WAVERLY — A picture is worth a 1,000 words.
Fortunately there are no photos of Wartburg College wrestler Andrew Steiert’s pre-match activities before the top-ranked Knights hosted Coe College on Jan. 27, so words are going to have to tell the story.
Steiert, the senior from Waverly, is not only a full-time student, a full-time wrestler, but also full-time farmer, primarily taking care of roughly 30 cow-calf pairs on a farm just north of Waverly.
And on Jan. 27, before Steiert could top Coe’s Ryan Harrington, 10-1, Steiert had to help birth a calf from his herd.
“I pulled it in my warm up,” Steiert said. “I threw my bibs over the top of the warm up, pulled the calf and then went to the meet.”
That same scenario popped up last week in preparation for the Central Regional tournament where Steiert had to leave practice to birth a calf.
“How many guys/wrestlers have to do that,” questioned Wartburg head coach Eric Keller. “Crazy.”
Running his own farm with his business partner and brother, Bryce, a wrestler for Northern Iowa, is something Steiert wants to do in the future. But before he gets that far, the 2015 all-American has a few more days left in his wrestling career.
Steiert is one of 10 wrestlers that defending national champion Wartburg has qualified for the NCAA Division III championships in La Crosse, Wis. The two-day championships start at 11 a.m. Friday.
The story of how Steiert, seeded eighth at 165, made it to the national championships is just as good as how he got to this season’s Coe dual.
A battle with concussions has limited him a lot during his college career, and pretty much all of last season. It wasn’t even certain that he’d come back this season. Steiert seriously considered retiring after dealing with his most recent concussion last year.
“I guess for me that was kind of the intent,” Steiert said. “After all the head stuff and dealing with injury after injury I was kind of ... maybe it was time to be done.
“That was all fine and dandy and I had my time off and then it got to be about December and I was still like I’d like to give it another shot and see what I can do.”
With new head gear and under close observation of Wartburg trainer Ryan Callahan, Steiert returned to the mat the day after Christmas and saw his first action on Jan. 5, a pin of Augsburg College’s Lucas Jeske, who just happens to be Steiert’s first-round opponent on Friday.
“I just felt the urge to get back and I had two, three months left so I didn’t want to look back in 10 years and wish I had done it and that is really where it kind of started,” Steiert said. “At the same time you want to be cautious and I told my dad (Skip) if I have any more problems that would be it because nothing is worth risking your quality of life for the rest of your life.”
Fortunately, Steiert is as healthy as he’s ever been ... well unless you want factor in he dislocated his right knee in his Central Regional semifinal against Luther’s Tristan Zurfluh, his only loss in a 12-1 season.
“My fibula and tibia dislocate,” Steiert said. “It has happened before and it started in high school. We tried the surgery and stuff on it and it hasn’t happened for a while.”
It took all but 20 seconds of Steiert’s injury time for Callahan to pop his knee back in place. And while he lost 6-1 to Zurfluh, Steiert rebounded back to win a pair of consolation matches and finish third which qualified him for his second national championship.
“It is a pretty painful little event,” Steiert said. “It is something that (Ryan) had a plan before I even got off the mat and we were going to do this, this and this. He got me back out on the mat to win those two consolations matches so I’m thankful for that.”
Steiert is feeling no ill-effects from the injury scare and has been a full-go in preparations leading up to this week’s championships.
“He’s had to deal with so much,” Keller said. “He has gotten good care from trainers and doctors that knew what was going on and they took care of him.
“He’s healthy as he can be for a wrestler and going to the national tournament. He is a fun story because he does things differently with the farming and everything he is involved it. He is 100 miles per hour every day and he is the type of kid you want to see get what they want in the end.”
Steiert says he’s ready to lay his cards down the table and see how his final hand goes.
“I have five days left,” Steiert said Tuesday. “That is kind of crazy. But it is something I’ve done my whole life and will pay off the rest of my life with the hard work I’ve learned and the overcoming adversity.
“Wrestling ... it is just you out there and it is you who determines how far you are going to get and how good you are going to be.”
LUTHER TRIO: Luther College has three qualifiers, all of them returners from the 2016 including all-Americans Tristan Zurfluh at 165 and Justin Kreiter at 184.
Kreiter, fourth a year ago, is seeded fifth at 184, while Zurfluh, fifth at 157, is unseeded. They are joined by Javier Reyes, who qualified at 174.
“When he came off the national tournament last year fourth in the country, and felt like he was in the hunt to win the whole thing and this year I think I do think he is in that hunt,” Luther head coach Dave Mitchell said of Kreiter. “Zurfluh is a guy who takes a lot of losses during the year, has his whole career, and then as he gets in time of the year the guy wrestles with great fight which is a key component of all-Americans.”