LA CROSSE, Wis. — There wasn’t a day that passed that Eric DeVos didn’t think about it.
In 2016, DeVos faced Messiah College’s Ben Swarr in the 174-pound Division III national championship match and allowed Swarr to wrestle his type of match and eventually win the title, 3-1.
That loss ate at DeVos for 365 days.
Saturday night, DeVos got a measure of redemption. The Wartburg College junior scored early and often and continued to build en route to a 10-1 major decision over Swarr in a rematch in the 174-pound championship Saturday at the Division III championships at the La Crosse Center.
“That was a year in the making right there, man,” said an emotional DeVos. “I thought about that match last year every day. I never imagined it being this good, man.”
After watching a pair of teammates — Cross Cannone and Logan Thomsen — fall in the 141- and 157-pound title matches, DeVos had a lot running through his mind prior to the championship match.
He didn’t want Wartburg to go 0-3 in championship matches, especially after it had already clinched its 13th Division III team title and sixth in seven years and ninth in 11.
And then there was his dad, Jason, back home in Okoboji, unable to attend the championships because of his ongoing battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
So instead of letting Swarr dictate the pace again, DeVos scored early in the first period, secured a turk for four near fall points and led 6-0 before a minute had elapsed in the first period.
It was his type of match the rest of the way as DeVos became Wartburg’s 44th individual national champion in program history.
“Keller, the coaches, my teammates ... I did it for them,” DeVos said. “We could not not have a national champion after what we did this weekend. It is all for them and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I just love all of them so much.
“He (Jason) was back home watching it on his computer. There are no words to say to him. I love him. He taught me everything I know ... hard work, how to be a man and this one was definitely for him, too.”
Wartburg head coach Eric Keller was emotional after DeVos’ victory, too.
“He just needed to fall back in love with wrestling and that is what we tried to do for him,” Keller said. “We try to make it fun for him every day, but believe me he makes it fun for us every day. He brings that to the table.
“His work ethic. His hard work. His mental approach ... all that, he also brings the fun every single day and he is such a great kid I’m so, so excited for him and I’m excited his hard work paid off.”
In Wartburg’s other championship matches, the results weren’t as favorable.
At 141, Cannone initiated numerous chances to score,but he could not finish against Wisconsin-La Crosse senior Dustin Weinmann and dropped the title match, 4-0. Then at 157, Thomsen got behind early to Cortland State’s defending champion Bobby Dierna and his furious third-period rally fell short in an 8-7 loss.
“I feel for them not getting what they wanted in the end. They battled and it just didn’t happen.” Keller said.
Wartburg nailed down its sixth title in seven years when Thomsen won his 157-pound semifinal during the morning session.
“They are all special and in their own unique way because there are so many different stories and so many challenges that have gone into those,” said Keller.
“This is special. These guys have worked their butts off. I’m proud of this group of how they have performed all year long and won everything all year long.”
Cannone upset defending 133-pound national champion Devin Broukal of Wabash College, 3-1 in sudden victory, in the 141 pound semifinals. Thomsen topped Matt Choinski of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 7-1 in the 157 semifinals.
DeVos beat Richard Carlson of UW-La Crosse, 8-1 to advance at 174.
Four Wartburg wrestlers lost in the semifinals. Arnulfo Olea lost 9-3 to defending champion Lucas Malmberg of Messiah in the 125 semifinals.
Two-time defending champion Kenny Martin was upset by fourth-seeded Dan Del Gallo of Southern Maine, 7-5, at 149. Kyle Fank dropped a 4-3 decision to Carlos Tiribio of Ithaca College at 197, and heavyweight Lance Evans lost to Augsburg’s Donny Longendyke, 10-1, at 285.
Olea ended up sixth, Martin third, Steiert seventh, Levsen fifth, Fank fifth and Evans fourth.
After upsetting top-seeded Owen Webster of Augsburg in the semifinals, Luther College’s Justin Kreiter came up short in the 184-pound title match as he was pinned by Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Jordan Newman in 4 minutes, 3 seconds.
This is the third consecutive year Luther has had a finalist. Drew Van Anrooy won the 141 title last year after finishing second in 2015.
History was also made Saturday when Wabash College’s Riley Lefever became just the second four-time national champion in Division III history win a pin of Carlos Toribio in the 197 finals. Lefever joins Augsburg’s College’s Marcus LeVesseur on a very short list.
SEMIFINALS — Lucas Malmberg (Messiah) dec. Arnulfo Olea (Wartburg), 9-3, Zach Beckner (Ferrum) dec. Zac Denny (UW-Whitewater), 5-2.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Malmberg dec. Beckner 5-1.
THIRD PLACE — Jonathan Haas (Brockport) dec. CJ Pestano (Central)m 3-2.
FIFTH PLACE — Denny dec. Olea 7-5.
SEVENTH PLACE — Bobby Jordan (Johnson&Wales) dec. Victor Gilva (Augsburg), 4-3.
SEMIFINALS — Jay Albis (Johnson&Wales) dec. Troy Stanich (Stevens Tech), 7-6, Nathan Pike (New York U) dec. Chris Williams (Millikin), 8-6.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Pike pinned Albis, 4:47
THIRD PLACE — Stanich dec. Williams 10-8 SV.
FIFTH PLACE — Cam Timok (Central)
SEVENTH PLACE — Owen Doster (Wabash) dec. Maverick Passaro (Cortland State), 12-8.
SEMIFINALS — Dustin Weinmann (UWL) dec. David Flynn (Augsburg) 3-0, Cross Cannone (Wartburg) dec. Devin Broukal (Wabash), 3-1 SV.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Weinmann dec. Cannone 4-0.
THIRD PLACE — Flynn dec. Broukal 12-9.
FIFTH PLACE — Clint Lembeck (Loras) pinned Joseph Ferinde (Johnson&Wales), 5:51.
SEVENTH PLACE — Brendon Seyfried (Williams) dec. Gregory Warner (York), 2-1.
SEMIFINALS — Dan Del Gallo (Southern Maine) dec. Kenny Martin (Wartburg), 7-5, Aaron Engle (Cornell) pinned Seth Lansberry (Lycoming), 7:37.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Del Gallo dec. Engle 4-1.
THIRD PLACE — Martin dec. Lansberry 6-2.
FIFTH PLACE — Seth Schneider (Ithaca) pinned Cole Erickson (Coe), 1:31.
SEVENTH PLACE — Zach Wilhelm (Stevens Tech) dec. Shaun Wilson (Waynesburg) 5-3.
SEMIFINALS — Robert Dierna (SUNY-Cortland) pinned Derek Arnold (Ursinus), 1:46, Logan Thomsen (Wartburg) dec. Mark Choinski (UW-Oshkosh), 7-1.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Dierna dec. Thomsen 8-7.
THIRD PLACE — Nick Bova (Wabash) dec. Arnold 7-3.
FIFTH PLACE — Jimmy Davis (Loras) dec. Choinski 15-5.
SEVENTH PLACE — Ty Herzog (Roger Williams) dec. Steve Bonsall (Chicago), 11-5.
SEMIFINALS — Logan Hermsen (UW-Stevens Point) dec. Larry Cannon (Messiah) 8-4, Stephen Jarrell (Johnson & Wales) dec. Anthony Arroyo (Baldwin-Wallce), 8-7.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Hermsen dec. Jarrell 5-3 SV.
THIRD PLACE — Lucas Jeske (Augsburg) pinned Cannon, 1:29.
FIFTH PLACE — Arroyo pinned Nolan Barger (Lycoming), 2:12.
SEVENTH PLACE — Andrew Steiert (Wartburg) dec. Davon Jackson (Olivet), 11-3.
SEMIFINALS — Ben Swarr (Messiah) dec. Ben Schweiger (Delaware Valley) 9-2, Eric DeVos (Wartburg) dec. Richard Carlson (UW-La Crosse), 8-1.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Devos major decision Swarr, 10-1
THIRD PLACE — Sonnieboy Blanco (Washington&Jefferson) dec. Colin Barber (Cortland State), 4-2.
FIFTH PLACE — Carlson pinned Schweiger, 2:18.
SEVENTH PLACE — Michael LaBell (Johnson & Wales) dec. Dan Kilroy (The College of New Jersy), 11-2.
SEMIFINALS — Justin Kreiter (Luther) dec. Owen Webster (Augsburg) 5-3, Jordan Newman (UW-Whitewater) technical fall over Blaise Benderoth (NYU), 18-1.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Newman pinned Kreiter, 4:03.
THIRD PLACE — Webster dec. Jordan Bushey (Oswego State), 4-1.
FIFTH PLACE — Bryan Levsen (Wartburg) won by medical forfeit over Benderoth.
SEVENTH PLACE — Christos Giatras (Augustana) won by medical forfeit over Christopher Chorzepa (Williams).
SEMIFINALS — Riley Lefever (Wabash) dec. AJ Kowal (Stevens Tech), 16-5, Carlos Toribio (Ithaca) dec. Kyle Fank (Wartburg), 4-3.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Lefever pinned Toribio, 4:52.
THIRD PLACE — Guy Patron Jr. (Loras) dec. Triston Engle (Brockport), 9-2.
FIFTH PLACE — Fank won by medical forfeit over A.J. Kowal (Stevens Tech).
SEVENTH PLACE — Kyle Koser (Messiah) dec. Kacee Hutchinson (Greensboro), 7-4.
SEMIFINALS — Zach Roseberry (Delaware Valley) dec. James Bethel (Oneonta State), 4-1, Donny Longendyke (Augsburg) dec. Lance Evans (Wartburg) 10-1.
CHAMPIONSHIP — Roseberry dec. Longendyke 3-2.
THIRD PLACE — Adarios Jones (Augustana) dec. Evans 9-1
FIFTH PLACE — Bethel dec. Donny Ralston (UW-Stevens Point), 8-6.
SEVENTH PLACE — Jacob Evans (Waynesburg) dec. Jake O’Brien (Ithaca) 8-6.