WAVERLY — It wasn’t exactly how it was scripted, but when it comes to qualifying for the NCAA Division III national championships, things seldom go as planned.
Top-ranked and defending national champion Wartburg College came to the Five Flags Center in Dubuque Saturday for the Central Regional qualifier hoping to crown 10 champions.
The Knights fell short of that goal with just five, but achieved another goal by qualifying all 10 of their wrestlers for the March 10-11 championships in LaCrosse, Wis.
“Big picture is the goal is to qualify all 10 guys to the national tournament,” Wartburg coach Eric Keller said.
The Knights’ five champions were two-time defending national champion Kenny Martin at 149, Union of La Porte City’s Logan Thomsen at 157, Waverly-Shell Rock’s Eric DeVos at 174, Independence’s Ryan Fank at 197 and Solon’s Lance Evans at 285.
Martin pinned Cornell’s Aaron Engle in 6:21 to win at 149.
“Not 100 percent, but definitely on my way,” Martin said of his day, which included a technical fall and three pins.
Thomsen, the Iowa transfer, had two major decisions and a technical fall among his four victories en route to the 157 title, a 13-4 win over Loras’ Jimmy Davis.
“It is close to how I wanted to perform. It was a lot better than how I had been performing,” Thomsen said. “I know I can do a lot better than what I did today.”
DeVos spent 55 seconds of the 174 final fighting to avoid getting pinned by Mike Maksimovic of Cornell after getting thrown to his back. But the second-ranked wrestler in the country found a way to escape and eventually cradled Maksimovic to his back for a pin in 2:20.
“There are a lot of thoughts that go through your head when you are on your back for 55 seconds,” DeVos said. “Keller (Eric) and Ortner (Chris) did a good job of coaching me through it and after calming me down and getting me back focused on finishing the match the way I wanted to finish it.”
Fank received a medical forfeit to win at 197, while Evans closed out the night with a 2-0 finals win over Adarios Jones of Augustana at 285.
The Knights had two runner-ups — Arnulfo Olea at 125 and Cross Cannone at 141 — while Connor Campo at 133, Andrew Steiert at 165 and Bryan Levsen at 184 all took third to earn bids to the NCAAs.
For Campo, a two-time All-American, it will be his fourth NCAA trip.
“We wanted 10 champions. That was the goal, but not every guy wrestled as good as they could’ve wrestled,” said Keller. “But the good part is every guy fought. I’m real proud of this group. Every guy fought, especially Campo (Connor), Steiert (Andrew) and Levsen (Bryan) coming back through on the back side. That is not easy to do.”
LUTHER ADVANCES THREE — A year ago, Luther’s Justin Kreiter was just happy to have qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Then, the junior from Davenport took fourth at 184 pounds and a national championship goal was born.
“It showed me anything is possible, so why couldn’t a title happen?” Kreiter said.
Kreiter punched his return ticket to the NCAAs with a 9-2 victory over Augustana’s Christos Giatras in the 184 finals.
“I feel like today was the best day of wrestling I’ve had all year,” Kreiter added. “I guess that’s what you want to do. Coming on now makes me feel confident going into nationals knowing I wrestled my best.”
Kreiter was one of three Norse to qualify. Tristan Zurfluh, fifth a year ago at 157, advanced as a runner-up at 165, losing 4-2 to Ryan Vandall of Central, while Javier Reyes, overcame a quarterfinal loss and wrestled all the back for third to earn a return trip.
“He is wrestling well,” Luther coach Dave Mitchell said of Kreiter. “I’m just proud of our whole team. We didn’t have as many horses as we did a year ago, but our guys fought their butts off across the board today.”
Central Region results
TEAM STANDINGS — 1. Wartburg 190, 2. Loras 122.5, 3. (tie) Central, Coe 111.5, 5. Luther 90, 6. Cornell 76, 7. (tie) Millikin, Augustana (Ill.) 71.5, 9. Simpson 46.5, 10. Dubuque 43.5, 11. Buena Vista 28.5, 12. University of the Ozarks 12., 13. Huntingdon 11, 14. Nebraska Wesleyan 9, 15. MacMurray 2.
125 POUNDS — C.J. Pestano (Cent) dec. Arnulfo Olea (Wart) 3-1.
133 POUNDS —Chris Williams (Milliken) dec. Cam Timok (Cent) 5-2.
141 POUNDS — Clint Lembeck (Loras) pinned Cross Cannone (Wart), 6:07.
149 POUNDS — Kenny Martin (Wart) pinned Aaron Engle (Cornell), 6:21.
157 POUNDS — Logan Thomsen (Wart) dec. Jimmy Davis (Loras) 13-4.
165 POUNDS — Ryan Vandall (Cent) dec. Tristan Zurfluh (Luther) 4-2.
174 POUNDS — Eric DeVos (Wart) pinned Mike Makismovic (Cornell), 2:20.
184 POUNDS — Justin Kreiter (Luther) dec. Christos Giatras (Aug) 9-2.
197 POUNDS — Kyle Fank (Wart) medical forfeit over Matt Seabold (Cent).
285 POUNDS — Lance Evans (Wart) dec. Ardrios Jones (Aug) 2-0.