MANHEIM, PA – The 2022 National Wrestling Coaches Association DII Wrestler of the Year is Minnesota State’s Darrell “Debo” Mason and the season’s Rookie of the Year is Mary’s Reece Barnhardt, the Association announced Monday.
Both wrestlers hail from Super Region 5 and the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Mason won the 285 National Championship at the 2022 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships, while Barnhardt finished fourth at 133.
Mason entered the 2022 NCAA tournament as the bracket two-seed. With his 5-3 win over top-seeded Andrew Dunn of Kutztown in the final, Debo closed out an unblemished 22-0 season as DII’s top wrestler at 285. The Maverick junior was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler for his efforts, in which he outscored his opponents 21-13 in four matches.
“Debo had a great, competitive season,” Minnesota State Head Coach Jim Makovsky said. “He set a goal of becoming a National Champion, but kept his focus on the daily process and the hard work that needed to be done. He dealt with a season of injuries, COVID shutdowns, and the loss of his grandmother, all while competing in a very deep, talented weight class. Overcoming those obstacles made his success even sweeter- I’m proud of him!”
A First Team All-NSIC selection and NSIC Wrestler of the Year, Debo was also the Super Region 5 Champion at 285. The Chicago native came to the Mavericks from Ellsworth Community College, where he was a NJCAA runner-up in 2020.
Barnhardt, a true freshman for the Mauraders, put together a campaign that ended in the highest finish by a UMary wrestler in their time in NCAA Division II. The Bismark, ND native went into the 2022 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships as the five-seed and finished the season 24-10, after a 4-2 showing at the National Tournament.
“Since day one of stepping on UMary’s campus, it was very evident that Reece had the ability to become an All-American as a true freshman,” Marauder Head Coach Adam Aho said. “What really separates him from others that have had similar ability is his internal drive and desire to improve every day. His mental toughness to push himself to and beyond his mental breaking point in every practice is what makes him unique, and is another reason for his success on and off the mat. This award couldn’t have gone to anyone more deserving, not only because of his wrestling accolades but also because of Reece’s character. He is a true representative of the UMary wrestling program on and off the mat, and I couldn’t be more proud of Reece for earning the NWCA Rookie of the Year Award.”
Barnhardt also earned the NSIC’s Rookie of the Year honors, and was ranked as high as #6 in the NWCA Division II Coaches Rankings on the year. He also finished runner-up at both the Super Region 5 tournament and the Midwest Classic.
This is the second consecutive year that the DII Wrestler of the Year has been a heavyweight from Super Region 5, as St. Cloud State’s Kameron Teacher earned the honor a season ago. This is the third consecutive Rookie of the Year honor for Super Region 5, with Upper Iowa’s Zach Ryg earning the award in 2021 and St. Cloud State’s Joey Bianchini in 2020.