LA CROSSE, Wis. — Relax? Feel even a little comfortable?
Not a chance.
With an entire day of wrestling left, Wartburg College coach Eric Keller wouldn’t dream about relaxing.
Knights fans, however, probably slept happily Friday night.
Wartburg, the defending Division III national champion, was dominant Friday during the opening two sessions of the 2017 Division III national championships at the La Crosse Center.
Wartburg went seven-for-seven in the quarterfinals and is guaranteed nine All-Americans as the Knights racked up 83 points, 47 more than second-place Augsburg College. Wartburg has a firm grasp on its second consecutive and 13th overall national championship.
“I don’t feel comfortable. I don’t ever feel comfortable,” Keller said. “There is a lot of work to be done and obviously there are nine matches right away in the morning. We have a lot of work to do.
“I guess for us, we don’t try to get caught up in the scores or what other teams are doing. It is get our guys ready to go and wrestle at the highest possible level and let the results take care of itself.”
After a so-so opening session, Wartburg turned put the hammer down, going 11-1 during the second session, including winning all seven of its quarterfinals to put seven wrestlers into Saturday morning’s semifinal round.
“That was an awesome round,” Keller admitted. “There were a lot of guys who stepped up big time and obviously it would be hard to single anybody out. It was a team effort. It was a clear picture of what a team effort is. That’s what that was, and it was a lot of fun.”
Arnulfo Olea (125), Cross Cannone (141), two-time defending champion Kenny Martin (149), Logan Thomsen of La Porte City (157), Eric DeVos of Waverly (174) and Kyle Fank of Independence (197) all advanced to the semifinals.
Additionally, seniors Andrew Steiert of Waverly (165) and Bryan Levsen (184) earned All-America honors by winning a pair of consolation matches in Session II.
“Just shows how good Keller and the coaching staff are in getting us ready when we need to,” DeVos said. “It is simple as that. There are times this year we had some lackadaisical performances, but today was not one of those. We were firing on all cylinders.”
Olea got things kicked off nicely in the quarterfinals as he avenged two regular-season losses to Augsburg’s Victor Gilva with an 8-3 victory at 125.
“It’s all for the team. This team does everything for each other and that is all I was trying to do out there,” Olea said.
That just started a parade of Wartburg winners as Cannone topped Baldwin-Wallace’s Joshua Decatur 6-2 at 141.
Martin, looking to become 17th three-time champion in Division III history and fourth for Wartburg (Dustin Hinschberger, Byron Tate and Kenny Anderson), followed with a last-second pin of Shaun Wilson of Waynesburg in 6 minutes, 58 seconds.
Thomsen then literally destroyed his second opponent of the day, rolling to a 17-3 victory over Logan Meister of Ferrum College in the quarterfinals. The junior outscored his first two opponents 35-4 Friday.
“I want to break everybody I wrestle,” Thomsen said. “It is simple as that. In big matches like this, I just need to keep going, going and going. Keep moving forward and breaking my opponent’s spirit.”
DeVos made quick work of Sonnieboy Blanco of Washington and Jefferson in the 174 quarterfinals, locking up a leg cradle and pinning Blanco in 48 seconds.
“That is kind of my go-to on top, I guess,” DeVos said of the leg cradle. “It is always good when I get it.”
Fank, in his first championships, blanked Triston Engle of Brockport State, while Evans, who registered a technical in his first match, pinned Jacob Evans of Waynesburg in 2:52 to advance to the 285 semifinals.
“We just went out and did what we have been doing all year, wrestled hard,” Evans said.
Topping off the Knights’ day, Steiert and Levsen overcame disappointing first-round losses to earn All-America status. Steiert, an All-American in 2015, topped Central’s Ryan Vandall, the second-seed, 13-1, in the All-American round, while Levsen, who lost in the blood round a year ago, beat The College of New Jersey’s Doug Hamman, a returning All-American, 6-3, to reach the podium.
“Both of them showed a lot of poise,” Keller said. “Talk about Steiert, he’s been through quite the journey to get where he is at and he wrestled the two-seed to place. That is the best I’ve seen Steiert wrestle in a long, long time. He was locked in.
“Levsen, that guy was so close last year. That is all he has thought about ever since. To see him All-American ... I’m so happy.”
KREITER A SEMIFINALIST: Luther College’s Justin Kreiter advanced to the 184-pound semifinals with a 7-1 win over previously undefeated Jordan Bushey of Oswego State. Bushey, the four-seed, was 37-0.
Kreiter, fourth a year ago, improved to 27-2. He opened with a 2:25 pin of Ryan Shank of Waynesburg in the first round.
Kreiter will face top-seeded Owen Webster of Augsburg in the semifinals.
1. Wartburg 83
2. Augsburg 47
3. Johnson&Wales 41
4. Wabash 34
5. Messiah 32.5
6. Cortland State 26
7. Stevens Tech 26
8. Loras 22.5
9. Ithaca 21
10. Delaware Valley 20.5
(Wartburg, Luther wrestlers)
FIRST ROUND — Arnulfo Olea (Wartburg) dec. Joey Aumann (Plymouth State), 16-6.
QUARTERFINALS — Olea dec. Victor Gilva (Augsburg), 8-3.
FIRST ROUND — Ryan Flynn (York) dec. Connor Campo (Wartburg), 7-5 SV.
CONSOLATION ROUNDS — Sam Bennyhoff (Augsburg) dec. Campo 9-4.
FIRST ROUND — Cross Cannone (Wartburg) dec. Devin Tortorice (Wisconsin-Whitewater), 3-2.
QUARTERFINALS — Cannone dec. Joshua Decatur (Baldwin-Wallace) 6-2.
FIRST ROUND — Kenny Martin (Wartburg) dec. Ben WIlliamson (North Central), 9-1.
QUARTERFINALS — Martin pinned Shaun Wilson (Waynesburg), 6:58.
FIRST ROUND — Logan Thomsen (Wartburg) tech fall over Erik Beshada (Merchant Marine Academy), 18-1, 3:52.
QUARTERFINALS — Thomsen dec. Logan Meister (Ferrum), 17-3.
FIRST ROUND — Lucas Jeske (Augsburg) dec. Andrew Steiert (Wartburg), 9-3.
CONSOLATION ROUNDS — Steiert dec. Teddy Erickson (St. John’s), 16-5, Steiert dec. Mitchell Fucile (Lakeland), 6-2, Steiert dec. Ryan Vandall (Central), 13-1.
FIRST ROUND — Eric DeVos (Wartburg) technical fall over Jaison White (Ithaca), 19-3, 5:32.
QUARTERFINALS — Devos pinned Sonnieboy Blanco (Washington&Jefferson), :48.
FIRST ROUND — Justin Kreiter (Luther) pinned Ryan Shank (Waynesburg), 2:25, Jordan Bushey (Oswego State) dec. Bryan Levsen (Wartburg) 5-3.
QUARTERFINALS — Kreiter dec. Bushey, 7-1.
CONSOLATION ROUNDS — Levsen dec. Shank 8-0, Levsen dec. Doug Hamann (TCNJ) 6-3.
FIRST ROUND — Kyle Fank (Wartburg) pinned Etini Udott (Centenary), 2:53.
QUARTERFINALS — Fank dec. Triston Engle (Brockport State), 5-0.
FIRST ROUND — Lance Evans (Wartburg) technical fall over Gabriel Mahaney (Baldwin Wallace), 15-0, 5:10.
QUARTERFINALS — Evans pinned Jacob Evans (Waynesburg), 2:52.