Little Rock Wrestling Collects Program's First Two All-Americans in Nasir Bailey and Stephen Little

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Little Rock wrestling has two All-Americans. That’s right, in just five years, head coach Neil Erisman, associate head coach Javier Maldonado and company have built a program that will be placing two freshmen in tomorrow’s medal matches: Nasir Bailey and Stephen Little.

“What a night,” said Coach Erisman. “So full of emotions. Being on the mat for our two All-Americans was incredible. Nasir and Stephen wrestled their tails off and fought hard. Watching them accomplish their dreams was surreal and so full of joy. We are grateful they are Trojans.”

“This is just the beginning of the story for both of them,” he added. “Through all the ups and downs this season and over the past five seasons, we kept the faith and kept our eyes on the prize. All glory to God for all we have done.”
Both Bailey and Little proved their grit all the way through in the blood round, winning each of their respective matches in overtime. True freshman Nasir Bailey will be competing in the consolation semifinals tomorrow morning while redshirt freshman Stephen Little will be wrestling for seventh place.

While Bailey fell to the no. 2 seed Crookham in the Quarterfinals, dropping to the wrestlebacks after a 4-2 decision that didn’t go his way, the Illinois native fought back. In the blood round, where wrestlers either become All-Americans or go home, Bailey forced sudden victory overtime after a scoreless seven minutes. With a go-behind move that brought opponent no. 13 seed Kurt Phipps from Bucknell to the ground, he became the Little Rock wrestling program’s first All-American.

Not done for the night, he went on to wrestle for a spot in the consolation semifinals against no. 3 seed Kai Orine from North Carolina State. Bailey was on fire at this point, all offense to bring home a 6-2 decision. Tomorrow, if he wins, he’ll have the chance to battle for third place. With a loss, he’ll drop to the fifth-place match.

“Nasir is such an incredible talent,” said Coach Erisman. “He has found a way every match to make it happen. Incredibly happy for him and his performance and very proud of who has become this year. He has single-handedly change our program.”

If Bailey was electric, then Stephen Little was a workhorse. He wrestled two matches in the morning session to earn a spot in the blood round, just one loss away from going home all day. Instead, he punched his way to an All-American honor with three wins in a row, two of those in sudden victory.

Little’s first match in the morning session had him facing no. 7 seed Zach Glazier from Iowa. The pair was tied 1-1 going into overtime, when Little took matters into his own hands quickly, bringing his foe to the mat in just 20 seconds. With a quick turnaround just an hour later, he was up against no. 17 seed Joseph Novak from Wyoming, putting on a clinic to secure a 13-5 major decision and visit to the evening session.

At night, Little forced overtime again. This time, he toed the line with no. 6 seed Lou Deprez from Binghamton and got his opponent to hand over a stall penalty, making it tied 2-2. Once again, Stephen got to the legs quick and put his foe on the mat, earning All-American status in the process.

While Little’s next match in the consolation quarterfinals was a loss by fall, he’s got just one match left on the slate, wrestling for seventh place tomorrow morning.

“Stephen is just an amazing example of great human being who overnight elevated our program,” Coach Erisman said. “I’m so proud of who he has grown into and so happy for all he has earned.”

Watch both Nasir Bailey and Stephen Little in the Medal Round of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. The fifth and final session for the Trojans will be broadcast on ESPNU and ESPN+. View updated brackets here.

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Written by Arkansas Wrestle