Empires strike: Wartburg, Grand View, Clackamas, King rule Duals again
By Andy Hamilton, Trackwrestling.com
Fort Wayne, Indiana – College wrestling’s dual dynasties remained intact Friday afternoon when Wartburg, Grand View, Clackamas and King University each went through the seemingly annual routine of joining each other in the line for first-place photos before heading out the door with title trophies at the NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals.
Wartburg claimed its seventh consecutive Division III title, Grand View seized its sixth straight NAIA crown and Clackamas (NJCAA) and King University (WCWA) ran their championship streaks to four while St. Cloud State regained its grip on the Division II gold trophy inside Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.
Top-ranked Wartburg piled up 34 match victories in 40 bouts over the course of the two-day tournament, outscoring its four opponents by a combined 133-18. Those figures hardly sound like ones belonging to a team that had its fortitude challenged, but the Knights had to grit through turbulent starts in their two duals Friday.
Wartburg fell behind early in the semifinals against Johnson & Wales, but Cross Cannone pulled out a 4-2 overtime win at 141 and returning national champion Kenny Martin rallied from a 6-0 deficit to beat D.J. Tirelli 11-7 at 149.
The Knights won three more matches by a collective nine points on their way to a 30-4 win in the dual.
Wartburg had to regain its footing again in the finals. Augsburg took the first two matches before the Knights reeled off five consecutive victories on their way to a 31-9 dual win.
“We knew we were going to have to outfight people and that’s what we did,” Wartburg coach Eric Keller said. “I’m really, really proud of this group. They fought their butts off every single dual. They fought for everything.”
Grand View ripped the NAIA bracket, winning 33 of its 40 matches and posting a 17-3 mark with 12 bonus-point victories on the tournament’s final day. The Vikings handled No. 2 Indiana Tech 30-8 in the championship dual, using a 13-0 major decision at 133 from Jacob Colon against Mitch Pawlak in a battle of returning national champions to set the tone. Grand View registered four major decisions and a technical fall in the finals.
“We talk a lot about not just trying to win,” Grand View coach Nick Mitchell said. “It’s not just trying to be the best team, it’s trying to find out how good we can be. Obviously, we’re happy about winning the title here. We’re proud of these guys and the work they put in. There’s not a lot of times you get to sit back and feel good about the work you put in, so they should feel good about it now, but knowing that there was three matches (we lost) today, so we’ve got plenty to work on. And it’s not just those guys.
“Every single guy’s got something (to work on) right now, so it’s a matter right now of how much better can we be between now and March? We can definitely feel good about this, but it doesn’t mean we have to take time off and feel good about it. Feel good and get back to work feeling good at the same time.”
Sixth-ranked Clackamas toppled No. 2 Iowa Central and No. 1 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in succession Friday to win another junior college title. A 12-1 major decision at 125 from David Campbell against No. 2 Logan Terrill launched the Cougars on a string of five victories in the first six matches in the finals. Clackamas cruised to a 23-9 win.
The fourth straight Clackamas title matches Iowa Central’s record run from 2007 to 2010 in NJCAA, an impressive feat in a division where programs deal with constant roster turnover. Coach Josh Rhoden’s lineup featured just two wrestlers who were on last year’s title squad. He chalked up his program’s success to “recruiting hard.”
“It’s a lot of that,” he said. “And then the other piece is buying into the idea of what we’re doing and it cultures winning. Guys are believing in what we’re talking about, what we’re showing, what we’re teaching and the belief of getting better every day. Truthfully, that’s what it is.”
King grabbed another crown in the women’s division, downing McKendree 24-19 in the finals. The Tornado picked up technical falls from Regina Doi, Marina Doi and Breonnah Neal and a fall from Hanna Grisewood before McKendree went on a run sparked by King transfer Megan Black’s pin at 130 against her former roommate, Olympian Haley Augello, who was wrestling up two weight classes.
The fourth straight title moves King within one of the record set by Oklahoma City.
“We wrestled really, really well,” King coach Jason Moorman said. “Our whole goal was not to feel like we were defending anything. We’ve been talking about it throughout our training because we have so many new faces in our program. … This is a brand new experience for all of us. We’ve never experienced it with each other. We took that and we rode with it. We’ve had a little bit of adversity the first semester. We lost a couple people from the team and we had a couple injuries and we didn’t even have a full lineup. We had to move around to try to get the job done. I was real proud of them.”
Top-ranked St. Cloud State ended upstart Wheeling Jesuit’s title bid in Division II. The unranked Cardinals toppled No. 8 Findlay and No. 3 Maryville on Thursday and downed No. 21 Colorado State-Pueblo by criteria in Friday’s semifinals.
The Cinderella story spilled into the finals when Jacob Donahue knocked off returning national champion Brett Velasquez 6-2 at 125. But St. Cloud State squashed the Wheeling Jesuit moment after that, winning eight of the final nine bouts and picking up three falls and two major decisions along the way, rolling to a 35-6 win.
It was the third National Duals title in six years for coach Steve Costanzo’s program, which outscored its four opponents 136-35 in this year’s tournament.
“The scores indicated a landslide in a lot of those duals, but they were a lot closer than the score indicated,” Costanzo said. “We had some matches that went right down to the wire and we had to keep wrestling for seven minutes. Because of that, we ended up winning those matches. A lot of them weren’t very pretty, but our guys got the job done.”