force’s Hendrickson is ‘Most Dominant’

Hendrickson finished his career at Air Force as one of the best service academy wrestlers in history. Along with two straight third-place finishes at the NCAA tournament, Hendrickson recorded his third straight year of winning the most matches by pin of any wrestler in the country in any weight class. He also has been named the country’s ‘Most Dominant’ wrestler, an award computed on the number of pins, technical falls and lopsided scores against opponents through a season.

After losing in the national semifinals, Hendrickson won two consolation matches 14-2 and 14-5 to take third for the second year in a row. Hendrickson won 104 matches in his career at Air Force, qualifying for the NCAA tournament every year.

Air Force photo
Air Force senior wrestler Wyatt Hendrickson said he hopes to be a pilot in the Air Force after a post-college attempt to make the Olympic wrestling team. Screen capture from FloWrestling.

Hendrickson is from Newton, Kansas. In an interview with FloWrestling, he said he began wrestling at five and credited his father with instilling him with a hard-nosed work ethic in the sport.

“My dad was always tough on me. You always hear ‘work smarter, not harder.’ No,” Hendrickson said. “He’s like ‘work hard, get it done.’ So that was the approach I took to wrestling.”

Army and Navy All-Americans

Army senior Ben Pasiuk took 8th place in the 175 lbs. bracket after coming into the championship tournament as the 18th-seeded wrestler. Though Pasiuk qualified for the national tournament in all four seasons as a wrestler at Army, this weekend marked his first finish in an All-American spot.  The senior from Carrollton, Ohio clinched that honor with a 9-8 decision over Northern Iowa’s Jared Simma.

Pasiuk is the first All-American wrestler at Army since 2008, when Matt Kyler finished sixth, according to the school. An Ohio state champion in high school, Pasiuk was recruited to a wide range of colleges but chose West Point after visiting during Branch Week, when senior Cadets find out what jobs they’ll have in the Army.

“It was branch week, so all the helicopters and all the tanks were out there, with all these weapons. We were like, this is amazing,” Pasiuk said in an interview posted to his high school team’s Facebook page. “I started looking at other places and I thought, where am I gonna be after college? You only have four years to wrestle. I’ve learned how important serving is.”

Navy senior David Key climbed even farther up his bracket at 184 lbs, starting the championship weekend as the 25 seed in the 33-wrestler tournament, but finishing 8th. Originally from Norcross, Georgia, Key won two state championships in high school and qualified for the NCAA tournament three times as a Midshipman.

According to an interview on a Naval Academy Facebook page, Key will commission in the Marines to fly helicopters.

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