Division III Preview

Guy Patron Jr. (’20), Nathan Pitts (’21), Stevie Lee(’22), Mateo Sanchez (’21), Reis Ginter (’22)

When you speak D3 wrestling on a national level you have to start with the two “Burgs”, Wartburg and Augsburg. Since 1995 the two have been the only schools to capture the NCAA team title. Wartburg holds a slim edge with 14 titles over Augsburg's 13. However, the Auggies return 115.5 points from their 2019 championship squad that topped the second-place team by 64 points. They boast six returning All-Americans of which FOUR were champions. They also captured the NWCA Dual team title in January. The only blemish on their record last season was a Wartburg victory in the “Battle of the Burgs” dual in Minneapolis. Obviously, Augsburg is a huge preseason favorite to win the crown again.

Wartburg College – Coach Eric Keller and the Knights will be looking to continue to add to their dominance in the ARC. They have won 213 straight ARC dual meets. The Knights captured their 27th consecutive conference title, dating back to 1995. The Knights were 16-1 (10-0 ARC) and finished third in the NWCA National Dual Tournament. Wartburg won its seventh consecutive NCAA Regional title. They are the only team to win the regional title since the NCAA changed the qualifying format in 2012. WC stumbled a bit, by their standards, and finished sixth in the NCAA tournament.

Individually, the Knights will be led by All-Americans Kyle Briggs (third) who was the 2019 ARC Outstanding Wrestler and Brady Fritz (sixth). NCAA qualifiers Brady Kyner, Kris Rumph, Brennen Doebel '18 (all fell one match short of placing), and Brock Rathbun (2018 NCAA Champion and 2018 ARC Outstanding Wrestler). Add to the line-up regional place winners: Kobe Woods (fourth) and Isaiah Cox (fifth).

Loras College– The Duhawks put it together when it counted the most and came away with a program best runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament. They return six qualifiers and five All-Americans. They finished second  in the 2019 ARC dual season (7-1) and second in the regional tournament. Coaches TJ Miller and Asst. Trevor Kittleson were named Regional Coach and Assistant Coach of the Year.

Loras will be led by 2x All-American and 2019 ARC Wrestler of the Year Clint Lembeck (fifth 2017 & third 2019). He is joined by fellow All-Americans Brandon Murray (fourth), Eddie Smith (fourth), 3x AA Guy Patron (sixth), Jacob Krakow (eighth) and qualifier Brice Everson. With a strong transfer group, the Duhawks will look to upset Wartburg and win their first ever conference and regional titles.

Coe College– Coach John Oostendorp begins his 20th year as the Head Coe Coach. Coe finished the 2019 season 6-2 which was good for third place in the ARC. They also finished eighth in the NCWA National Dual Tournament in Louisville, KY. The Kohawks boast three returning All-Americans: Taylor Mehmen (fifth), Josh Edel (seventh), and 2x AA Cole Erickson (sixth 2017 & third 2018). With a strong recruiting class, the Kohawks will look to compete for a top finish in the NCAA tournament.

Central College – Head Coach Eric Van Kley will direct a Central team that equaled its most wins (13-3) in 25 years. Their 5-3 dual record was good enough for fourth place in the ARC. They also placed third in the very tough Lower Midwest Regional, and followed that with a 33rd place at the NCAA Tournament. The Dutch are led by by five returning starters. Look for another strong season from the Dutch.

Luther College – Dave Mitchell begins his 24th year as the head skipper of the Luther program making him the dean of the ARC coaches. By his side those 24 years has been assistant coach Jeff O'Gara. Luther is coming off of a 10-8 (4-4) dual record that landed them fifth in the very tough ARC. With the loss of national qualifier Michael Suarez, the Norse will look to find their next qualifier.  Excitement is high with many returning starters and a strong recruiting class that includes five state finalists.

Buena Vista University– Second year Coach Mark Rial is only the fifth head coach since 1979.  Buena Vista is in a rebuilding stage but Coach Rial was able to score the program a national qualifier (Brad Kerkhoff) in his first season.  The team compiled an improved 5-8 (2-6) dual record that was a three-way tie for sixth place in the ARC.  With Kerkhoff’s graduation the Beavers will be looking to add to their qualifier total this season.

University of Dubuque – Coach Jon McGovern has been at the helm since 2002.  His 2019 team finished 10-8 (2-6) good for a sixth-place tie in the ARC.  The Spartans return national qualifier Tevin Bailey.  They also return four additional Regional place winners. Their strength will be in the upper weights and will call on their 50+ roster to complete the line-up.

Nebraska Wesleyan University – This will be the third year since Wesleyan reinstated wrestling.  Coach Brandon Bradley lead the program to a 4-8 (2-6) dual record that ended in a tie for sixth in the ARC.  The real highlight for the Prairie Wolves was freshman Eron Haynes becoming the programs first All-American with his eighth-place finish in the NCAA meet.

Simpson College – The Storm might have the most exciting news of any of the ARC schools with the addition of new Head Coach Dylan Peters.  Peters comes to Indianola from Central Michigan University where he spent the last two seasons.  He inherits a Simpson team that went 1-12 (0-8).  Peters, known as a pinner in college (38 career at UNI), is sure to have an aggressive team that will be looking for the fall.  It will be fun to watch his team grow.  With 20 of the 27 wrestlers on the roster listed as freshman the Storm may be a couple years away from competing at the high level in the ARC.

Cornell College – A member of the Midwest Conference, Cornell has many duals against ARC teams.  Brent Hamm is in his first official year as Head Coach, he held the interim title last year.  Undoubtedly the highlight of the 2019 season for the team was winning their own newly named Cliff Keen/Mike Duroe Invitational for the first time in its 41-year existence.  The Rams return two Regional Qualifiers: 2x Nick Jarvis (sixth 2018 & seventh 2019) and Bryce Oveson (sixth).

Once again, the quality of wrestling at the D3 level in the state of Iowa is second to none in the nation.  If you have a chance to attend meets, I strongly encourage it.  If history holds true this season, mark February 14, on your calendar and plan to attend the Loras vs. Wartburg dual meet in Waverly.  It’s looking to be a battle for the American Rivers Conference championship.  Will Wartburg claim their 28th straight title or will they be dethroned?