Photo: Sam Janicki

Hixenbaugh named NCAA Division II Wrestler of the Year

The Open Mat presents awards annually in three categories for each division of college wrestling at the conclusion of the season. Awards are presented for Freshman of the Year, Coach of the Year and Wrestler of the Year.

Gabe Hixenbaugh of Montevallo was announced as The Open Mat's 2024 NCAA Division II Wrestler of the Year on Friday.

Hixenbaugh spent four seasons at Division I Campbell University before transferring to Montevallo, a brand-new Division II wrestling program located in his home state of Alabama, before the 2023-24 season.

He put together a dominant season, winning the national title at 133 pounds and finishing the season undefeated. Hixenbaugh's breakthrough performance came at the prestigious Midwest Classic in December, where he defeated four ranked wrestlers, including the defending national champion and national runner-up en route to capturing the title and earning Outstanding Wrestler honors. That performance catapulted him to No. 1 in The Open Mat rankings. He also won tournament titles at the Patriot Open and Club Lucha Open.

Hixenbaugh won the Super Region II title by going 3-0 and outscoring his opponents 34-8. He entered the 2024 NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships as the top seed at 133 pounds. Hixenbaugh opened his national tournament with a technical fall before getting a major decision in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Hixenbaugh earned a 9-7 victory over UMary's Reece Barnhardt. He then claimed a 4-1 victory over returning national champion Gavin Quiocho of Glenville State to become Montevallo's first-ever national champion of any sport in Division II history. Hixenbaugh also became the first wrestling national champion in the history of Conference Carolinas.

He finished the season with a perfect 31-0 and surrendered only two takedowns all season.