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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- There is no such thing as a 'paper title.'

If there were such things, then when top-ranked Wartburg College walks in Cleveland Public Auditorium Friday the NCAA would hand the Knights their 14th Division III national wrestling championship trophy and send them on their way.

Wartburg with eight wrestlers who are seeded third or better and seeking their third consecutive crown know better than to think that way.

"You still got to go do it," head coach Eric Keller said. "There is a distinction between being ranked No. 1 and finishing No. 1. As this tournament has proven over and over again throughout the years nothing is given to you and everything has to be earned.

"There is something to be said for the focus of if we take care of our business and do what we are capable of doing good things are going to happen."

Just the fact that there are a lot of pundits whom believe Wartburg is the overwhelming favorite to win probably has riled up several serious contenders.

Long-time rival and 12-time national champion Augsburg has also qualified eight wrestlers and and six of them are seeded.

Host Baldwin Wallace has nine qualifiers and long-time power Ithaca College has eight as does Messiah College. Johnson & Wales, who spent part of the season ranked No. 1, qualified seven, and Stevens Institute of Technology has six qualifiers, but two of them are No. 1 seeds.

Wartburg returns national champion Eric DeVos at 174, a pair of national runner-ups -- Cross Cannone at 149 (finished second at 141 in 2017) and Logan Thomsen at 157.

DeVos, Cannone, Mike Ross at 165, Kyle Fank at 197 and Lance Evans at Hwt. are seeded No. 1. Thomsen is seeded No. 2 at 157, while freshman Brock Rathbun is seeded third at 133 and senior Tyler Lutes is seeded third at 184.

The Knights only non-seeded wrestler is Brennan Doebel at 125.

"There is always somebody who wants what you want or wants to take what you want," Keller said. "It goes back to this, we can only control how we prepare and perform. If we go out and wrestle how we are capable of wrestling."

DeVos, a two-time national finalist, had one simple add to what Keller said and that was don't get ahead of yourself and do exactly what you've done all season to get you to Cleveland.

"If I have one bit of advice for the younger guys on our team is don't even look at your brackets," DeVos said. "I didn't even look at my bracket last year. I showed up and was getting ready in the tunnel and they called my name and the guy who I was wrestling and that was the first time I knew who I was wrestling.

"Concentrate on being your best self and wrestle the guy in front of you, not the maybe guy you might see next."


Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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