WAVERLY – Eric Keller delivered a powerful and poignant message to his team.
“Dig down deep,” Keller said during intermission, “because we’re going to win this dual.”
Keller’s top-ranked Wartburg College wrestling team responded.
The Knights rallied from a double-digit deficit, winning the final five matches to earn a thrilling 19-14 win over No. 2 Augsburg on Thursday night.
The dual, wrestled before a boisterous sellout crowd of 1,800 fans at Wartburg’s Levick Arena, came down to the final bout.
With the Knights leading 16-14, the winner of the night’s last match at 141 pounds would determine which team won the dual.
Backed by his vocal home fans, Wartburg sophomore Brady Fritz scored a takedown with 59 seconds left en route to earning a dramatic 3-2 win over defending national champion David Flynn.
Fans flooded the mat to congratulate Fritz after his clutch performance.
“This is everything we work for at Wartburg – we talk about having grit and having heart and carrying this tradition on,” Fritz said. “Everybody had a part in this win and we’re going to try and finish this story in March.”
The fourth-ranked Fritz won another tough bout against the No. 5 Flynn after defeating him last month at the National Duals. Similar to the first bout, Fritz shot in on an outside single-leg attack before dumping Flynn to the mat.
“It was an indescribable moment to win that match and finish off the dual,” Fritz said. “This is what you dream about – winning a match in an environment like this. It was an exciting way to finish. Our crowd was unbelievable.”
The stage was set for Fritz after teammate Kristian Rumph scored a huge win of his own in the previous bout at 133. The top-ranked Rumph scored on an early four-point move to take command against No. 2 Victor Gliva.
After Gliva came back to close within 6-4, Rumph delivered a textbook double-leg takedown with 40 seconds left. Rumph then held Gliva off in the final seconds to prevail 8-6.
“He’s a tough opponent,” Rumph said. “But I knew with my momentum and power I could take him down. I knew I had to dig down deep to get that win for us. And Fritz came through in the last match. We both showed a lot of heart. It was exciting to get it done for our fans. They were awesome.”
Wartburg defeated Augsburg for the second time this season. The Knights beat the Auggies 24-15 last month at the National Duals
“We knew we were going to get their best shot and Augsburg wrestled well,” Wartburg coach Eric Keller said. “There isn’t another guy I would want out there with the match on the line than Brady Fritz. He’s a guy you know 100 percent there is no quit in him. Regardless of the circumstances, he’s going to give everything he’s got. That’s a special quality. He dug really deep right there. I’m proud of him.”
Wartburg now leads series with Augsburg 22-16. The Knights have won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including the last three.
The teams have won every Division III national title since 1995. Wartburg has won 14 championships and Augsburg 13.
The Auggies were without two-time national champion Lucas Jeske (165) and national champion Lance Benick (197) on Thursday. The wrestlers missed the duals with injuries and illness, but are expected to return to the lineup.
“It was a hard-fought dual – both teams were really going after it,” Augsburg coach Jim Moulsoff said. “You need to have experiences like this against a good team to see where you’re at, especially in early February. It lets us know what we need to work on as we move closer to March. It was a great dual.”
Augsburg did earn an important victory in a 1 vs. 2 battle at 184. Top-ranked Tannar Vassar of Augsburg earned a gritty 3-1 win over No. 2 Kyle Briggs. Vassar shot in on a double-leg attack and finished for a takedown with just over a minute to go. Vassar then rode Briggs out to earn the win.
That gave the Auggies a commanding 14-3 lead at intermission.
Down by double digits, Wartburg needed a spark after intermission. Fourth-ranked Kobe Woods delivered with an 8-2 win over Wyatt Richardson at 197.
Knights teammate Jordan Brandon followed with a 3-2 victory over Tyler Kim at heavyweight. Brandon spun behind Kim for a first-period takedown.
Wartburg’s Brady Kyner, ranked eighth, powered his way to three takedowns in the third period to defeat Justin Stauffacher by a 12-4 major decision at 125. That trimmed Augsburg’s lead to 14-13 in the dual.
And set the stage for Wartburg’s big wins at 133 and 141 to finish the dual.
Sixth-ranked Max Forsyth of Wartburg held off Moses Madimba 1-0 at 165. Madimba was in deep on a shot late in the match, but Forsyth held him off. Forsyth had pinned Jeske at the National Duals.
Two-time national champion Ryan Epps of Augsburg powered to a 15-0 technical fall over Martine Sandoval at 157. Epps came out strong, scoring a takedown and four-point near fall to build an early advantage.
Augsburg’s third-ranked Aaron Wilson started the dual by earning a 7-3 win over Nick Meling at 149. Wilson led 7-0 before Meling avoided giving up the major by scoring an escape and takedown in the final period.
Fifth-ranked Solomon Nielsen of Augsburg struck for two first-period takedowns en route to a 6-2 triumph over Paul Calo at 174.
Augsburg returns 120 points and four individual national champions from the team that won the national title last year.
“We will go back and watch the film, and look at the little things we can improve on,” Moulsoff said. “You have to tip your hat to Wartburg. They did a nice job, especially with the way they came back with some quality wins. It was another good dual with them.”
Wartburg is determined to peak next month after a rough finish to the 2019 season.
“I think our team showed in this dual how hard we’re going to fight,” Keller said. “This team is going to battle hard and compete, and we showed that tonight.”
Wartburg 19, Augsburg 14
149 – Aaron Wilson (Augsburg) dec. Nick Meling, 7-3.
157 – Ryan Epps (Augsburg) won by tech. fall over Martine Sandoval, 15-0.
165 – Max Forsyth (Wartburg) dec. Moses Madimba, 1-0.
174 – Solomon Nielsen (Augsburg) dec. Paul Calo, 6-2.
184 – Tanner Vassar (Augsburg) dec. Kyle Briggs, 3-1.
197 – Kobe Woods (Wartburg) dec. Wyatt Richardson, 8-2.
285 – Jordan Brandon (Wartburg) dec. Tyler Kim, 3-2.
125 – Brady Kyner (Wartburg) dec. Justin Stauffacher, 12-4.
133 – Kristian Rumph (Wartburg) dec. Victor Gliva, 8-6.
141 – Brady Fritz (Wartburg) dec. David Flynn, 3-2.